Letters from Cape Town

By Students Studying Abroad

Join UConn students in Cape Town, South Africa, as they experience a new culture and learn about global citizenship in theory and in practice.

Maria on Some of the Amazing Things She’s Done

As the trip is winding down, I’m thinking about what I’m going to say about my trip when I get home. I’ll just start with “It was great!” and see where it goes from there. Maybe to make it all easier, I’ll just refer them to this list that I’ve made. I make lists of everything to try to organize my messy brain, and looking back on this experience, I feel like I’ve done so much that even summing it up seems overwhelming. Here is a list of some of the cool things I have done in Cape Town.

I got to:

  • Work as a real English teacher in a high school
  • Tutor and play games with kids from Ocean View
  • Be a big sister to my new friend Siyanda from Khayelitsha
  • Hike Table Mountain
  • See the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island
  • Bungee jump (twice, once forwards, once backwards) off the highest bungee bridge in the world (216 m, almost 709 feet)
  • Cage dive with 16-foot great white sharks
  • Play and swim with penguins
  • Successfully pick up surfing and get “adopted” by the workers at the surf shop (they stopped charging me …)
  • Attend a hip-hop battle, both breakdancing and pop & lock
  • Jump off of a 35-foot cliff and clear a rock ledge in order to land safely in the water
  • See the location of the Sharpeville massacre
  • Develop an affinity for the band GOLDFISH!
  • Run a half-marathon in the pouring rain
  • Learn about discrimination and the history of apartheid
  • Perform two of my own poems for the very first time at an open mic night
  • Attend University of Cape Town (one of the most beautiful campuses in the world)
  • Participate in the University of Cape Town swim team
  • Go to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (AND get on South African television while sitting on one of my classmate’s shoulders singing and dancing to “Lady with the Tattooed Hands” by Atmosphere)
  • Go to a Cape Town Ajax soccer game
  • Learn how to greet people in Xhosa (and successfully do the clicking syllable)
  • Stand where Hector Pieterson was shot in the Soweto uprising of 1976
  • Go to the jazz club Swingers, and do karaoke at the Blue Chip
  • Have my first legal drink
  • Get elected president of UConn Swim Club for the 2012 to 2013 school year (from South Africa!)
  • Eat Ethiopian food for the first time
  • Eat ox stomach
  • See concerts at Kirstenbosch Gardens, which must be one of the coolest, most gorgeous venues in the world
  • Spend the weekend in the township called Ocean View and fall in love with my host family and the entire community
  • Wear ridiculous clothes and a bright blue wig to an Avicii concert where almost everyone else seemed to be dressed normally…
  • Pet a cheetah
  • Pet an elephant
  • Hug a different elephant
  • Feed many elephants
  • Kiss one of those elephants right on the face
  • See a herd of zebras cross the road with a beautiful sunrise in the background
  • See ostriches, baboons, impalas, water buffalo, a lion, a hippo, kudus, a rhinoceros, and giraffes
  • Turn 21 years old and receive my South African “key” from Marita (and delicious homemade birthday cake!)
  • Become friends with surfers, body boarders, kite surfers, breakdancers, bar bouncers, small-time TV stars, NPO leaders, teachers, and amazing kids
  • Go on my first wine tasting adventure, complete with crazy driving tour of the vineyards
  • Paraglide off of a mountain
  • Stay in a hostel for the first time
  • Eat awesome sushi
  • Become absorbed in all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy (and go see the movie)
  • Feed a seal a fish
  • Hike up Lion’s Head to see the sun set into orange sky over the ocean on one side, and the HUGE full moon rise into vivid purple sky over the city that was gradually lighting up on the other side
  • Learn what it’s like to live in a house with 17 people in it
  • Have “family” dinners (and meetings, and arguments, and learning experiences, and bonding experiences)
  • See an absurd amount of shooting stars in un-light-polluted sky while floating in the water on top of a mountain
  • Become proficient in South African public transportation and crazy mini-bus taxis
  • Learn about human rights with young people from all over Africa
  • Get to know about 20 amazing people from UConn
  • Get to know countless amazing people from South Africa
  • Re-discover a hunger for knowledge, learning, and compassion
  • Open my eyes
  • Find myself
  • Learn who I am
  • Learn who I want to be

Maria beside the ocean in Cape Town.