Becca Cohen’s Blog



Find your soul mate

The only word I can think of to describe my experience so far is beautiful. The people. The sites. The culture. The music. The food. I knew I would not be able to anticipate what I would experience here, and so far my time has proven to be completely unique and different from anything I could imagine. With everything I do, I get more and more excited about the potential this country has, and reaffirm that this was the right choice for me.

Cape Town is a beautiful city— it is surrounded by water and has Table Mountain within it. There are so many different types of architecture, making everything so interesting to look at. The University of Cape Town is gorgeous as well, nestled into the mountain with views of the city below. The weather has been a perfect 77 and sunny with a strong breeze every day.

Table Mountain and the city below it.

Table Mountain and the city below it.

There are a group of local UCT students who have been assigned to work with my program to help us acclimate to the city and learn our way around the school. These SOL mates (student orientation leaders, a clever abbreviation) live with us and have been taking us out at night to experience Cape Town nightlife. Some of them originate from South Africa, but many are from all over the continent— I’m lucky enough to have two of them, Ken from Kenya and Botlhe from Botswana. Last night Botlhe (there’s a tongue click in her name, which I still can’t figure out) told me stories about having to wait for elephants to cross the road in Botswana, and how scary it is to feel the car shake. She promised she would take us home with her to see for ourselves.

The Americans have also been great so far. Most people who come to Cape Town want a different experience, other than the typical study abroad. The faculty keeps stressing the importance of making meaning out of our experience here and taking something away, more than simply having fun, which I think is something we all want.

The first few days here were spent at a hotel for CIEE orientation. The program has taken us to lookout points of the city, to a traditional African dinner with live music and dancing, and out to party on Long Street. We also learned about eight different community service projects we can get involved with, ranging from teaching in townships to playing with children in a TB hospital. I haven’t decided yet which place I want to volunteer, but on Thursday we are having a site tour of the different locations, so I’m sure that will help me decide.

Live music at Marco's African Place.

Live music at Marco's African Place.

On Saturday we moved into our residences, facilities that far surpass those of University of Maryland. My eleven-person house has nine single rooms and one double. My room has a personal, secret deck, only accessible from my room (not so secret anymore…). There are two houses on our property, making 20 of us total. We a deck and lawn in between our houses (there used to be a pool, but after a party got out of control last semester, the landlord filled it up). We plan to use our lawn for family dinners, sporting games and philanthropy concerts (a house-mate has a one-man band). So far it’s been great for sitting out under the stars when we come home at night.

Yesterday we started UCT Study Abroad Orientation. The school took all the study abroad students on a brief city bus tour, followed by a tour of the Cape Peninsula. We drove through the mountain, all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. We saw incredible views, penguins on the beach and a fire dancer at lunch in Oceanview Township. What struck me the most, is the immense disparity of wealth that exists all in such a small area— lush wine estates down the road from shanty townships. While in America there also are huge divisions between the wealthy and the poor, it is unusual to see it so blatantly in such close proximity.

This week we continue with UCT orientation, and then we have six days off before classes start on Friday, February 13 (real lucky). Some of us are thinking of taking a trip down the Garden Route to see the southern coast of South Africa. I hope everything is doing well back home, and I’ll write more soon. Sorry this was so long, but this first week has been a lot to take in!

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  1. * Kelley says:

    becca! this sounds amazing, im so happy you are having this experience. you have inspired me to start up a blog, its such a good idea. we will look back on this writing and be so thankful we did it. you are so brave to go all the way out there and of course it is paying off. im jealous of the warm weather, its snowing about a foot today in london, the entire city is shutting down, no one knows what to do with themselves haha but molly and i are staying warm. you have no problem doing that! keep posting, because i am so interested to hear what is going on with you down there. bye!!

    Posted 8 years, 6 months ago


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