I left Bakersfield in June to study abroad at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and have just returned home. While abroad, I studied a variety of subjects, including Afrikaans, isiXhosa, French, South African literature and art, political science of South Africa, and economics.
Unfortunately I was unable to take courses in history because they were taught completely in Afrikaans. Luckily the professor with whom I studied economics, Sampie J. Terreblanche, is an economic historian, and I gained quite a bit of history through his courses.
I traveled as much as I could while in South Africa. During the semester, my friends and I took frequent day trips to surrounding areas, including Cape Town, where we visited Robben Island and Table Mountain. After the semester was over, and before I returned home, I went on a twenty-two day camping trip. I traveled from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, then into Zimbabwe to see the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Victoria Falls, into Botswana to the Okavanga Delta and Chobe National Park, and back to Johannesburg.
This photograph of me was taken in front of the Great Enclosure (the area where all 250 of the king’s wives lived) at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Before hiking to the ruins, I was eating lunch under a tree, and a monkey decided that my hair looked like a good place to defecate—hence the bandana.
South Africa is both a first- and third-world country. It is the richest country in sub-Saharan Africa, but over one-third of its population lives in poverty. Stellenbosch is a prime example of the vast inequality that exists in the country, and ultimately in the world: the university area is very affluent and dominated by white people, while a five-minute drive takes one to the Khayamundi Township where thousands of black people live in abject poverty. Though apartheid ended twelve years ago, its legacy lives on. There are several problems that South Africa faces, and it is difficult to determine what takes precedence. Having lived there for six months I can probably talk about it for hours (and just may if you ask me about it).
Before I left South Africa I noticed that there was one question everyone asked me: what did I like best? My answer is the experience itself—this includes what I learned, the people I met, the conversations, debates, and arguments I had, and the encounters with many different cultures. I would also add that it was surreal to be standing at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins after learning about the kingdom a year ago in Southern African History with Professor Meriwether.
Studying abroad, especially in an area that is still developing, gives a person insight that cannot be obtained from reading a book; I highly recommend it and hope that everyone who is able invests a little time and money to gain what I have.
Totsiens! (“Until we meet again” in Afrikaans