Totsiens means “goodbye” in Afrikaans, but I suppose “until next time” is what I’m really hoping for. These past couple of weeks have been absolutely amazing. Due to frantically finishing class assignments and then an incredible Garden Route Tour around the southern coastline (without my laptop or much wifi), I’ve neglected posting a bit. Hopefully this can sum everything up well. I finished my Philosophy and Ethics class with no trouble. It was quite interesting learning about different philosophical viewpoints like Utilitarianism and Deontology and tackling some controversial debate topics with these perspectives in mind. I’m really enjoying the open-book exams and 3-page final papers; wish my classes were always like that!
After classes ended, I enjoyed a few free days finishing up my time in Stellenbosch. I went to Cape Town for a day and took the cable car up and down Table Mountain where I experienced some of the coolest views I’ve ever seen. I also went to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope and saw a lighthouse and some baboons.
I also went on a safari where I saw rhinos, hippos, and some other cool animals. I tried bunny chow, and it was everything I hoped it would be.
Finally, it came time to leave Stellenbosch and begin the tour/road trip around the coast. The past six days have been some of the most amazing of my life. I got to hug elephants, experience a neck massage from ostriches (and then eat ostrich kabobs for dinner!), and I crawled and squeezed my way through gaps as small as a foot in the Cango Caves. I then went on a game drive through Addo National Park where I saw everything from zebras, buffalo, and warthogs, to more elephants – including a couple of babies! I even got to see a pack of hyenas feeding on a kudu while jackals tried to steal the meat. In the end, I saw three of the big five (elephant, rhino, and buffalo). Only the cats (leopard and lion) eluded me, which was kind of to be expected.
I watched my friends go bungee jumping off the tallest bridge bungee jump in the world while my feet were planted firmly at the bar, glass of wine in hand, drinking to their bravery with some other scaredy-cats like myself. I stayed in hostels on beaches and waded in the Indian ocean at Jeffrey’s Bay. I walked on a suspension bridge and journaled by the ocean at Tsitsikamma National Park. I stood at the Southernmost point of Africa and saw the geographical point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together.
I cannot believe that I have actually gotten to experience everything I did over the past week. Never before has my life been so filled with adventure and new activities, and it has truly inspired me to seek out more adventures back home. Obviously not every day can be like life abroad has been, but it has also made me realize I’m probably missing out on the beauty and adventure of my own country. It’s easy to ignore something when you see it all the time.
I think I’ve missed my independence the most while abroad. I relied on other people almost constantly in Stellenbosch which had its ups and downs. I shared a room with my awesome roommate Grace, but that meant I didn’t have my own completely private space to escape to. I was always hanging out with friends during class and breaks. I couldn’t cook for myself, and I couldn’t really go out by myself in the evenings due to safety concerns. I’ve missed my time alone, and I wish I’d done better going on walks during the day or something to give myself a break. Everyone here has been super nice and being dependent on others isn’t a bad thing most of the time, but I can’t wait to be alone for a bit nonetheless. At the same time, I think I’ll miss the social activities and adventure the most when I go home. I’ll be going back to my hometown East Wenatchee for the rest of summer where I’ll just have a couple friends, and we’ll all be busy working. I’ve enjoyed having a busier life these past few weeks. I wish I could get this perfect balance of independence/alone time, adventure, and social activities by combining my home life with studying abroad. The people are hands down what I’ll miss the most, though. Bonding comes naturally when everyone is experiencing something new together.
I really don’t think I’ll experience reverse culture shock when I go home. I wasn’t abroad for all that long, so it’s not like I’ve completely gotten used to a different way of life. I never really experienced a lot of culture shock coming to South Africa in the first place. Also, like I’ve said before, Stellenbosch life hasn’t been super different from the US. It’ll be weird not hearing a bunch of different accents and languages, but I don’t think there’ll be anything to truly adjust back to. The biggest difference will be that I’ll feel completely comfortable again. After all, there’s no place like home. I definitely felt safe in Stellenbosch, but it is different from the US and more precautions had to be taken especially at night. It’s going to be nice to be able to go for late night walks and relax fully when I’m out by myself. I’m very thankful that everyone was able to stay safe in South Africa. I remember a lot of people were nervous about me coming here, but we really had no issues with safety. I can’t wait to share my experiences with friends and family! I’m going to print out a bunch of pictures and put them into my photo album. The pictures will help me remember the stories, and they’ll be good visuals for when I’m mentioning people and places. Immersing back into campus life will be easy since I’ve got a couple months before I go back to school anyway.
I plan on working hard to maintain my friendships I’ve made while abroad. I’ve talked to both Sam and Venita about being pen-pals because I really want to stay in contact with both of them. I think writing to them will help me stay connected and engaged to the country and remember my experience in another culture. I’m also exchanging numbers with some other US students. We’re considering a reunion in the midwest in the next couple years to catch up, and hopefully meet up with a couple of the South African students if they can make a trip abroad themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t have many language skills to maintain, but oddly enough I have a new drive to learn sign language. One of my best friends from the trip, Emmy from Cincinnati, is fluent and she’s been teaching me a few phrases. I’m very interested in trying to learn more. Who knew I’d go to South Africa and come home with a greater sign language vocabulary? I’m still working out how I’ll stay internationally engaged. My first plan is to just read the news. I feel like knowing what is going on in my host country will at least help me feel a little engaged and connected even if it isn’t much. Hopefully I can figure out more ways to be engaged in the meantime.
Now I’m sitting at the Cape Town International Airport saying goodbye to friends and waiting for my flight. I can’t believe it’s actually been five weeks since I left home. I’m both extremely sad to leave South Africa and also excited to go home. There’s nothing like being abroad to make you realize how much you love home as well. I cannot put into words how thankful I am to have had this opportunity to live in South Africa for five weeks. I have loved every day I spent here, and I can’t wait to come back one day.