My experiences in South Africa have been overwhelmingly positive. I have met wonderful people. The weather is generally nice. I have learned a lot. I really like living in a single room (though I love my roommate back at home too). The metric system makes sense. It’s just been great, and thinking back, I felt this way about Vietnam too (I mentioned that here, here, and here. And probably many more times.).
I still can’t believe that I am able to travel to, learn in, and live in South Africa. This still feels very surreal to me. I am humbled by the opportunities that I have been able to pursue, and I am proud of myself for pushing past my comfort zone. Even though I do and did have FOMO throughout my time in South Africa, I really do appreciate the overall experience. I still feel disbelief even though I am still currently in South Africa.
Even though this journey has been positive overall, there are a few things that I didn’t like about it.
- Being unable to walk around by myself at night.
Crime is a real thing. People ask you for money and can be pretty persistent about it. Theft is a thing. I was never in a situation where I felt endangered by the activities of the night because I never let myself be in those situations, but it did limit me from doing things at night. If I was ever walking around a night, I was always in a group. I also feel bad about the beggars in the street.
I am not saying that at Berkeley, it’s completely safe and I can walk around by myself at any time of the day. But I know that if I am walking from the gym to my apartment, I am relatively safer at Berkeley than I am here. The homeless don’t bother me there as much as the beggars do here. Plus, I know that the UC Police Department is nearby and there’s Bear Walk if I am walking home really late at night.
I’m just a little limited here, and I don’t necessarily like that. But, I respect it.
- Applied International Trade Bargaining.
I think it’s a cool class, and it could be very enjoyable. However, I am just not the type of person that thrives in that kind of environment. There’s too much competition. The class just gave me too much stress and took up too much of my time. I’ve met some great people in the class, which is a plus, but overall, it gave me too much stress and anxiety.
I don’t hate this class, I just don’t necessarily love it either.
- Lack of internet connectivity.
Overall, I am thankful that I am able to access Internet in the first place (versus about 2.7% in Chad – I had to know of this because of my international trade class). I am also thankful that I am mainly connected to UCT Internet/WiFi because it’s probably one of the strongest sources of Internet is South Africa. However, I have had problems with it throughout the course of the semester. There have been times when it was out for hours on end. There have been times when I’ve been kicked out of the network right in the middle of usage. Additionally, UCT is probably the only place in the area that has a stable internet connection that doesn’t kick you out after a certain period of time.
So, the issue is not entirely internet connectivity per se because I’m probably more privileged than most when it comes to that (you have to buy data packages and if you use it all up, you have to buy more or wait until next month). It’s more that I’m unable to study anywhere else for long periods of time because of Internet. For example, I generally can’t study at cafés. A close by café has a data cap of 40MB, which I have used up in less than 15 minutes. Another cafe only allows usage for an hour, or you can buy 1GB of data (which is lot) for R60.
Therefore, I generally study on campus because that’s the best source of Internet, but that also means that I’m stuck on campus forever, and that does not make me happy.
- Blatant inequality.
There are some really nice places in Cape Town, but there are some really poor places as well. Cape Town, even South Africa as whole, is divided by class and by race because of the apartheid history. The protests of October/November is a sign that people are still unhappy and unsatisfied by how they are treated by the government. There have been efforts to make amends and progress towards a society that ensures opportunities and security for everyone, but there is much work to be done. As a poverty scholar, I truly hope that worthwhile reforms are made soon.
And… that’s all I got. Just four things. I’m incredibly happy to have been able to travel there, learn there, live there. Cape Town and South Africa has been truly good to me.
Over and out.