Cape Town, South Africa. Learning the Art of Walking Slowly. Past Review

By (Neurobiology and Neurosciences., Wellesley College) for

CIEE: Cape Town - Arts and Sciences

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much it is impossible to distill down into a few sentences. I deepened my understanding of not only myself, but the world around me and my place and role within that world. I gained a self assurance and confidence, a deepening knowledge of who I am, what I am capable of and what I am becoming. I learned how it is that I explore and understand my world. How to ask questions. How to get to know someone. How to get to know a country, a city. I was exposed to extreme poverty, resilience and happiness. When I got back, my clothes didn't quite fit, and I realized that fundamentally, I am the same person who left six months ago, but at the same time I'm not, there are many more layers there now. Most importantly, I began to understand that home is not a physical place, a physical location, it is instead a state of being.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: University of Cape Town
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There was much more busiwork given in the classes so timewise it felt similar to my home university, but intellectually it wasn't as demanding. The emphasis on test taking in the science and psychology courses was difficult. The large, impersonal lectures and use of graduate students for tutorials and grading was also different. In some ways its nice to have all the different layers and levels of expertise, but at the same time, its really nice at Wellesley to have the full attention of the professors. Some professors at UCT seemed interested in Undergrads and teaching, while others seemed to be doing it simply because they had to. On the other hand, I had one of the best science classes I have ever taken. Because it was a bit slower paced, it was the first time I ever had to understand every single concept completely. It was very well presented and organized. The lab portion of the class however was very basic and not nearly as well organized as the lecture.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Overall CIEE was very helpful, accessible and friendly. They were always happy to answer questions or offer advice about anything, and were also very understanding and accommodating when I requested a housing change.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was originally put in a house with just other Americans but couldn't stand the partying, frat house atmosphere and so I requested to move to the dorms. I wanted to have more interaction with local students and get out of the American bubble. The quality of the accomodations was much poorer, but the trade off was worth it. The floors were never clean, one toilet didnt really flush, the oven had only one temperature, the shower had mildew and the refridgerator didnt really work very well. My computer was stolen out of my locked room, presumably by the maintenence man who had a master key. We were undoubtedly in the worst of the UCT dorms and Im not sure why, but oh well. But other than that it was fine. I was with other South Africans and within shuttle service of campus and accessible to downtown and other shopping areas, restaurants, etc. The neighborhood itself did not feel very safe, and was known to house drug dealers in the numerous hair salons. During the daylight ours though, it was perfectly safe and close to the supermarket, a restaurant strip, the train and the main Rd.

* Food:

I am vegan vegetarian and so cooked mostly for myself. I was very impressed with the range of vegan and vegetarian products and options and restaurants in Cape Town for people with dietary restrictions,such as myself. Other vegetarians- the grocery stores, and specialty health food stores are always great. Go online and find other restaurants/stores etc. Check out Cafe Closer in Muizenberg - an all vegan restaurant!! You can eat really well in CT! On the other hand, when someone else is in charge of providing vegan/vegetarian food on school or CIEE sponsored events, bring your own food,unless you like white rolls with cheese and tomato or cheese and pickle. People would often freeze up when I told them I was vegan and resort to veggie burgers and hotdogs and salad. Be sure to try things like samp and beans, pap, peri peri, spinach,etc. Alot of SA cuisine is vegan, they just don't realize it!!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

CIEE was great in providing extracurriculars, from a homestay in a coloured township, to soccer and rugby games, outdoor concerts, tours of the city, dinners and more, I felt taken care of. It also provided an entry point to the city, the history and activities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

My only interactions with the local healthcare was going to the pharmacy for malaria meds, HIV testing always available on campus, and free condoms for the taking. Safety-wise, CIEE paranoid us about safety - it was a bit extreme. They were certainly right to be cautious but I was afraid to use public transport the first few months, and that affected my feelings of independence and enjoyment and appreciation and satisfaction with the city and my experience. Once I started exploring and realizing what was and was not safe, my experience improved greatly. That said, Cape Town was safe, but not that safe: no going out alone after dusk, no going out alone at night as a woman. My computer was stolen from my locked dorm room and my phone pickpocketed. Stories of muggings and theft were so commonplace I came to accept them. They were still disturbing but you (unfortunately) learn to let them roll off your back.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$50. I would say CT is about 3/4 as cheap as Boston.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Dont hold back spending money to the point of missing out on experiences! At the same time be frugal and no need to spend excessively! Its easy to find free/low cost activities. Eating in also saves a lot of money and can be really fun with a group. Use it as a way to learn about local cuisine with locals! If you are going to travel and explore, etc, Africa is the place to do it on a budget. Its the getting there that is expensive.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

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  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

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A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? At first I was weaving in and around the other students, rushing between classes. By the end of the semester I was walking as slowly as they were. I still am. Go. Don't look back and don't be afraid to smell the flowers and study the details of the sidewalk as you walk. Embrace the freedom you have to be you and only you.