Traveling While Abroad: The Cape Town Experience
Post by Rachel Auerbach from Denison University
Between clinics, classes, excursions, home life (either homestay or apartment) and sleeping (I promise you will come to cherish your bed – I know it has become one of my best friends), it is easy to get caught up in the busy lifestyle of a student studying abroad. You’re in a crazy new city in a completely different culture and place in the world -- of course you are busy! However, taking time for some travel during an abroad program can be one of the best parts of your study abroad experience. A group of friends (all of which were strangers 3 weeks ago!) and I took a few days to travel to Cape Town and explore a little bit of South Africa and I got so much more out of the experience then I would have ever expected.
Botswana is a land-locked country that is very dry, sandy and relatively flat, which makes it beautiful in a way I have never experienced (Wisconsin lacks deserts...). However, not all of Africa is like that, so getting the chance to travel around to experience a little more of the southern part of Africa was so cool! South Africa, and namely Cape Town, is beautiful in a totally different way. It is covered in greenery and mountains and is right on the water – think San Francisco or Portland. It is like comparing the Grand Canyon to Yosemite National Park, or if nature is not your thing (I’m an Environmental Studies major, I am inevitably drawn to nature), it is like comparing the cliché apples and oranges. The two are vastly different, but the experiences from both (some apples are life-changing; some oranges can make you rethink your existence) can each be worthwhile in their own ways.
While in Cape Town, my group and I did so many unforgettable experiences. We went shark cage diving, hiked, biked, enjoyed our first wine tour, stayed at hostels and explored the nightlife. It was an absolutely amazing experience, but it made us all reflect on what Botswana was like. It made us remember the foods we ate, the way people acted, the environment, and just the culture in general, as the people we talked with in South Africa were curious about our experiences. And it made us appreciate Cape Town as well, since it is just so different.
By leaving Gaborone for a few days, it helped us to not only experience another part of Africa, but to solidify the numerous experiences we have already had in Botswana. Sometimes it is hard to appreciate some experiences until you take a step back and look at them objectively – and that is exactly what traveling did for me. CIEE tries to leave enough time open for students to travel if they so desire, and I would highly recommend everyone to explore. You might just learn more than you ever thought about yourself, your friends, and everything you already thought you knew.
P.S. You will be working hard! Take a break and get away for a while; it will be so worth it!