Morning folks I’m currently sitting in the library after my first 8 am lecture feeling slightly rough and not productive in the slightest so I’m going to tell you about my first few weeks in Cape Town.
One of the highlights about going on exchange to UCT through Arcadia is the three day orientation provided on your arrival. I landed in Cape Town in the early hours of Thursday morning feeling rather chuffed that the long flight didn’t drag in, so even though Cape Town is pretty far from Scotland don’t let the long travelling time put you off!
My first hours in Cape Town consisted of a quick tour around the city which was followed up with a trip to Camps Bay where we saw the sun setting over the ocean while tucking into a smashing dinner!
The next day saw us travel to Boulder Beach which is home to some very cute Penguins. After an embarrassing amount of selfies were taken we left the penguins in peace and travelled to Monkey Valley Resort where we stayed for the rest of the weekend. The weekend involved several talks on health/safety/academics/expectations etc, however, most of the time was spent either on the beach or relaxing around the fire to recover from swimming in the ocean which was absolutely freezing and not something I would recommend in the middle of the South African winter. Overall, the Arcadia Orientation was really helpful because it gave me all the basic information about living in Cape Town and also allowed me to meet loads of new people, even though they all struggled to understand my accent which funnily enough is very Scottish!
A benefit of being an Arcadia student is you are involved in their orientation as well as UCT’s international orientation. This is particularly good because as an exchange student you would arrive half way through UCT’s academic year. It is currently winter in Cape Town and the 2nd semester at UCT has just begun, there is no big orientation for all students because it’s only internationals arriving at this point. That being said the international orientation was still very good and took place the week before lectures started. In this time I was registered as a student, got issued with a student card and sorted my timetable etc. The only slight difference to Glasgow is the registration is not done online so involves several long queues and a lot paperwork.
The highlight of the UCT orientation was our trip to the Cape of Good Hope, where the most south
western tip of the African continent can be found, the most southern point is actually a few hours further down the coastline. The Cape of Good Hope has great historical significance especially for sailors as it opened up a sea route to India and the east. At the bottom of the Cape the well-known sign can be found and is a favourite photo stop for tourists. However, the best view is definitely from above!
After surviving the first week of class we embarked on our first Arcadia trip to the District 6 Museum and Robben Island. District 6 is an area in the city of Cape Town where people were forcefully removed in the 1970’s during the apartheid regime. Before this brutal act took place District 6 had a thriving community where people of all colours & religions lived in peace.
The museum showcases objects which were saved from District 6 before it was torn to pieces. The experience was brought to life when Noor a previous resident of District 6 described his story as he took us on a tour around the museum. He showed us pictures of his family and described the community spirit in the area before it was declared a white only zone. He described to us the emotions he felt as he watched his home being demolished, and spoke of the devastating stories of married couples of different races being sent to different townships resulting in fathers only seeing their wife and child a few times a year. As Noor spoke the room filled with emotion; it was the closet I had come to realising the undesirable pain suffered during apartheid.
Our next trip to Robben Island was equally as stirring and the difference between the itself and Cape Town could not be more obvious. Cape Town sat tall in its glory and looked truly wonderful, whereas Robben Island even though filled with tourists was noticeably bare and gave off a sombre vibe. Driving around the Island looking at different sections of the prison it was impossible to imagine being subject to such harsh conditions. While for many the story of Nelson Mandela is the first that comes to mind, there were many other prisoners whose stories should be better known.
Robert Sobukwe, was a member of the anti-apartheid movement which landed him in solidarity confinement on Robben Island for many years. He was kept in his own area where he had no contact with anyone, after some years this resulted in him losing his ability to speak.
The tour of the prison itself was conducted by a former prisoner, which was fascinating because it added the context to the building. Our guide showed us the area where he slept, explained how he wasn’t allowed shoes even in winter and generally spoke about the harsh realities of prison life. He explained that to try and communicate between different sections prisoners came up with the idea of placing notes inside tennis balls which they then hit over walls to each other; this really got me thinking about how difficult life was.
It’s say to safe my first few weeks in Cape Town were incredibly exciting making Glasgow seem like a distant memory. Although very quickly the “study” aspect of exchange became more evident. In my next blog I will try give you some information on what it’s like to be a student at UCT and generally what it’s like to actually live in Cape Town rather than just being a tourist! I will also cover the much discussed topic of safety in South Africa & how to avoid unnecessary troubles e.g. getting arrested.