When I was first deciding where to study abroad, my top priorities were finding a place with a unique culture, exciting adventure opportunities, and warm weather. Also, I wanted to take some Finance and International Business courses while abroad, so I needed to find a university that had a wide range of business courses in English. After a few months of research and deliberation, I decided to study abroad at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa. And after being here for almost three months, the experiences I've had, along with the people I've met have enriched my life more than I could have ever imagined. I could not have made a better decision than studying abroad here at UCT, and hopefully this post will give you a glimpse into my life over the past few months.
Upon arriving in late January, I was blown away by the beauty and amazing weather of Cape Town. Since the seasons are opposite here from the US, I arrived in the middle of summer. The summer here in Cape Town is absolutely perfect; there is barely a cloud in the sky - just sunshine. The locals here could not be more friendly, especially to Americans. To my surprise, the people of Cape Town are extremely influenced by American culture. Most of their popular music, movies, and TV shows all come from America. I have been complimented on my accent, which is slightly southern since I'm from Memphis, by multiple locals. They tell me that I sound like people from the shows and movies they watch; one local even asked if I knew Honey Boo Boo (I unfortunately do not for those who were wondering…)!
During our first two weeks in Cape Town, all abroad students in my program participated in two weeks of orientation- one week of specific program (CIEE) orientation and another week of orientation for all international exchange students. The two weeks of orientation smoothed our transition into South Africa and allowed us time to explore the city since classes had not yet started. Some of the sights we visited included Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope, two of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Alongside learning the necessary orientation information and amazing sight visits, we were educated also on some South African culture, politics, and history, including Apartheid. Basically, Apartheid was strictly enforced racial segregation by the white minority, and it only fully ended in the early 1990s, when Nelson Mandela was elected president. Though segregation ended so recently, most Cape Townians seem so proud of their culture and history. I can truly feel the pride and unity of the people here, for both their country as well as for The University of Cape Town.
UCT is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the continent; sitting at the foot of a large mountain, it is also one of the most beautiful schools I have ever seen. The university has around 25,000 students from all over the world and attracts many extremely distinguished professors, especially in their business school. In a number of my business classes here at UCT, we have learned about South Africa's dominant role in the continent, and world, as a growing power in international business. Specifically, in one of my international business courses here, I have developed a better understanding of the obstacles facing an international growth market (South Africa as well as the entire continent of Africa) through case studies involving expansion of South African companies abroad and the entrance of foreign companies here, especially from the USA. In one of my finance courses, South Africa's stock exchange is constantly compared to the financial markets of the United States; we nearly talk about the USA every day in class, even though we are half-way across the world. After constantly hearing about the USA in so many of my business courses, I've gained a new appreciation for our country's global business leadership and influence. And just as I had hoped, my coursework and lectures here in Cape Town have truly allowed me to develop an entirely understanding of the business sector back home and around the world.
My experience here so far has exceeded all of my expectations, and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town. Over the past few months, I have seen so many incredible sights, met such kind-hearted and loving people, expanded my cultural knowledge, and learned so many new business ideals, especially in the finance and international business sectors, that I look forward to carrying with me for the rest of my life.
P.S. Be on the lookout for my next post - I'll be talking about some of my travel experiences so far in Africa!