Study Abroad: I’m Off To South Africa For The Semester

The Frisky’s former intern extraordinaire, Daley, is studying abroad during her spring semester. Over the next several months, she’ll be writing us dispatches from her studies in  Africa. 

“South Africa is going to be hot,” I told Kim, my hairstylist of almost nine years, “so I need a couple of inches off.”

While individually dying the multitude of grey hairs that had enveloped my head, Kim laughed and said, “Why didn’t you pick, like, a European country to study abroad, like a normal kid?”

“The evil Spanish language,” I replied.

Since 8th grade, Spanish had consumed my course load almost every year, and by the end of my sophomore year of college, I walked out of my final exam crying from relief that I could now retire from my failed Spanish career. You would think that after six years of Español, I would know how to mutter more than “No sé” and “No comprendo,” and not become such great friends with Google Translate. But no, mis amigos, in fact my Rs never rolled and my face always looked like a ripe tomato when Profesora would reluctantly call my name in class.

I toyed with the idea of studying abroad in Spain, but after I found out that I would have to take another two semesters of Spanish classes, I ran for the high hills. Those hills quickly took me to the mountains of Cape Town, South Africa.

Studying abroad somewhere had always been part of the college culture that I wished to experience. Neither of my parents had studied abroad during their “golden years” of college, but they both encouraged me to take advantage of an opportunity that not many U.S. students get. After moving from Connecticut, to Ireland, to Texas, to New York, I feel prepared to add South Africa to the list of locations that I include when I am asked: “Where are you from?”

The multiple Cs I received in my various Spanish courses were not the only reason I chose Cape Town. I have always been interested in travelling to the African continent because, while it takes up such a large amount of the Earth, it’s a continent that I know the least about and is a topic that never came up in either my Texas History class or my grueling studies of the Irish Penal Laws.

I had already lived in Ireland for a couple of years, and during that time my family and I took many trips to Spain, England, Italy, and France. The “glamorous” European lifestyle was not an experience that I saw for myself while studying abroad. So when my cousin shared with me her tales of riding ostriches and bungee jumping in Cape Town, I became more intrigued. I hoarded every booklet available about Africa at my school’s study abroad office, and after flipping through them one by one, I eventually chose Cape Town as my new home.

Before I began the application process, I thought choosing a location was hard enough. I had no idea how unbelievably stressful and tear-inducing the whole procedure would be! I found myself hyperventilating over the amount of paperwork that needed to be filled out or the documents I waited for that were sent through mail overnight from Texas.  Heavy sobbing occurred from a couple of my five roommates, too, all studying abroad and all scrambling to get their visas approved. Three lengthy visits were made to New York’s Police Department, and in case y’all were wondering, I’m not, in fact, a registered criminal or sex offender. Along with a background report, my hideous mug shot needed to be taken for a passport picture, and I was required to get a physical checkup by my school’s nurse, which included a TB test and a questionnaire of whether I could potentially be insane. When I discovered I was accepted to my program, my elation could have definitely been misconstrued for insanity. I’m glad the nurse was out of earshot.

As I prepare for my 30-ish hour journey to Cape Town, my elation battles fear. Cape Town has a very high crime rate, along with a high rape rate, as well. Of course I worry about my safety. But on the other hand, I’ve always been the 5’2” shorty who walks down the street with an unpleasant snarl on my face and a “don’t even think about messing with me” stride. After taking a self-defense class with my friend, another South Africa adventurist, I feel confident that my small dog syndrome will keep danger at bay.

Concerns for my safety also resonate with my parents. My going away gift from my father is mace in a light pink “stylish and convenient cosmetic case design.” On the other hand, my mother is ordering copious amounts of asthma medication, including three inhalers and a six months supply of Albuterol for my portable nebulizer she made me order. Additionally, I was denied any more of my daily Advair Diskus at the pharmacy because my insurance company was getting suspicious of my sudden drug indulgence. Other medications prescribed to me include malaria pills, antibiotics, and traveler’s diarrhea drugs. Ew.

While I hope to avoid malaria-infected mosquitoes at all costs, I plan on travelling outside of Cape Town to explore the country as much as possible. Through living abroad, I want to become more involved and aware of foreign affairs and crucial events that occur outside the United States, a country that seems rather ill-informed of newsworthy affairs occurring outside its borders.

Having never been an “adrenaline junkie,” I hope to try as many terrifying adventures that my little heart can take, including swimming with sharks and petting tigers. And of course, although Spanish will always be my archenemy, I’m praying that Afrikaans and I can at least be frenemies for the next five months! Wil my geluk! (Reader, meet my compadre, Google Translate.)

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