Living abroad is an experience that is comparable to an adrenaline rush. Surrounded by new experiences, people, and landscapes, it is a unique and fascinating experience. However, one must acknowledge that no two locations are the same and adjusting to life in a new place can be a challenging, yet informative, experience. Nothing is more true in regards to adjusting to my new life in Cape Town, South Africa.

I would not say I experienced culture shock in Cape Town. The reason for this is because it is quite Western. From the cars, to the architecture, malls, and restaurants, it has a very American or European feel. Furthermore, English is the predominant language in the country and Cape Town is known for its’ beaches, which is something California, specifically, is renowned for too. However, this may be may the similarities end.

One stark difference between America and South Africa is the high threat of crime. Everywhere in Cape Town you see electrical fences and barbed wire, as well as bars on windows. South Africa has a high crime rate, mostly consisting of robberies. Upon arrival, safety at all times is stressed, from keeping your phone in discrete locations to never walking alone at night. I personally never felt unsafe, but being aware is always a must (As It should be everywhere in the world). On the brightside, urban renewal is happening across the country in an effort to clean up cities and make them safer!

When living in Cape Town, the local lingo becomes a part of your vocabulary too. Words such as ‘braai,’ ‘just now,’ ‘now now,’ and ‘lekker,’ appear in people’s vocabulary quite often. Braais are essentially American barbeques and they happen A lot. So before coming to one, make sure to bring your own meat, because I made that mistake once and then was taught how to ‘braai’ properly by South Africans. You must also have fire starter if you host a braai, another mistake I made, but I am all the better for learning from it (lol). Lekker means a good or fun time, so it is quite common to hear that too. Furthermore, time in South Africa is different. Between just now and now now, one means immediately and the other means in the near future, the distinction of which I have not yet figured out to be completely honest.

Overall, living in South Africa Was a blast, but it Was not without its challenges and difficulties. Nonetheless, IDACA, the group in South Africa which the UC’s work with, provided an excellent support network, including young and older South Africans. I want to take this time to extend a special shoutout to Shannon and Isabella, our South African IDACA coordinators, who were nothing short of an absolute treat to be around! Local Capetonians were also quite welcoming and more than happy to help us out. Knowing what to expect when you arrive is important, but it is also essential to know that nothing ever is exactly the way you think it will be, making the experience all the more interesting and exciting.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in 2018: