Residential College: Mathey
OIP Program: IIP
Location (city, country): Cape Town, South Africa
Describe a memorable experience abroad:
Life in Cape Town was spontaneous and always an adventure. One Friday I went to work and we ran a pop-up clinic for malnourished babies in a nearby township, then I went home at the end of the day and sat on the beach with a South African friend I'd made to drink tea and talk through the day. Later that night another group of friends decided we should go SCUBA diving, so the next morning I woke up before the sun, rented gear and did a dive in a kelp forest with pyjama sharks.
A meaningful aspect of my international experience:
Working at Philani I was immediately welcomed into the township community. I did my best to be a resource for women to speak with about their thoughts and concerns, both as a friend and as someone who could help them work together to solve some of the challenges women have been facing there. Life in the townships here is extremely hard, as the standards of living and general violence that takes place can be taxing. One of the most challenging parts of this learning experience was the realization that the people I met were not numb to the pain of loss despite having more hardship and more death in their community. Their lives were simply harder than any I'd been around before, and they were forced to be resilient as a result. I feel so lucky to have been trusted with so many personal conversations and to have been confided in, instead of treated as an outsider due to our different backgrounds.
What would you say to someone considering an international experience?
Do lots of research and think about what you want to gain from the experience before you decide which location to apply to. I knew I wanted to live in the city but also be able to work in a less developed setting. I prioritized location and ended up getting the most out of my work experience as well as my summer since I could make friends with students in the city and do my own thing on the weekends. Definitely go for it.