Studying in Stellenbosch, South Africa was one of the most exciting adventures of my life. The surrounding landscapes were beautiful. Simply by looking out my bedroom window, I could watch the fog roll down the mountainsides. The ocean was only a short train ride away or I could see it when I climbed up the mountains next to campus. Besides being in such a unique and beautiful country, the University of Stellenbosch itself was stunning with its all white buildings and red bricked walkways.
My classes were small and my professors were some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. One of my professors, who asked us to call him Terry, worked for the United Nations. He told great stories about what it was like to travel all over the world as well as some of his more sobering experiences investigating human rights abuses. I met people from various countries and had quite a few interesting culture clashes. Explaining what cow tipping was to a bunch of students from South Africa was definitely one of my favorite experiences. I also found out that chocolate chips don’t exist in South Africa. The man’s reaction at the grocery store when I asked about it was priceless. People were friendly and open to meeting new people. Acceptable standards of personal space were very different. While I did have to get used to the greater physical contact in conversations, the friendliness was refreshing.
The school’s International Student Club gave us plenty of opportunities to see the country and truly experience what it had to offer while becoming friends with students from Germany to the Netherlands to Australia. Whether it was cage diving with great white sharks, feeding elephants, camping in the Kalahari Desert, or just a leisurely wine tasting with friends, I was never bored. The food was also amazing, with blends of Chinese, Indian, African, Dutch, and Western foods and styles of cooking. I would give anything just to have another Koeksister! (a totally delicious and totally not good for you deep fried pastry). Thinking about that semester in the fall of 2012 will always bring a smile to my face. I plan to return one day.