I still find myself continuing habits that I had formed in Cape Town, such as burning incense and scented candles, drinking cucumber water and instant coffee, consuming hummus and avocados on flatbread, and writing when I am inspired by life. I have adjusted to life back home in Michigan, but I find myself daydreaming of Cape Town’s sky, the mountains, the people, and the speed of life there. My days in Michigan pass by a bit slower, but I find productive ways to spend my time when I am not in class.
One thing that I have been doing recently is talking to people from Georgetown University. The number one question I get asked is, “How was South Africa?” Other common questions are “What did you learn?,” “What do you miss most about South Africa?,” and “Are you happy to be back?” In this blog post, I plan to give a general overview of how I answer these questions, since I have memorized what I say.
First, I mention how I blogged for two institutions, Georgetown University and Arcadia Abroad, in case they are interested in reading about my journeys in more detail. Then, I move into a general overview like this: “I studied abroad in a small city in the country of South Africa, a place characterized by a big wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Much of this wealth is racially stratified as the disparities are dictated by Apartheid, despite the laws ending in 1994. As a foreigner who benefitted from the exchange rate of the USD to the Rand, I could easily enter spaces of wealth, poverty, and the areas that exist in between. This expanded my understanding of how an economy works and the concept of socio-economic status that I now apply to my American life.”
“As a native- English speaker, there were only a few times when people did not understand me. In those times, I practiced patience and understood that perhaps English was not everyone’s first language.”
“As a foreign, light skin, Black woman, I understood how I benefitted from light skin privilege in some male-dominated spaces. I also felt how people stared at me and/or attempted to exoticize me for my foreign identity. Street harassment in the form of catcalling awoken fears in me that I have never experienced before, especially when I was active during the nightlife. In my last month, I was able to gain a peace of mind after realizing that me being fearful everyday took away from my experience. I always carried around a knife and pepper spray, but I never had to use it. Would I carry these items around again? Maybe. I also learned the power in saying, ‘no.’ I stopped giving out my phone number as a way for men to leave me alone because the last thing I wanted was for someone who I did not know to have my personal information. Furthermore, it would only lead to these people sending me texts when I had no intention on replying. In the end, I realized that my time was too precious to be wasted on people I rather not know.”
“As an African American individual, I got to experience how people overseas understood the African American experience, whether they wanted to ask me more questions about it or to mock me for it. I did battle stereotypes that American media produced of Black women and of Black people in general. This was challenging, but every experience made me stronger. I became deliberate in my approach of answering questions. Though sometimes, I just walked away because a book I suggested could do a better job at educating than myself. I also found some of these encounters to be very ironic, given that hip hop music and fashion was present in so many spaces.”
“As a writer and a poet, I found my voice and preserved it in my poetry, blogs, short stories, voice memos, and free-styles. I was inspired everyday by my interactions with the world around me. I truly appreciated the art and jazz scene Cape Town had to offer. The spoken word I heard over there influenced my art and made it stronger. By the end, I became less sensitive about my work and was more willing to share my creations with those around me.”
“As a college student in the South African education system, I was taught a more global view of history, sociology, and anthropology. In America, we basically learn about America, which I believe makes us very US-centric and cheats us from learning a global perspective, especially if one does not have the resources to leave the country. This change in perspective has even impacted how I read fiction based outside of the USA. Instead of reading over names and places that are ‘foreign,’ I attempt to sound out the words in my head or out loud. I also contemplate more about the effects of European colonialism in other countries. Moving forward, I am more willing to learn about global issues, rather than ones that are specific to the USA.”
“Overall, as an autonomous individual, I gained clarity and started to believe in myself as I challenged my own inferiority complex.”
“By my last month, I had adjusted mentally and physically to Cape Town time. I am grateful for the people that I bonded with overseas. They, along with my memories and lessons that I have learned will not be forgotten. Studying abroad in Cape Town was the best life decision I have made besides choosing to attend Georgetown University.”
Thank you for reading my blog posts. I plan to continue blogging about my summer in Michigan and my senior year at Georgetown University.