The past two days have been purely UCT (University of Cape Town) orientation for international students and they have definitely kept us busy! UCT is the oldest university in South Africa and the second-oldest in all of Africa. The university has a population of about 24,000 students with an undergraduate population of about 16,000… certainly many more than what I am use to at Creighton. With so many students comes a much larger campus than what I am use to as well… it will take awhile to get all of the different campuses along with the shuttle routes figured out… I’ll probably just get them all figured out come November when it’s time to leave… oh well! Anyways, the campus is incredibly gorgeous as it is situated on the bottom portion of Table Mountain that also provides a perfect view of the city below.
Of the 16,000 undergraduate students there are just about 400 international students most of which are SSAs (Semester Study Abroad students). Yesterday, our orientation consisted of a peninsula tour (for all 400 of us)… a fun way to get acquainted with all that the region has to offer… which let me assure you, there is a lot! We started off with a quick tour via bus around the city seeing many of the famous “landmarks” including: the President’s House and the Parliament building, the District 6 Museum, the 2010 World Cup Stadium, Robben Island, a six-star hotel (one of only six worldwide), and of course the famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Our first stop was at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, a small village near Cape Town that is home to one of the three mainland penguin colonies in all of Africa and one of two found in South Africa. I was able to see the penguins in Betty’s Bay on my tour of the Garden Route so I have no officially seen both of the two mainland penguin colonies in South Africa… kind of cool! Once again they were adorable—I just love watching them waddle around! Then we headed to Oceanview, a black township that split off from Simon’s Town that resulted after the apartheid. If you are not familiar with the history of the apartheid here in South Africa, I would strongly suggest reading just a little bit about it… it is incredibly interesting and mind-blowing how recent the history is. Essentially from my understanding (which is limited), apartheid laws were created in 1948 that separated the four major races here in South Africa: white, black, colored (a completely appropriate term here in Africa that refers to a person of mixed decent… one black and one white parent), and Indians. This racial segregation created specific residential areas for each race to limit the interaction between the different groups that basically separated blacks from the whites. These laws were in place until 1994… less than 20 years ago which is just shocking to me! Anyways, we visited Oceanview and they provided us with a very traditional lunch along with entertainment that consisted of dancing and singing… it was very enjoyable and the food was fantastic! The last stop of the day was at Cape Point, the most southern point of the Cape Peninsula… and it was seriously gorgeous! We hiked up to the light house then hiked to the Cape of Good Hope where it is believed the two ocean currents of the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. It was certainly a fun-filled, long day with lots of sightseeing… but a great “orientation” aka field trip day!
Today was a bit more of the traditional orientation day with talks that centered on safety, culture, and just basic information about UCT. We explored a bit of campus during our breaks but they kept us busy for most of the day. Fortunately it wasn’t all lectures and talks as we did have a very interactive drumming lesson with all 400 of us. It was actually incredible as we each had our own drum and by the end we were playing some pretty legit music! There was also no speaking involved but rather all of the instructions were shown and more like a repeat after me then catch on with what you’re supposed to do when… it was pretty impressive for that many people! Today is also a special day here in South Africa as it is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Nelson Mandela is their famous president that removed the apartheid laws in 1994, beginning the unification process of the nation. Although segregation is still an issue today, he is idolized by everyone in this country for the actions and effort he put towards reversing the apartheid laws.
Classes don’t start for another week but I register for classes tomorrow and become an official UCT student!
The penguins in Simon’s Town
The Cape of Good Hope