“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela
Prior to this trip, I had never left the United States and I decided that I wanted to go to the most unique country possible for my study abroad. I didn’t want to “play it small” and go to a country I knew a lot about and Mandela’s advice certainly prevailed in this case. I had the time of my life.
Less than 24 hours ago, I was in the middle of 36 hour travel and 22 hour flight time to make my way back to the States. This summer, I was able to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for a two-week History Study Abroad with Dr. Kenneth Wilburn. I can honestly say that this trip was one of the most inspiring and transformative educational experiences that I’ve ever encountered.
From taking the somber tour of Robben Island, to hiking to the top of Table Mountain, South Africa is a place to challenge your mind, body, and spirit. I learned so much about South Africa’s history, the fight of Nelson Mandela and his comrades to form a democratic South Africa, the social issues that have been overcome, and the ones that still continue in this country. Their problems are not so different from ours, or the rest of the world’s, but are unique in that they are so fresh with Apartheid officially ending barely two decades ago.
I was quite fortunate to be on a trip that was so well organized and so small (only two students). This allowed us to have some incredible experiences without feeling like a group of tourists all day. Our travels took us to Robben Island; a preschool in the Langa Township; the top of Table Mountain; a cottage in the middle of a game reserve; a safari with lions, rhinos, and giraffes; a local pub during an intense South Africa versus Ireland rugby game; and a cage where we were nose-to-nose with great white sharks.
The highlight of my trip was our 15-mile hike up Table Mountain, though. The challenging, five-hour hike was well worth the view from the top. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all learned lessons in perseverance and the rewards that come with finishing the climb. I’d also like to mention just how beautiful the entire city of Cape Town is. We traveled to many different parts of the city and there was not a single place that was not breathtaking in its own way. Whether it was mountains, beaches, or wildlife, we were mesmerized the entire trip by the beauty of Cape Town.
As Dr. Wilburn says, I will always live in the shadow of Table Mountain. I hope to visit the Mother City again sometime soon but I am so grateful to EC Scholars and the Honors College for giving me the opportunity to “play it big” and visit this wonderful country for the first time.