Ruby - University of Cape Town

B Commerce
Semester 1, 2019
Easily the BEST five months of my life, where I made best friends for life and made memories I will never forget.

Academic experience

Whilst I was away I studied 4 courses. I studied 3 related to my degree (2 of these were electives) and then I also studied a elective not related to my degree. It was a history subject which related a bit to South Africa which i wanted so I could get some cultural knowledge as well as have an easier subject to lessen the work load. 
UCT was quite different to UQ. It was smaller so I was able to meet more people and see them around more regularly. There was always things happening on campus whether that was competitions, music, protests, games,  markets, campaigns, and so many more. The vibe was always so nice to be around. Some challenges were trying to communicate with the administration at UCT as at times it was slow, but you have to remember that you're in Africa so things are on 'Africa time' and it always works out fine!
Also, we experienced load shedding which is where the government cuts electricity in the whole city for a few hours a day... This lasted a couple weeks so I had to adjust this around my uni schedule, although UCT was very good at adapting to this!
Enrolling was quite different than it is at UQ. It all had to be done in person and not online. As an exchange student I did not have a problem with this as I was able to ask questions in person and didn't have to try and figure it out by myself online. 
What I also really liked about UCT is the lectures felt more traditional with blackboards and chalk. Also, all lectures are only 45 minutes long, as opposed to UQ which are 2 hours. Although, courses at UCT tend to have about 2-3 lectures for each subject per week.

Personal experience

To summarise what I learn't from exchange into a short response is almost impossible for me. I can easily say it was the BEST five months of my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. 
I have come home with friendships around the world who I know will all be in my life, for the rest of my life. I met the most incredible people who were so similar to me and I could not imagine spending 5 months away with a better group of people than the ones I met. I went to Cape Town by myself not knowing anyone else, and not knowing who I was living with. However, this enabled me to meet people and form connections. I have returned home and I have just booked a holiday in December with 12 other people, all of whom I met abroad. 
I was lucky to be able to travel whilst I was abroad. I had no travel plans going over there, but as I met people there, we all planned travels together. I did a road trip along the Garden route with my housemates for a week. We stayed at hostels and went to the most amazing places. We did bungee jumping, hiking, kayaking to waterfalls, went to beaches, ate the best food, explored nightlife and met amazing people along the way from all over the world also travelling South Africa. Also, I did some exploring around Cape Town including all the outside areas like Stellenbosch, Pearl, Clanwilliam, and further south to Cape Point and close towns near there. During the easter break I did a 10 day trip to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. Definitely a trip I will remember forever. We camped overnight in a game reserve, swam in Angel's pool, visited Victoria Falls (one of the seven wonders of the world) and so much more. The great thing about travelling within South Africa and Africa is that it is very affordable, especially when comparing to AUD. 

Cape Town has SO much to do. I was there for 5 months, did something everyday, and yet I still feel like I could have done more things. From surfing, exploring markets, hiking, going to beaches, driving around cool towns, going on tours, visiting tourist attractions, going to festivals, wine tasting/tours, the nightlife, going on road trips, exploring cultural places, museams, shows, concerts in the park, picnics, robben island, boat cruises, bungee jumping, sky diving, sunset/sunrise hikes, and soooo much more. There are so many places to explore, and you will never find yourself scrambling for ideas to do something fun and exciting. 

South Africa has 11 official languages so it was so interesting listening to so many cultures speaking around me as in Australia I was so used to just hearing english and had never really had so much diverse culture around me in one place. 

I definitely developed a lot of skills whilst abroad. I gained SO much more self-confidence. I also gained a lot of independence and social skills, having to move in with complete strangers, who were soon to become my best friends.

Accommodation

I lived in a share house about a 20 minute walk away from UCT. I lived with other exchange students. There were also a lot of other students living in my area and it was close to the main road where there were cafe's, restaurants, pharmacy, police station, supermarket and general stores. I absolutely loved my living situation and it definitely made my experience incredible. My house was in great condition, the people I lived with were all great to live with and we never had a single argument nor was there any ever tension in the house. I had my own room and got to choose my own house and room. I would recommend anyone going to UCT to use the link EDUBED that UCT will send you when applying to find accomodation, as you will live in a great area, the houses are all in great condition, they are safe, and you will live with other exchange students from around the world. This was a great way to meet people, especially if you are travelling alone or want to meet other people. UCT provides a lot of help in finding accomodation, but you must always be the one to reach out to them when you need help with anything.

Costs

South Africa was very affordable. If you are not wanting to spend a lot of money UCT is a great choice to study abroad. Rent was about $3000 for the whole semester. Groceries would be about $30-$40 a week. But this is dependent on how much you eat/ if you are eating out. Food overall is VERY cheap compared to Australia - the average full meal when eating out is around $10 and uber eats is also very cheap. Transport in South Africa I would recommend uber only. Otherwise you could rent a car as an open Australian licence will be sufficient to do this. But other than that, do not use any other public transport. Uber is very reliable and highly recommended. It is also very cheap to use in Cape Town. 

Entertainment in Cape Town is AMAZING. There is SO much to do and for a good affordable price. Festivals, concerts and gigs are about $15-$50  (depending on the type of festival). There are a lot of gigs, small concerts, festivals, outdoor concerts, open mic's, cool bars and clubs. There is ALWAYS something on, no matter what day of the week. They are all very affordable, some free. 

Not including rent or transport, I would budget about $3000-$4000 for travel, food, entertainment, shopping and activities. I opened up a South African student bank account which I was able to transfer funds from my Australian account when i needed to. I recommend doing this at the UCT orientation week as they had a stall from the banks there where you could start a student bank account.

Challenge

Honestly, my biggest challenge was leaving the amazing place and people i met. I found it very difficult as I was going back home and would be on the other side of the world, not knowing when I would see my friends that I met again. Although, I am in the process of overcoming this as I have already booked a trip with them - so I guess just staying optimistic about the future and realising that as sad and hard it is to leave, it also opens up excitement as now I have friends all over the world that I can visit. 

In terms of challenges I faced whilst I was there, the only one I can really think of is when I first arrived and had to adjust to the culture shock. Cape Town is quite different to other places I have travelled to so I had to adjust a lot of things that I took for granted back home in Australia. Things like awareness of my surroundings, staying safe etc. However, this was easy to adjust to and I fitted in quite quickly once I grasped the fact that I was in a new environment and accepted my surroundings.

Professional Development

I have learn't to never doubt myself and if I want to do something badly enough, i should do it and it will always work out in the end. I had a lot of doubt before going and had a lot of doubt from those around me about whether I had made the right choice. However, I now know that I should trust myself and take every opportunity that comes in front of me. I have learn't that the way I approach life and experiences that come towards me are dependent on my attitude and outlook. When I am positive and open to new changes, I will find that there are many great opportunities to explore that I should never overlook. 

I have developed a lot of independence. I am more confidence with myself as well as those around me. I have gained a huge understanding of different cultures and social awareness. 
Thanks to studying abroad, I have so much more motivation and determination to get the most out of life. Six months ago I thought that I had a lot of ambition to be successful in life; however, I didn't really define to myself what success meant to me. I just related the word success to being wealthy and happy. Now I have a complete different outlook. I still want to be successful, but for me success now is where I am surrounded by people who I love being around, I want to travel more, explore more of the world and take every single opportunity that faces me, no matter what. I am going to take all these personal lessons and growths with me in my own personal and professional development.

Highlight

The highlight for me was meeting all the amazing people I met. I feel so lucky to have met such incredible people who taught me so much about myself and what real friendship means. I had a smile on my face everyday, thanks to the people I met. Exploring Cape Town would not have been as amazing without the South African friends I made, as well as the other international students I lived with and became so close to.

Top tips

If you are considering going to UCT, all I can say is don't let doubts and worries get in your way of going through with it. It is one of the most beautiful, interesting, culturally diverse, and incredible cities I have ever been to in my life and I wouldn't go anywhere else for an exchange if I got to do it all again. You will hear a lot about South Africa and its safety, and crime. Yes, you have to be aware and know that there is a lot of crime, but do not let this cloud your judgement of whether it is a good place to go. I promise you will not regret choosing UCT. I was the only Australian that studied abroad there, but I wish more people form Australia would go there in the future as just by telling someone how amazing it was, doesn't do the place justice.