Nia Warren arrives in South Africa

After a fourteen hour flight from JFK airport in New York to Johannesburg, it was my adrenaline that kept me awake for what would be my first encounter with my new South African exchange family. My exchange, Jacqui Knott, was waiting for me with her 11 year old brother with Proteas, the traditional South African flower, outreached towards me. We were both excited about the difference of our accents and heights. I met her mother, Shann, and we were off to her home on a six-hour ride on the left side of the road. Our ride home was my first encounter with the South African culture. I looked out the window and saw cities, villages, and rural pieces of South Africa. I even got to stop at road markets along the way to try food.

When I finally arrived at Jacqui’s house I knew that my experience would be exceptional because her family actually lives on a safari and game ranch in the bushes of South Africa called Kuduland Safaris. Her mom handed me a package of biltong, like beef jerky, and showed me my room. I was surrounded by animals: I saw antelope out my window and could hear lions roaring from my room. The Knott family was extremely welcoming and made it so that I felt very comfortable in their home before the end of the first night. I spent a week at her home before I would be going off to school and my experience was extremely special to me. By the end of the week I already hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset with an incredible view, learned how to drive a stick shift on their helicopter runway, went into a lion cage to feed the lions, got chased by an elephant on a late night safari, saw her father hunt a wildebeest, touched a baboon’s butt, drove a four-wheeler, and visited the official “Dole” orange farm. I also had some amazing food prepared at her home. The meat was actually hunted on the farm! One of my favorite dishes was pup, which is like grits that you hand-dip in gravy.

I had already done more than I imagined possible in a week, and I hadn’t even had my first day at Stanford Lake College.