My exchange is very quickly coming to an end. This past week was my last week at school and next week is my last week in South Africa. I am definitely very sad that my exchange is almost over, but I am very happy that I decided to come.
Before I even applied to go on exchange I was very nervous about pretty much everything that going on exchange meant doing: I was scared about being out of the country for two months, about living with a whole new family, and about meeting so many new people. I sort of knew what to expect because of all the presentations the other Athenian exchanges have given us about their experiences and how amazing it was to live in a completely different country, but nothing could prepare me for how fun and exciting South Africa was going to be. I was still very nervous about everything when I first arrived, but all the nervousness just melted away when I got lost in the beauty of South Africa and how amazing South Africa is.
I spent my first two weeks in South Africa with my exchange family in Drakensburg and Kruger National Park. In Drakensburg we stayed in a beautiful resort and the kids were free to do whatever they wanted. My exchange, his brother, and I mostly played different sports and went on mountain bike rides. The two brothers taught me how to properly mountain bike (which is much more difficult that I had presumed) and how to play squash, tennis, and even rugby. Fortunately for me, we also had a lot of time to rest and relax, which greatly helped me get over my jet lag and get ready for all the game drives in Kruger.
The next week I went to Kruger National Park and got to meet my exchange’s extended family. The extended family was from Canada and the kids were about my age. They had never been to South Africa before so they were also about to see all of the animals for the first time. All of us went on two or three game drives a day: one early in the morning, one right after lunch, and one late at night. At first I had no idea why we were going on so many game drives throughout the day, but I soon realized that certain animals are out at certain times. For example, lions are only out during the morning and evening because they have to conserve energy and it takes up too much energy to be out in the sun all day. Also during different times you can see animals do different things. During the afternoon when it is sunny and hot out, all of the animals convene at water holes and you get to see them drink. While that may not seem very exciting, seeing a giraffe drink water is probably the funniest thing I have seen in South Africa so far. Most of the game drives were a huge success and I got to see all types of animals including giraffe, zebra, all types of buck, beautiful birds, wildebeest, rhino, and many more exotic animals. After the first two weeks seeing beautiful South Africa I thought my trip could only get more boring. Fortunately, I was completely wrong.
My first week of school was very nerve racking because I had to meet all new people and I knew that first impressions are very important. Thankfully, all of the students and teachers were very welcoming and amiable. Classes at Stanford Lake College are very different from Athenian. At Stanford classes are much more lecture based and most of class time is used to do that night’s homework. Most of the pressure to learn is put on the students and the teachers seem to be there just when a student needs help. I think this ideology is really smart because it pushes kids to have the responsibility to want to learn and take initiative, as well as helping kids see how they learn and what the best methods of studying are for them. The only other major difference from Stanford and Athenian is that Stanford is mainly a boarding school and hostel life seems very different from Athenian’s. In hostel there is more respect and more power is given to the older students and are very rarely led by a dorm parent. All of the students are expected to take care of themselves and be respectful of each other. Besides hostel and the teaching habits of Stanford, our school is very similar.
While school life is very fun, the most fun times were the weekends where we would either hang out with friends or go out to see more of South Africa. My favorite weekend adventure was the time I got to walk with lions. One weekend all of the people on exchange went out to a place called The Ranch and got to see and play with all the animals that are in rehabilitation. When I got to The Ranch I thought we were just going walking with lions, but we also got to watch lions and cheetahs eat, feed and hold baby lions, and even play soccer with a cheetah. My time at The Ranch was the most fun I had because I have never been that close to any animal before and all of them were just amazing to be around.
South Africa has really been amazing and I am really sad that next week is my last, but I know I will always remember my great times and all of the amazing people.