So far I have been in South Africa for two weeks and it has been the best experience of my life. First of all, I thank God for letting me have this wonderful family and my exchange buddy Jonathan Van Vuren and secondly for letting me come to this awesome school, St. Stithian’s Boys College in Johannesburg, South Africa.
I had such an incredible first week because my host family took me to Kruger National Park which is a four-hour drive from Johannesburg. Kruger National Park is a huge wild safari in the north east of South Africa. There are many entrance gates to this park because it is a gigantic place. One thing you have to know before you go, you must enter early in the morning at like 6 AM because that is the time when wild animals wake up and start to move. Luckily, we saw a big herd of elephant and buffalos as soon as we got in through the entrance gate. I got to see a lots of wild animals that I have never seen in my life, like lion, buffalo, rhino, kudus (deer with fancy horns), giraffe, zebra, and others. When I look through all my pictures on my phone, I still can’t believe that I went to this place.
In my second week, I started attending St. Stithian’s Boys College. There are two different high schools on this campus, one for girls and one for boys. It is an enormous school both in campus size and the number of people compared to The Athenian School. When I first visited this school, I thought it was a village because there is a restaurant, many teacher houses (like our school), a chapel, many sports fields, buildings, gardens, and even ponds. In the boy’s school there are approximately 800 students. I don’t know about the girl’s school because, apparently, we don’t interact that much with the girls during the school day. The first class starts at 7:25 in the morning, so I have to wake up at 6:00 am every morning, which is very hard for me and I will never get used to this ridiculous wake up time. We have a different schedule every day, just like at Athenian. Every day from 10:00 to 10:40 we have a tea break, which is just a break. And we also have Chapel every day, which is like our morning meeting at Athenian but with a religious (Christian) purpose. Lunch time runs from 1:15 to 1:45. After lunch, we have only one more class–except for Wednesday, when we can go home before lunch. School normally ends at 2:45 but on Wednesday it ends at 1:30. After school, all students have to do sports for two hours, so normally school ends at about 5:00 pm.
Everyone in South Africa goes crazy about rugby. It is the most popular sport here and most schools have several rugby fields in their school. Luckily, it is rugby season right now so most of the students do rugby–even me. Before I came to South Africa, I thought rugby was a stupid sport because on TV there is a lot of contact between players without any pads, which looks very dangerous. But actually it isn’t as dangerous as I thought because there are rules that keep players safe from dangerous contact. For example, you can’t tackle an opponent in the air, you can only tackle the guy who has the ball, and you are not allowed to tackle above the waist…but there are still many injuries.
At St. Stithian’s, because it is a very traditional and conservative school, there are many rules to follow. One day after chapel, we had hair inspection and I thought I was going to be fine because I am an exchange student. But unfortunately, I got caught because my hair wasn’t short enough for their policy. I decided to embrace the whole culture of this school and country and I had my hair cut short. I look like I am going to the military. I have never had my hair this short in my life so this was a memorable experience for me. I have now figured out how I am going to cut my hair for AWE.
I thought I was used to experiencing other cultures, but every time I face a different culture there are many surprises, both in a good way and bad way. In South Africa, just like its nickname The Rainbow Nation, there are many cultures and languages in one country. Living far away from my home has always been tough for me, but here, I endure easily and it feels like my home now. I have learned incredibly many things and I know this exchange experience will remain in my memory forever.