Jackie Cong arrives in Cape Town

I arrived in Cape Town a week ago and so far my exchange experience has been absolutely amazing. At first glimpse, Cape Town is a small city that is somewhat similar to the Bay Area. The place where I will stay for my exchange is a very beautiful suburb within Cape Town that is located next to the famous Table Mountain.St Cyprian’s is a school that is very different from Athenian. Firstly, this is an all-girl school. There is a strict dress code. They have a whole uniform set, including a tie and a blazer. Students are also not allowed to wear any jewelry nor makeup. Secondly, most students here are religious. There is a small church in the middle of the school where the school holds an assembly every week. The assembly is usually hosted by the school priest, Mr. Johnson. During the assemblies, students are asked to sing carols along with the school choir and do prayers in silence.

All the exchanges at St Cyprian’s are part-time boarders. We spend our weekdays in the boarding house. Unlike what I expected, each girl gets her own little room with a small bed and a closet. The rooms are all very small but very comfy. I love the layout of the dorm because it gives everybody their own privacy, while you can still talk to each other with your door closed. Dinner is at 5:40 every day and every meal is mandatory for the boarders. After dinner we all go to the school library for prep (study hours). Students are allowed to listen to music as long as they don’t get caught using their cell phones to do other stuff. It is funny that every local boarder complains about the boarding house while I find it very sweet and interesting.

During my first week, I was very worried about making new friends at school. However, I soon realized how friendly everyone is. Hugging is their way of greeting each other. People always give me a big hug whenever they see me in the hallway–and some of them are girls I haven’t even met before!

My first week has been very busy. The school year starts in January in South Africa and so the school is in its third term now. The girls are all busy getting their fashion show ready. It is one of the biggest events in this term. There are many scenes in the show and every girl needs to participate in as least one. The girls sell the fashion show tickets to people outside of the school to raise money for the Metric Dance. It is a school tradition for the 10th grade girls to raise money for the Metric Dance, which they are not allowed to attend because the dance is only for the 12th grade. When they go into 12th grade, the new 10th graders will fundraise for their dance. The entire fashion show is designed and run by the students. They are in charge of the music, the videos, and the choreography. Everyone in grade 10 is now unusually busy as there is a practice every single day. Despite their overwhelming schedules, every girl seems to be enjoying the fashion show and the work that comes with it. Unlike Athenian, St Cyprian’s does not have any school meetings where students get to express their own ideas; therefore, the fashion show is a very precious opportunity for them to show their talents and strengths.On weekends, we go home with our own host family. My exchange, Bianca, lives five minutes away from the beautiful Camps Bay. The bay lays in between the well-known Table Mountain and the Lion’s Head. We took a walk on the beach with some other exchanges and their hosts. The view is absolutely stunning. They have many local shops along the street as well, including a bar where all celebrities go when they come to Cape Town. We went to Waterfront in the afternoon. It is a harbor with some of the biggest shops in Cape Town. We got a bus card before we hopped off Bianca’s mom’s car. Public transport is not very well-organized in South Africa. They do not have a BART system nor a Metro. For most people here, the most convenient public transport is the city bus. You need to get your bus card in advance as no cash is accepted on the bus and the bus cards are only sold in specific locations.

The first week of my exchange went by very quickly. I am very excited to see what the rest of my time in South Africa will bring me.