Ellie Inamine Arrives in South Africa
I am currently attending Stanford Lake College in South Africa and am having so much fun. My exchange, Mathabo, and I get along very well and have already created a friendship that will last a lifetime.
I met Mathabo and her family on the 14th of July, when we
had dinner with Lexi, her exchange family, my parents and my exchange family. From there, we went to Polokwane, where they live. We drove through rural towns, meadows and mountains to get to Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo. When we arrived in the city, I was shocked by the presence of rich neighborhoods and malls placed right next to poor rural places with families living in huts. I experienced many other differences the first few days, but it soon became normal to drive on the left side of the road and to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius.
As soon as I saw Stanford’s outdoorsy, close-knit and environmentally friendly campus, I knew that I would love it. We arrived in hostel a night early so that we could move in and I could get to know everyone. I spent that night laughing with friends, learning Sepedi, and comparing our two very different countries. This was a great welcoming to the next six weeks of my life.
I started school the next morning and followed Mathabo to her classes. Everyone went out of their way to introduce themselves to me and to make sure I was comfortable and having fun. I walked into my first class, greeted the teacher as ma’am and stood behind my desk, waiting for the teacher to greet us and allow us to sit down, a concept that is still very new to me. After a few classes, everyone made their way down to the dining hall for tea, which is similar to Athenian’s brief break except they serve tea, coffee and food. At the end of the day, people normally either go to sports practice, go to the gym, or run in the forest. After dinner and chill time, there is a period called prep, where you must be silently doing work in your room. Because I am an exchange student, I am allowed to go to friends’ rooms or do anything I want during this period. That is followed by second prep, and then we can all do whatever we want until bed. I am living in hostel here, which, at first, I was nervous about, but it has been one of the best parts of my exchange. I have gained 20 sisters that I can joke around, feast, and make many memories with. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.
As an American living in California, I am constantly asked, “Do you see celebrities everywhere?” “Do you live in or near Compton?” “You surf, right?” After answering no to all these questions, they proceed to ask, “So, do you like Trump or Clinton?” These stereotypical questions about America have made me realize how much power the US has over the rest of the world, but how many problems we have internally. Before I came here, if someone were to ask me about the South African election, I would have no idea who was running or what was happening, however, if you ask anyone here about the American elections, they know everything that is happening and have developed their own opinions on the issue.
The school is similar to Athenian in many ways, yet extremely different at the same time. The students all wear uniforms, so I stand out very much in my Adidas and Patagonia jacket. One thing that has really surprised me here is the amount of power you have based off your grade. Grade eight’s must collect the trash every morning, while matrics (12th graders) can give strikes for messy rooms, being too loud, or misbehaving. After 3 strikes, you must do early morning, which is normally exercising at 5 in the morning. If you want to shower in the afternoon, you must ask those on your floor that are in the grades above you if you can shower. Although the teachers are addressed as ma’am and sir, the teachers and students have very close relationships, demonstrating one of Athenians core values. The school is not as strict as I was expecting, similar to Athenian. Another parallel between our schools is how eco-friendly and adventure-focused they are. There is a similar excursion to AWE in every grade called Trek, where you must spend 8 days in the forest, with your classmates, learning how to navigate and live in nature.
So far my time outside of school has been full of holding lion cubs, hanging out with friends, and trying traditional South African foods. I have made many friends and memories here that I will never forget and will last a lifetime. I am already dreading the day when I will have to leave, but I can’t wait for the next four weeks!
Ellie Inamine says farewell to South Africa
Although it seems like I arrived in South Africa just yesterday, my time in this beautiful country has come to an end. These past six weeks have flown by. I am beyond sad to leave my best friends, great experiences, and second home. Saying goodbye to everyone at Stanford has been harder than I ever imagined.
I will forever cherish the memories and friends that I made here, and hope to come back in the future to make even more. This past month and a half have been full of laughing with friends, wandering around the forest and lake, blasting many new songs during prep, trying lots of new food, and so many experiences that I will never forget.
A few highlights of my trip were adventuring around Cape Town, seeing many animals in Kruger that I would otherwise only see in a zoo, the social, 40 days (basically their version of senior prank day), and creating friendships and memories to last a lifetime. I spent a weekend in Cape Town with Mathabo and her family. Cape Town reminded me a lot of San Francisco, as it is on the water and the city itself has lots of character. We went to Robben Island to visit the cell where Mandela stayed for nearly 30 years, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, and many more exciting places around the city. The next weekend, we drove to Kruger National Park and saw lions, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, snakes, hippos and more.
Before I left for exchange, I thought that saying goodbye to my family and friends at home would be the hardest part of exchange. I was wrong. The hardest part of exchange has been saying goodbye to my friends in South Africa because I don’t know when I will see them again. I am saying goodbye to people that have given me unforgettable experiences, laughs and memories. I am so lucky to call them my best friends. I underestimated how painful and sad it is to say farewell to the people I have grown so close to in the past few weeks, but I can’t wait to hopefully see them again.
The culture there is very different from at home. It has become the norm for me and adjusting to life back at home has been very weird and hard. One major difference is that people’s academic success is more public. Some teachers announce grades from the front of the class. You get badges, ribbons and different colored uniforms based on how well you are doing in school. In some ways there are many more rules there, but in other ways there are more at Athenian. Everyone is extremely friendly and open to learning about new cultures. The students are very environmentally focused and always down for adventure. South Africa has welcomed me with open arms and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.
Applying for exchange was one of the best decisions I ever made. I highly recommend it for any freshman or sophomore with the opportunity. Through learning new languages, living with people I just met a few weeks ago, experiencing things much different than in the US, and creating lifelong friends, I have become a much more independent, open and accepting person. As I look back on this experience, I realize how lucky I am to have had this opportunity and I thank everyone who made it the best six weeks of my life.