Jonathan Victorino’s exchange is with Saint Stithian’s in South Africa
Jonathan prepares to leave South Africa
As I prepare to go back to the US, I look back at the differences between South Africa and the US and some of the things I had to get used to.
One of the biggest changes for me was living in the dorms. Having to wake up at 6 in the morning and have room inspection and roll call before going to breakfast is very different from my normal morning routine. The dorm environment is a lot more scheduled than I was used to. We have roll call three times a day, specified study hours, and lights out at designated times. Another very big difference between Saint Stithians and Athenian is that Saints has chapel three times a week for about 45 minutes, while Athenian has no religious affiliation. The education system also has major differences as theirs is mainly focused on exams. Saint Stithians has 12 exams over the course of 3 weeks that determines the majority of their students’ grade. Athenian is more focused on day-to-day performance and homework and less on exams. We have 6 exams over the course of 6 days, but they count for less of our grade. Also their exams are more about memorization and remembering specific facts and don’t test critical thinking as much. The classes are very focused on preparing for tests and other major assignments and don’t have as many activities.
Another big difference is how important sports are in South Africa (mainly rugby). Saint Stithians’ main focus is on their sports program, which is very good. Their under 16 rugby team is 9th in the country. Their 1st team games have a very high turnout and attendance at some games is even compulsory. They also have war cries, which is very different from the attitude my school has towards sports. Everyone plays sports and most of them at a very high level.
The attitude of the general public is very different when it comes to traffic laws, as people cross the road almost wherever and whenever they want. Speed limits tend to be more of guidelines instead of laws and are very rarely enforced. Another big thing that stood out were all the beggars at intersections; there would almost always be at least one, if not more. The houses also have a lot more security than in the US and almost everyone lives behind an electric fence. This was very surprising to see when I first arrived, but makes sense because there is a lot more crime. The most difficult thing to get used to was load shedding, which is when the power gets cut for hours at a time because the government doesn’t have enough electricity to supply the entire city. The power could go out for any length of time between two and six hours. This was very annoying. Also, the government in South Africa is rather lax when enforcing laws and is very corrupt compared to the US. While I was in Johannesburg, two stowaways managed to sneak onto an international flight from O.R. Tambo to Heathrow, which is the same flight path that I took. The police are easy to bribe and aren’t terribly vigilant compared to most American police. The South African government doesn’t maintain or improve roads, it’s actually done privately. One road very near to where I was staying was widened by private contractors and paid for by residents who were unhappy with the amount of traffic on that particular road.
One of my highlights was when I traveled to Cape Town over a long weekend. We hiked up Table Mountain in the mist. It was a really amazing experience to be almost in the clouds and only be able to see a short distance around you. We also took a tour around Cape Town on one of the buses. This was a really interesting way to learn about the city and see different parts of it. We stopped and got off at Long Street and went to one of the street markets where they were selling a wide variety of goods. It was very interesting to see this type of market in an urban setting. Unfortunately we were unable to go to Robben Island because the weather was rather stormy. We did travel around Cape Town, however, and it is an incredibly pretty city.
Another highlight was going to Madikwe Game Reserve over midterm break. Going to the bush was an incredible experience. It was amazing to be so close to the animals. While there we saw lions, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, wild dogs, and a lot of other animals. The bush was also a lot colder than I thought it was going to be. It was very beautiful, especially the sunrises and sunsets.
I thoroughly enjoyed my exchange to South Africa. It was a very enlightening experience to see how different the lifestyles are between the US and South Africa. I made some wonderful friends while I was there and it was truly amazing getting to know people on the other side of the world.
Jonathan arrives in South Africa
I arrived in Johannesburg about three weeks ago. Even though it is supposed to be winter, it was warmer when I arrived here than when I left California. One of the first surprises was when the power went out for several hours. This load shedding happened several more times during the next couple of weeks, and most people blame their government for it. Another thing that stood out to me was that every single building has some sort of fence around it. The nicer developments have electric wires and security guards at the entrances because of the large amount of crime.
When I got to Saint Stithian’s, I noticed one of the major differences was the uniform we have to wear. We have to wear a blazer, tie, trousers, and dress shoes, whereas at Athenian we can wear whatever we want. Also, classes are much different from Athenian. At the start of each class, students have to stand until the teacher says “good morning”, which the students reply either “good morning, sir” or “good morning, ma’am” before sitting down. Classes are structured much more around lectures and the focus of the class is for preparing for the test.
Saint Stithian’s is very focused on athletics. Everyone is required to play two sports a year: one sport for each season, winter and summer. Rugby is the main sport here and there are compulsory matches when entire school is required to attend the first team’s game. There are 18 different rugby teams at Saint Stithian’s and each team has a little more than 15 people. I tried to play rugby, but wasn’t the greatest because I was smaller than most people on the team.
During the week I live in the dorms with my exchange Luke, Oliver (another Athenian student), and his exchange Kellan. My normal day begins at 6:00, with room inspection at 6:30, roll call at 6:40, and breakfast right after. The first class begins at 7:25, followed by chapel at 8 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with house chapel on Tuesdays and Leadership on Thursdays. The second class starts immediately after that and is followed by break. After break there are three more classes and then lunch at 1:20. After lunch is the sixth and last class of the day, followed by sports. The second roll call is at 5:45 and is immediately followed by dinner. After dinner is prep, where students have quiet time to do homework; prep starts at 6:45 and lasts for two hours. Then a final roll call and free time until 10:00, which is lights out.
So far I have really enjoyed my time in South Africa. I am looking forward to traveling some around the country and experiencing more of the culture.