Nia Warren

Nia Warren is on exchange at Stanford Lake College in South Africa

Nia Warren’s final posting from South Africa

My last couple of weeks were very busy! I mainly focused on spending as much time with Jacqui and my new friends as much possible before I left. My last weekend at staying at Jacqui’s house was spent so perfectly. We got up at 5:00 am, drove out to the Koppies (flat, rock formations similar to mountains) and hiked to the tallest one. We watched the sunrise from the top and had breakfast. Later that weekend, her and her dad decided to surprise me and take me on a helicopter ride across the “bush” (South African Savannahs). It was my first ride in the helicopter, and I got to get a bird’s eye view of all the animals that they had on their lodge. I also had pap for what would be the last time.

The last week of school went by extremely fast, and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to every grade besides grade ten. It was overwhelming to know that I wouldn’t be seeing these kids all at the same time ever again. One of the hardest people to say goodbye to was Reneilwe. Her and I were inseparable on my stay and practically became sisters. We promised to visit each other and then I was off. Lucky for me, I would get to spend one more week with Grade 10. I spent the first few days at the Getaway Show, where I got to represent Stanford Lake College at a huge adventure fair and talk to prospective applicants about how I saw Stanford as an exchange. I was really grateful to have a chance to give back after all the great experiences that I had at Stanford.

After, I headed off to the Grade 10 Tour with the entire grade. We got to spend an entire week touring Johannesburg by day and enjoying fun activities and meals at a really nice camp. I was really lucky to be able to share so many moments with my classmates on the last week of exchange. We got to go to the tallest building in Johannesburg, visit SABC studios, visit the Apartheid Museum, ride rides at Gold Reef City, and visit Mandela’s old jail cell and home. I learned so much about what makes up South Africa’s history and the different perspectives on it. Johannesburg had been one of the cities that I had gone in and out of without having a chance to actually spend time in it, so this tour was a nice treat for me. As a class we played sports, and team activities, and by the end of the week I had bonded with so many people. The last night of the tour, also the day before my flight, the camp hosted a bonfire for all the students. The next morning I said my farewells and cried some more. I knew I would really miss Stanford, but I had so many memories and pictures to hold on to.

I spent my last couple hours with Jacqui and her family going out for a nice breakfast. We ate, talked about all the memories that I made in South Africa, and even started discussing how I was going to come back within a couple years. All I could think about was how excited that I was to have Jacqui come stay at my house in the fall and how much I wanted to repay her for one of the best summers that I would ever have in my life. Thank you so much to Athenian, the Knott Family, and Round Square for giving me everything I could have ever wanted and more on exchange!

Nia’s second blog post

Nia 12It’s so wonderful to be a part of a school community as special as the one at Stanford Lake College! My first encounter with the school was my boarding hostile, Ken Shuter. I knew from the moment that I saw the lounge and the inside of the hostile that I was going to love boarding. Everything felt so “homie”.  My room was the exchange room, on the first floor; it is about the size of a college dorm room with a bunk bed. I got to meet my roommate, Georgia, from an all-girls school in Canada. Her and I clicked immediately and became really close, especially being able to share our day-to-day experiences with each other. Jacqui introduced me to her 3 other roommates: Kai, Amber, and Sara; I spent my first night getting to meet all of the other boarders at dinner. There, I got to meet a variety of different people who were extremely welcoming and interested in making my exchange special.

Stanford Lake CollegeIt was very nice being able to start my first day of school having met people. The campus is stunning and the photos on the website do it no justice! Every day, for the first week, we went down to the lake and relaxed and ate food. I even got to meet the other exchanges that I would be sharing my experience with from Australia and Canada. I started off wearing my casual clothing to school each day, but soon decided that I wanted to wear the school uniform. Believe it or not, I even started running! In the beginning, my friends had to pressure me to start running, but I actually started going on me own after that. Running is something that I wouldn’t even consider doing at home, so I am going to try to keep it up when I get back.

Every day I felt more and more connected with the students on campus! It was especially interesting for me being African-American at a South African School. Even though I shared the same complexion with the other black students, there were obvious differences in our cultures. To be honest, at first I was intimidated by those differences, but that didn’t last long because of how open everybody was. It was really special to learn about their language, culture, and perspective on South Africa, which they shared openly with me. I have learned a lot about what it means to embrace similarities and differences in cultures.

Nia 11There has never been a dull moment. My first weekend was an Afrikaans party, where I attempted to learn how to “saki” (popular Afrikaans couples dance). This was a great way to bond with my classmates outside of the school atmosphere.

Thanks to the Knott family, I had a chance to spend a week in Cape Town! It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life. We were blessed with good weather in the winter, and the city actually reminded me a lot of San Francisco with nicer beaches. It is a very diverse city with a lot to do! I had a chance to meet the rest of Jacqui’s family, including her sister Tess! We got to party, have amazing seafood, shop, and sight see. One of my favorite places was Cape Point, located at the tip of South Africa, with Jacqui’s uncle as a tour guide! That is where I got to take some of the prettiest pictures because of the amazing views. I even got to take selfies with baboons who proceeded to try and open our car door.

Soccer is also something that I got to take up again on my stay! After attending practices, I made the official first 1st team and got to play my first away-game in Polokwane! Because I haven’t been able to play in a while, it was really special to me being able to play in South Africa! The team was super nice and I got to make a lot of great friends traveling with the team!

I was also lucky enough to reunite with one of my closest friends who came on exchange to Athenian the year before, Reneilwe! She is also one of the biggest reasons that I got so connected with Stanford so quickly! I spent countless nights sitting in her dorm room and talking. One of my favorite weekends on exchange was being able to spend the entire weekend with her and her amazing family! She got to show me a completely different perspective in Polokwane, South Africa! Polokwane is more of a city, unlike my home in Musina, which is more rural. I had a great time! We spent the entire weekend partying, eating, touring around Polokwane, and meeting knew people. I felt like I had to wonderful, completely different homes on exchange. I truly can say, because of Round Square Exchanges, I have met people that I will be friends with for life!

Nia’s first blog post

After a fourteen hour flight from JFK airport in New York to Johannesburg, it was my adrenaline that kept me awake for what would be my first encounter with my new South African exchange family. My exchange, Jacqui Knott, was waiting for me with her 11 year old brother with Proteas, the traditional South African flower, outreached towards me. We were both excited about the difference of our accents and heights. I met her mother, Shann, and we were off to her home on a six-hour ride on the left side of the road. Our ride home was my first encounter with the South African culture. I looked out the window and saw cities, villages, and rural pieces of South Africa. I even got to stop at road markets along the way to try food.

When I finally arrived at Jacqui’s house I knew that my experience would be exceptional because her family actually lives on a safari and game ranch in the bushes of South Africa called Kuduland Safaris. Her mom handed me a package of biltong, like beef jerky, and showed me my room. I was surrounded by animals: I saw antelope out my window and could hear lions roaring from my room. The Knott family was extremely welcoming and made it so that I felt very comfortable in their home before the end of the first night. I spent a week at her home before I would be going off to school and my experience was extremely special to me. By the end of the week I already hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset with an incredible view, learned how to drive a stick shift on their helicopter runway, went into a lion cage to feed the lions, got chased by an elephant on a late night safari, saw her father hunt a wildebeest, touched a baboon’s butt, drove a four-wheeler, and visited the official “Dole” orange farm. I also had some amazing food prepared at her home. The meat was actually hunted on the farm! One of my favorite dishes was pup, which is like grits that you hand-dip in gravy.

I had already done more than I imagined possible in a week, and I hadn’t even had my first day at Stanford Lake College.