Undergraduate Admissions

Sarah Mueller's Blog

Spreadin’ That Christmas Spirit!

With Christmas a week away, it’s time to blast the holiday jingles we all have been secretly listening to for the past month! During the past few weeks, as University of Scranton students “Dec’d the Halls” (of their dorms) with Christmas decorations, maintenance dec’d the Christmas tree on campus with twinkling lights, ready for the tree-lighting ceremony that takes place every year.
Christmas is my favorite time of year. It gives each of us time to reflect on the year as it comes to an end, all while spending time with the people we love and care about. This past year has been filled with so many incredible experiences and opportunities. I have met some incredible people, strengthened both old and new friendships, and had a chance to see a corner of the world that changed my perspective on life forever.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be on campus this year to enjoy all of the holiday festivities Scranton has to offer, as I was studying abroad all semester. BUT, even though I am home now, and am not with my study abroad friends, we still found a way to celebrate Christmas, Cape Town style! :)
So here is the Christmas card we made as a program, from my K-House Cape Town family to yours!

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They even put of a Christmas tree down by the Waterfront!

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Last week was finals week at Scranton. Something else I have learned, particularly since being abroad, is that stress around finals time is not inevitable. Living in Cape Town taught me that there are more important things in life than simply “getting the perfect grade.” Sure, scoring well on exams is important, but looking back on college, or any experience for that matter, you will remember the people you spend your time with, the work you did, and the fun you had. So work hard, study hard, but don’t forget to cherish your last few weeks with your Scranton fam.
Don’t miss out on the tree lighting ceremony because you are stressing about a final project. Don’t leave your Secret Santa gift exchange with your friends early because you want to get ahead on making your study guide. Don’t spend every night in the library when you could be coming back to your dorm and spending that time with your friends. Take study breaks. Grab late night with a friend. Go decorate a gingerbread house at the Christmas Carnival. Budget your time. Study during the day and spend quality time with your best buds at night.
Cape Town taught me to cherish every moment I have with each person I meet. Looking back on my study abroad and reflect on my year as a whole, I remember those late night conversations with my friends. I remember the random study breaks, blasting music with my Cape Town housemates and dancing on the kitchen table as we pulled all-nighters to finish our papers, taking multiple coffee breaks at Cocoa Cha Chi where we would end up talking for hours, going to the beach and trying to surf (as if that is less exhausting than studying!). What I remember are not the times that I was stressed over work, but the times that I fostered my human relationships with others – with my students, housemates, and local friends. I remember doing things I am passionate about, taking risks, bungee jumping off bridges, coming face to face with a Lion on safari, hiking, finding random adventures. What you learn inside of the classroom is important – I had better think so, since I am going to be a teacher one day! But what you learn from people, from experiences, and from nature is a gift that resonates with you for the rest of your life.

Happy holidays, everyone! Until next semester!

Sarah :)

Stories to Share

I have been home for a week, and although I am missing Cape Town desperately, it is definitely great to be back.
When I stepped off the plane at the Newark airport (after stepping on and off planes for the past 22 hours in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dakar, and D.C.), I was welcomed home by my wonderful parents, my smiling sister, and a gigantic sign reading “Welcome home Sarah!”
After eating a New Jersey bagel (boy, I missed those!), getting some Starbucks into my system (don’t worry, barely-caffeinated South African instant coffee – you still have a place in my heart), eating the delicious lemon chicken my mom made for dinner (and almost falling asleep on my plate, thank you 7-hour time difference), I began to share stories.
As I attempt to process my study abroad experience, some of the amazingly perfect moments that I experienced do not feel real. The memories feel like they happened in a dream – in a different world. And quite frankly – my experience was not only ‘out of this world,’ but other-worldly. Harnessing that other world – the Cape Town streets I came to call home, along with the people, my friends, my students – it is next to impossible. Trying to convey the precise feelings I had while living in that country of contrasts is so difficult.
But what I have discovered is that stories help keep my memories alive, and make my experiences real and tangible to me again.
I visited The (Wonderful) University of Scranton last weekend. It was so refreshing to catch up with my Scranton fam again. I loved hearing their semester-tales, and I loved sharing my South African stories with them. As I told my Scranton friends about the friends I made abroad, the silly jokes we played on each other, my mid-semester trip, my time teaching at Hlengisa, hiking, and all of the other aspects which encompassed my time in Cape Town, I felt my study abroad experience come alive again.
I look forward to going back to school next semester, ready to make new memories with my Scranton fam, with my Cape Town memories always in my back pocket.  :)

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Happy Thanksgiving! Until next week!

Sarah  :)

Home Sweet Cape Town

Leaving: A word so awful that my friends and I banned its use for our last week in Cape Town.

When you have experienced five months of life in a beautiful place with interesting people and countless adventures, packing up and leaving is the last thing you want to do.
The past five months that I have spent in Cape Town have been some of the most outrageously fun months of my life. I fell in love with the people and the city, with the ocean and the mountains, with the suburbs and the townships. Cape Town has captured my heart, and I feel so incredibly blessed to have had this experience.
The fact that I am leaving tomorrow has not hit me yet. How could I be leaving this crazy, chaotic, beautiful, energetic city – where the three peaks sneak their way into every skyline, where contrasting city, suburbs and townships all somehow unite to exist in one place? I’ve said it before – Cape Town is a place of contrasts. Beautiful, heartbreaking, intense contrasts. And I love all of them.

So here’s to Cape Town. To the laughs, the smiles. To K-House (K-Love/K-Fam). To Hlengisa, where I spent 14 hours a week teaching. To The University of Western Cape where I spent a bit more time than I wanted to. To relying on Cocoa Cha Chi’s Coffee Crushes to make it through the day. To Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head – the three peaks that helped me conquer my fear of heights and taught me about perseverance and harnessing inner-strength. To bungee jumping off a 700ft bridge. To sunset Safaris. To exploring the Wild Coast. To the Hout Bay Market and Old Biscuit Mill, markets where I spent many Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. To funny K-House memories like meeting Desmond Tutu (finally) after the Tutu-fake-out when his office stood us up. To afternoons at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. To Stellenbosch. To Kolbe mass (with a Jesuit priest!) To full moon hikes up Lion’s Head. To beach days at Clifton. To surfing attempts at Muizenburg. To sunsets at Camps Bay and Glenn Beach. Essentially, to the “TIA” (this is Africa) attitude, automatically replying “it’s not a problem” when your plans go awry, or when you find yourself at a place you’ve never been before.

Quite a list, right?

They say home is where the heart is, and I can proudly say that after studying abroad, I now have three homes to love, miss, and cherish. I have my home in New Jersey, my home at The University of Scranton, and my new home in Cape Town, South Africa. Although these homes are separate and although I am unable to be present in all three homes at once, I feel so blessed to have each of them. These homes – these places made of people – each hold a third of my heart. I feel lucky that I have three homes to be welcomed into, three homes to miss, and three homes full of people to love. Leaving my new home in Cape Town will be insanely difficult. But jumping back into my homes in New Jersey and at The U will be easy. It is hard to always have people and places to miss, but I am glad that I do. It shows that those amazing people, beautiful places, and life-changing experiences, all of which comprise my homes, mean something to me. And they do. They really do.

My housemates and I went on our last hike in Cape Town this morning :). Here’s a picture of it:

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Next time you here from me, I’ll be back in the US! So – Until next week!

Sarah :)

Taxi Tales

Cape Town taxi drivers have always tugged at my interest. They come from everywhere, will drive you anywhere, and usually have a good story or two to share. Taxis come in three forms here: marked taxis, unmarked taxis and mini-busses, or as the locals call them – Kombis. You can call marked taxis to come pick you up, they will run their meter, and you will pay a fair price to get wherever you are going. Unmarked taxis are the ones you find on a main road and haggle with until you get to a price you want. Then you have the Kombis, which are 12-seat vans that drive up and down the main roads. Riding in Kombis are like riding in a party bus. They blast music as the drivers yell out the window to potential customers, shouting where they are going. A huge perk is that Kombis are considerably cheaper than taxis. They they will take you anywhere – even into the city – for 7 Rand (70 cents USD). Kombis are a lot of fun to ride with friends, but most of the interesting conversations happen with the taxi drivers.
I arrived in Cape Town exactly four months ago (can you believe it has already been four months?!), and I still remember my first taxi ride, purely because of the man in the driver’s seat. He asked my friends and I to call him “Mr. Africa” (still unsure of whether that is actually his name), and he spent the entire drive to the V&A Waterfront telling us about Cape Town, about his life before he moved from the DRC to Cape Town, and providing important insight on how to stay safe while living here.
Since Mr. Africa, I have met countless taxi drivers, some of whom openly share their stories of struggle during the Apartheid, of their lives prior to moving to South Africa, of their families who still live in the DRC, Zimbabwe, or Congo – or in other South African cities like Durban or Johannesburg. Others are less talkative – groggy from their early morning start at 6am or simply just less willing to play twenty questions with a tourist. But I have learned that the taxi drivers who do have something to say are definitely worth listening to.
Often times it begins with my question: “Why did you move to Cape Town?” or “What made you stay?” Sometimes they will ask me where I am from, and my answer that I am from The States sparks a discussion about that. Many taxi drivers like to give their opinions on politics, and the trip turns into a taxi-ride-long rant. When that happens, I have learned just to nod my head and smile. But more often than not, I enjoy learning about their lives, and listening to their opinions.
A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I were on our way to Camps Bay Beach. As we drove past Bo Kapp, a part of downtown Cape Town with colorful houses, our taxi driver launched into an explanation of his heritage, and how he was impacted by the Apartheid. He spoke about reconciliation, about moving forward, and about being dragged back into the past. He explained that a taxi driver is not his profession of choice, with 24-hour shifts and low pay. But even though the Apartheid ended, his job choices are limited. This man’s story and insight were fascinating. I feel like taxi drivers provide such a valuable look into true South African culture. I feel fortunate to have had such meaningful conversations with the different taxi drivers I have met, as they have really developed and enriched my perspective of South African life. :)

Here’s an artsy picture of the marked taxi company I usually call with the scenic Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head mountains in the background (courtesy of google):

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Until next week!

Sarah :)

 

 

Cura Personalis + Ubuntu = One Heck of a Study Abroad Experience

For my final project for my study abroad program over here in Cape Town, we had to create a Visual Diary to encapsulate and document our experience. The Visual Diary had to orbit around a central idea or theme which related to a notion we discussed in our Theology of Forgiveness class – a class centered on reconciliation after the Apartheid.
For my project, I originally chose to make my central theme “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu is a Ngunui Bantu term which roughly translates to “human kindness” or more literally, “human-ness.” It is the belief that there is a universal bond that connects all of humanity – and that this bond must be respected and valued. As I began my project, gathering photos to document my experience, reading through my travel journal and picking out blurbs from my daily entries, tracing the theme Ubuntu through these things was sufficient, but I felt like it was missing something. I felt as though Ubuntu only captured part of my study abroad experience here in Cape Town.
It was while I was assembling the Scranton page of my Visual Diary, cutting out photos of my friends from my Cura Personalis living-learning community, that I realized Cura Personalis was the missing piece of my study abroad puzzle.
Cura Personalis is a Jesuit buzz-word that means “care for the whole person.” It resonates with Ignation Spirituality, which emphasizes that one must actively seek God in the people they know and meet, and in nature.
Cura Personalis and Ignation Spirituality, along with Ubuntu have really shaped the way I have grown while studying abroad in Cape Town. Whether it is embracing the human-to-human bonds between my 19 housemates and I, seeing God in their actions and service to one another and to the Cape Town community, or finding God in nature on my hikes, at the beautiful beaches, and on each of my wild adventures here – these ideals are entwined in each experience I have had and relationship I have formed here. I feel like my University of Scranton world of Cura Personalis and Ignation Spirituality has collided with my South African world of Ubuntu, and from that collision has emerged a more well-rounded, open, and thoughtful version of myself. I could not be more grateful for this experience and the impact these ideals have had on my outlook on life. :)

Here are a few photos of my Visual Diary:

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Until next week!

Sarah :)

Pull Up A Chair For Hlengisa!

Keeping in line with The University of Scranton’s Jesuit emphasis on caring for others, service is a major component of my study abroad program over here in Cape Town. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I teach grade 6 English, History and Geography at Hlengisa Junior Secondary School in a township called Nyanga, which is located just outside of Cape Town.

Townships are usually underdeveloped living areas that, until the end of Apartheid, were used as a method of segregation. Townships are usually built on the periphery of cities. Generally, there is a lot of crime in townships, gang violence, as well as a lack of sanitation and infrastructure. Schools are usually viewed as a “safe zone,” where students can find refuge from the crime and violence.

Here is a photo of Nyanga:

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Like too many of the underfunded, public township schools, Hlengisa is extremely limited in its number of resources, more specifically, chairs. During the school day, many students are forced to stand or sit on the floor while learning simply because there are not enough chairs to accommodate the growing student population. This experience has meant so much to me, and I wanted to help create a lasting impact at Hlengisa long after I leave. So, my housemate and I, who both work at Hlengisa, decided to create a fundraiser, “Pull Up A Chair For Hlengisa.” Then, we stormed social media, sending the link to the donation page to our friends, posting in our various facebook groups, and encouraging others to spread the word.

In just THREE DAYS, we reached our goal and raised $1,000 USD, equivalent to about 11,005 SA Rand. Since then, we have made it up to $1,115 USD, equaling 12,271 SA Rand. We are well on our way to providing new chairs for every Hlengisa student, and could not be happier!

Overall, my time at Hlengisa has been extremely rewarding. Teaching grade 6 has certainly tested my patience, but has also opened me up to a new culture, a new language and a new way of teaching. I absolutely adore my students, and have learned so much from them. They make me laugh every day with their silly songs and jokes. They ask me about America and I ask them about living in Nyanga. I can’t believe that I have less than a month left here with them! I feel so fortunate to work with kids who are so eager to learn, and I feel so blessed to be able to provide chairs for them! :)

Here is a photo of one of my students that we took for the fundraiser:

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Until next week!

Sarah :)

Moments

If you flipped through my travel journal that I have written in every day since entering this beautiful country that I have come to call my third home (right behind my homes in New Jersey, and at the University of Scranton, of course), you would be amazed at how much I have had to write on. All of the little adventures, each of the activities and spontaneous trips, have left hundreds of imprints on my memory. Whether it is finding and exploring a new market, taking an impromptu trip into the City, or “into town,” as they say here, waking up and deciding to make it a beach day, or a hiking day, or a “let’s stay at home and do work but not really work because we are in the company of great friends” day, every moment resonates in my memory like a snapshot.
Here are a couple of reminiscences that I can throw you way. For any Harry Potter fans out there, this blog post can be a Pensive into my memory of a few of my favorite moments in Cape Town:
1. Hout Bay Market/Old Biscuit Mill/Vintage market
Markets are HUGE here, and my friends and I love finding them. Picture this: You walk into what quite literally looks like a hole in the wall, only to emerge into the Hout Bay Market – an indoor pavilion filled with life, live music, art, hand-made jewelry, clothes, and delicious food. Or, picture Old Biscuit Mill (lovingly referred to as OBM): Just a twenty minute walk away from home, it is “the place to be” every Saturday morning. Again, walking in you are hit with life and things to spend money on (and you will spend money, because you won’t be able to deny yourself a Cape Town painted canvas, custom jewelry, or – my weakness – bagels (I’m still a Jersey girl at heart). The food at OBM is worth the every-Saturday trip, and you’ll leave with a stomach full of bagels and potato pancakes and chorizo sandwiches and fresh organic veggies and coffee and happiness. Now let us jump over to the Vintage Market: Definitely a bit edgier than Hout Bay or OBM, the Vintage Market takes place in a coffee shop called “True Coffee,” which is factory-themed, with cogs and screws and piping everywhere. Individual vendors come and set up shop, where you can buy fashionable clothes for a fraction of the price. (Example: I bought a sundress for 80 Rand (roughly $0.80 USD). Hello affordability!

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2. Middle School dance-ish fundraiser
A couple Fridays ago, my entire house of twenty went to a fundraiser dance to raise money for the orphanage, Christian Revel, that two girls in my house perform service learning at. We got all dolled up and left for Athelone – the township where the orphanage is. When we arrived, we entered into a gigantic gym, decorated in a way remnant of a middle school dance. Except, instead of the tables on each side of the gym being flanked with anxious middle schoolers, the tables were filled with middle-aged men and woman, who had no desire to enter the dance floor. That, of course, did not stop the DJ from blasting Beyonce, Pink, and Madonna. So, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to “get the party started.” For a while, we were the only ones on the dance floor, but we had a blast anyway. Then, the DJ abruptly shifted to play “Tennessee Waltz,” and before you know it, the entire crowd was waltzing around the gym. My friends and I laughed the whole night long and had so much fun. This might have been my favorite night of my entire trip thus far.

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3. Full moon hike up lion’s head
If that was not my favorite night, this night could be right up there. Staring up at Lion’s Head, one of the “3 Peaks” in Cape Town, the headlamps and flashlights of the hikers wrapped around the mountain like a constellation. When we reached the top, you could see the entire city lit up. It felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world. One of my friends began to sing and her voice along with the stars along with the city lights along with the flashlights on the mountain lit up something inside me. I felt like I was in some other world – which I guess I was, if you think about it. I was in Cape Town – a world far away from Scranton and New Jersey and all the other worlds I had ever known. But I was also on the top of a jagged mountain, far away from the ground, and the street lights below. It felt as though I was closer to the stars, and that our headlamps and flashlights were just little reminders that we, too, can capture the light of the stars, if we climb high enough.
4. Camps Bay at sunset
Camps Bay: One of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Town. I say one of the most beautiful, because if you visit Llunuido or Clifton, you might argue that either of those is the most beautiful). Each of these beaches have big boulders and rocks, fine white sand, crystal clear water, and a gorgeous view of the 3 Peaks. While I love going to these beaches during the day, it is at sunset that I have created the best memories. One was with my girlfriends – we had a girls night, where we went to watch the sunset at Camps Bay, and the other was on my parents’ last night in Cape Town. Both nights were peaceful and beautiful, filled with laughs, deep conversations, and love.

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5. Finding the book lounge and Charlie’s in town
One Thursday, my friends and I spontaneously decided to go into town – the city part of Cape Town. We walked around exploring, and stumbled upon Charlie’s Bakery. There, I bought the most delicious cookie in the entire world. We sat down, ate, and enjoyed the quirky atmosphere. As we were leaving, we noticed “Humans of New York”-esque photographs of random strangers posted to a fence with clothes pins. We were unsure as to what the photos were for, but their diversity in age, race, and gender reminded us of how far South Africa has come politically, and how much more unified they are in their community now. It was really beautiful. After mulling around center city, we came across “The Book Lounge” – any English major’s paradise. Feeling like I had entered heaven, I spent probably around two hours in the book lounge, a two-story book store and coffee shop, reading books and browsing through shelves. To say that I love exploring Cape Town is an understatement.
6. Braai Day
Braai: The South African term for barbeque. Except much, much better. Braais are incorporated into just about every holiday, weekend, and event in South Africa. At my house, we hosted a braai in the beginning to start off the semester, and our program hosted a braai at our program leader’s house to say goodbye to our RA, who got an awesome forensics job in Johannesburg. Other US study abroad programs host braais every Friday (and call it Braai-Day). Basically, any excuse to hold a braai is a good excuse. Braais are a great was to connect with the community, see your friends, and eat some delicious food!

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There a plenty of other memories that I could go on and on about, but the point is that I have had so many fantastic experiences here and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have them. I cannot believe how many spectacular moments I have had here in such a short amount of time. I also cannot fathom that I only have one month left! I wonder how many more memorable moments I can squeeze in before I leave. Shouldn’t be too difficult…:)

Until next week!

Sarah :)

Missing Scranton (Still loving South Africa though!)

Greetings! I am still studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and am still loving every second of it!
As promised, here is a fun little list of lessons I compiled during my first day of classes at The University of Western Cape. Although I value my experience here, this eye-roll prompting list threaded with sarcasm after a long day of frustration certainly makes me miss The University of Scranton!

Throwback to Travel Journal Entry from July 23. Location: University of Western Cape campus.
“Today, I spend five-thousand unnecessary hours at UWC. Here are some lessons I learned today:

1. Coffee shops will never open when they say they will
2. Chocochino = Mochachino = Mocha
3. Practicals do not exist on any schedule anywhere
4. Neither do tutorials – especially when you are placed in the wrong one
5. Tutorials are called “Tuts” for short – which explains my confusion, thinking that my professor was referencing King Tut for the entire class
6. No one needs to arrive at UWC before 7:15AM
7. If your computer tells you that you need a library card, it is lying
8. If your computer tells you that you have 10 minutes remaining in your session, it’s lying. You have 4
9. There is no concept of silence in the library
10. The head of the University of Western Cape English department is called rude by everyone. I thought she was lovely. What does that say about Americans?
11. You can buy 2 bananas for 3 Rand – AKA 30 cents USA. Hellooooo groceries
12. Americans walk too fast/Everyone in South Africa walks like they have nowhere to be ever. Welcome to ‘Africa-time’
13. Speaking of Africa-time, class times mean nothing. Walk in 15 minutes late? Fine. Leave a half hour early? Not a problem.
14. Privacy in the bathroom will never happen and stalls will never close. Toilet paper? Paper towels? Forget about it
15. South Africans are really nice about giving directions. So it is okay to occasionally play ‘Lost American’”

Now I am loving The Universtiy of the Western Cape and all…But my heart goes out to Scranton for keeping me sane with regards to these little lessons I picked up on during my first few days on UWC campus. It made me realize how lucky I am to go to the University of Scranton, where not only do we have both toilet paper AND privacy in our bathrooms, as well as coffee shops that open on time (you should see the line at Starbucks and Java City every morning!), but we also have a super-efficient scheduling system, library, and just overall organization.

So here is what I miss about Scranton – my little list of those things that students at the UofS often take for granted, but really matter. Here’s to you, Scranton:

1. Coffee shops open on time – Shout out to the workers at both Starbucks and Java City for knowing my name and order, and for happily fueling my caffeine addiction.
2. Maintenance staff. You guys are AWESOME. Seriously. Thank you for keeping campus clean and beautiful, for cleaning our Residence Halls and dorm rooms, for chatting with me about your lives, and being some of the friendliest people on campus.
3. The Weineberg Memorial Library – oh how I miss your silent 5th floor and spacious study rooms! Also, I’ve heard a rumor that the 24-hour study room was revamped while I was away, and it looks great!
4. MyScranton – our online student portal. Thank you for being so user-friendly and organized.
5. Course Registration and Housing. Current UofS students: Never complain about registration or the housing lottery again. You want to talk about the “Housing Hunger Games” or the “chaos” that we call Course Registration? Try waiting in line at the University of the Western Cape for 4+ hours to register for anything – even to hand in a test. So thank you, MyScranton, the Housing Portal, Desire2Learn academic portal, and Online Course Registration. You just added 4 hours to my day.
6. Teachers who take the time to get to know each and every student – Teachers who offer to grab coffee with students after class, provide tons of office hours, and always give extra help. I miss the UofS teachers who care, and will go above and beyond to help students succeed.
7. Scranton food. Yum. I cannot express how much I miss the Fresh Food Company. UWC food can’t compare (Even if UWC’s samosas are excellent)!
8. Classes starting and ending on time, and students and professors making education a priority, attending classes regularly, paying attention, participating in exciting and intriguing lectures, etc.
9. All of the various clubs and opportunities that the UofS offers for students to get involved. You definitely don’t get that on every campus.
10. The happy, friendly, outgoing people, ready to reach out a helping hand or offer a warm smile, constantly spreading that Scranton sunshine. (This is what I miss the most).

Until next week! :)

Sarah :)

Molweni Nonke! (“Hi to all!” in Xhosa)

For those of you who are new to my blog, I have been studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa since July 6, and I have loved every second of it!

As promised, this blog post will be all about my awesome Midsemseter trip!! About a month ago, my housemates and I traveled through the Garden Route, along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, up to Durban and Johannesburg, and finally to Kruger for a safari!

We left Friday, Aug. 29 at 4 am and drove to Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee bridge in the world at little over 700 ft.   Jumping off and free falling from that bridge was the best feeling I have ever had. The view was beautiful – the sun was golden, reflecting off the rolling hills and jagged rocks and water at the bottom. I hung at the bottom in shock. The entire thing was surreal. Without the support and excitement from my friends in my study abroad program, I would have never done it! I feel so fortunate to be a part of a Jesuit study abroad program. There was definitely some Cura Personalis being spread that morning on the bridge. We all encouraged each other and as a result, had the time of our lives!

After Bloukrans Bridge, we drove along the Wild Coast to East London and then Coffee Bay. In Coffee Bay we went on a 5 1/2 mile hike along the coast and through villages, around colorful huts and roaming livestock in the rolling hills, learning about the cultural practices there. The cultural practices performed in Coffee Bay and along the Eastern Cape in general are fascinating. I gained a new and refined appreciation for their rural way of life and their meaningful traditions.

Next was Durban, where we explored the city, followed by Johannesburg. In Johannesburg, we went to the Apartheid museum and toured Nelson Mandela’s home in Soweto, South Africa’s largest township. At night, we explored the city and stumbled upon a night market, where we shopped around and tried a ton of delicious food! On a quick side-note – Markets are HUGE in South Africa. They are everywhere. My friends and I have our favorites, namely The Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday mornings and The Hout Bay Market on Friday nights. Both markets have food and vendors who sell hand-made, authentic clothing, jewelry, artwork – you name it. As an added bonus, the Hout Bay Market even has live music on Friday nights! Long story short – the markets here are a blast, so we were super excited to find that night market in Johannesburg!

We ended our trip in Kruger for a two-day safari! We went through on a 4×4 scouting out animals and saw the “Big 5,” which was so awesome. The entire trip was exhilarating! To give you an idea of how cool it was, here is a quick anecdote: We went on a sunset safari during our first night at Kruger, and ended up finding an entire family of lions. We pulled up so that we were less than five feet away from them – if I wanted to tempt fate, I could have leaned out of the 4×4 and touched the cub. How awesome is that?! On the way home, we went to Blyde Canyon, the largest green canyon and third largest canyon in the world! Absolutely stunning view!

Anyway, that’s all for this week! Make sure to tune in next week for a list of the lessons I learned during my first day at The University of Western Cape – you’re sure to be in for a few laughs! All I can say is that it makes me miss and appreciate The University of Scranton even more! Well, until next week! :)

Sarah :)

Here are some pictures from my Midsemester trip: Night market, FNB World Cup stadium in Jo-Burg, Blyde Cannyon, East London, Bungee Jumping, and lions at Kruger!

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Welcome to Cape Town! (And a new UofS semester!)

Molo!

That’s how you say hello in Xhosa, one of the eleven national languages in South Africa! Currently, I am studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for the semester, so look forward to exciting tales of my adventures in this beautiful city!

I will try to cram three months of awesomeness into this one first post to catch you all up on my life in South African! Luckily, I’ve been documenting my experiences thus far in a travel journal, so I’ll be sure not to leave out any important parts!

I live in Observatory, a primarily English and Afrikaans-speaking area; however I am involved in a service-learning program where teach in a Xhosa-speaking township. So I’ll start with a quick Xhosa lesson:

So I would say to you:
Molo! (Hi!)
You would say:
Molo Sarah, unjani? (Hi Sarah, how are you?)
To which I would reply:
Ndipilile! Wena unjani (I am alive! And how are you?)
And you would say:
Ndipilile nam! (I am also alive and well!)

Easy enough, right? It has taken me a while to learn different Xhosa terms and expressions, but I think I am finally beginning to catch on! Other than trying to adapt to the Xhosa culture, I’ve been busy taking classes, teaching, hiking, and exploring. I study at the University of Western Cape, and am taking a Victorian and South African literature class, a South African theatre class, Leaders in Grassroots Organizations, and Theology of Apartheid and Reconciliation. These classes have been fascinating and have really broadened my scope into South African culture!

Additionally, as part of the service-learning program, I teach grade 6 reading, writing, history, and geography at Hlengisa junior-secondary school in Nyanga township. I love my kids. They are super eager to learn and are even more keen to become my friend. They love to teach me Xhosa and tell me about their lives. The most difficult part about teaching in a township is not the language barrier, but the culture barrier, particularly in terms of discipline and corruption. Despite that, though, teaching has been an incredible learning experience. I feel so fortunate to work with these kids. They are so happy. They sing beautifully, without hesitation, everywhere they go. They share their food with each other, when I know for a fact that they barely have enough to feed themselves. Their eyes brighten when they understand a new word. They translate for me. They fill me on all the grade 6 gossip. They write me little love notes. They teach me their hand-games. They bring me an apple every morning. They have started calling me “sisi Sarah,” identifying me as their sister, rather than Miss Sarah. They always hug me goodbye. To say that my time at Hlengisa has been rewarding so far is an understatement.

Being here has given me a completely different perspective on what it means to be alive. There is such a stark contrast between the atmosphere of life in the city, in the slums and townships, and up in the mountains. In the city, I feel alive with curiosity. I want to learn about South African history, explore the water front, and try everything. I have been to countless markets, tried the strangest and most outrageous food, taste-tested every coffee shop in Observatory, poked around random shops, and played tourist, visiting museums, Robben Island, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – everything. I feel alive in the way an explorer must feel alive. In the townships, slums, and squatter settlements, I feel alive in the way that prickles the back of my neck – in the way that gives me chills, gut-wrenching guilt, and an acute awareness of what poverty actually means. And in the mountains, I feel free. There are three peaks in Cape Town: Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head. I’ve hiked all three, and those hikes create the most genuine feeling of life that I have ever experienced. One night, my friends and I embarked on a full moon hike. Staring up at Lion’s Head, every hiker’s headlamp and flashlight looked like constellations circled around the mountain. When we reached the top, we looked out over the glowing city on one side of the mountain, and the dark ocean on the other. It was incredible. Climbing each mountain makes me feel life’s rawness. It gives me a chance to be human, and reflect on my humanity – on being alive. I guess I’ve really brought over those Jesuit ideals on Ignation reflection with me!

Here are some pictures from my study abroad experience so far!

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That’s all for now! Next week I’ll be talking about the amazing midsemester trip I just went on! Get ready to hear all about the Wild Coast, Durban, Johannesburg, and a safari! Until next week! :)

Sarah :)