Winter in Cape Town, South Africa, dramatically differs to winter in Chicago, Illinois. Waking up to the peaceful view of the Atlantic Ocean was a stark contrast when compared to my usual view of frozen Lake Michigan (and a much-needed change of scenery). The sight of Table Mountain towering over Cape Town is a singularly unique substitute for a city skyline in the heart of the American Midwest. It is a destination that is so rarely discussed amongst Americans, but truly is a hidden gem.
I have been fortunate enough to walk the streets of Rome, visit the Galapagos Islands, and have experienced other world wonders. But I am yet to see a beauty that can compete with the sights of Cape Town. In fact, it was hard not get distracted by our accommodation's balcony view of the mountains, illuminated by homes that reside on their slopes. Every day, I experienced bittersweet emotions as I soaked in the most beautiful sunsets in the world, while trying not to think about how I would only get to enjoy them in for a limited amount of time.
Lion's Head sunrise view
From journeying on a safari, to immersing oneself in a culture far different from one’s own, there are so many ways to fulfil bucket-list goals and explore your personal passions.
I also made some incredible friends that made me feel right at home. The combination of spending time with new faces, and getting accustomed to new accents, put into a perspective the similarities we share as humans, regardless of the colors of our nation’s flag.
While the scenery alone is worth writing an essay about (and I could), my time in Cape Town was more purpose-driven than that, as I'd enrolled in the Product Management course.
I don't have a tech background, but within four weeks, I was part of a team that assembled a design for an app to help consumers discover new music. That group project is something that stands out on my resume, and most importantly, equipped me with a suite of new skills that I know I can take with me, whatever I decide to do next. The curriculum at iXperience has been more intellectually stimulating and academically fulfilling than any other study abroad semester I've been on. I learned more in eight weeks than I thought I ever could. That is, as I found out, as a result of their vastly different learning philosophy. Rather than entailing the emotionally taxing frustrations of some college courses, in which you strive for a grade by cramming in information that you don’t always retain, at iXperience, you learn by doing. We weren't graded, but all worked harder than we'd ever done so before!
Snapping the penguins at Boulders Beach
What differentiates iXperience from other study abroad programs is that you participate in cultural and outdoor attractions, rather than just observing them from afar. I took a huge interest in learning more about South Africa because we were taken on numerous weekend excursions (like township tours and Robben Island) that allow us to gain a greater understanding, and really appreciate the complexity and challenges of the city’s history and cultural dynamics, something that I'm still interested in today.
Because of iXperience, I will soon be back in Cape Town, no longer a stranger in a foreign land.