Abroad Spotlight: Everything You Need To Know About Studying Abroad in Cape Town, South Africa

One of my best friends, Emma Meyerkopf, spent last semester studying about in Cape Town, South Africa. I knew she had an incredible experience, but I wanted to ask her a few specific questions to dig deeper into why Cape Town was the ideal study abroad location for her.

Q: Did you study in the fall or the spring?

“I studied in the fall, and got there on August 1st.”

Q: What was the weather like during that time?

“I arrived at the end of the winter season, so for the first two months it was between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and closer to 40 degrees at night. The last two months approached Cape Town’s summer season so it began to warm up, and by the first week of December it was 80 degrees”

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Q: How challenging were your classes? What was the language of instruction?

They were all in English. They weren’t that difficult but they were engaging and intellectually stimulating. I took Contemporary Social Work and it was about Gender and Human Sexuality and it was fascinating, I loved it. I didn’t have that much work, it was mostly writing papers. I also took African Instruments which was really fun and not challenging.”

Q: What were some of the biggest adjustments you underwent living in Cape Town?

One of the hardest adjustments for Emma was going to such a big school, compared to the small private high school she attended in New York City and the comfortable medium size of Tulane. At University of Cape Town there were nearly 30,000 students. She reflected: “It was difficult in the sense of like if you had a problem it was kinda like you were swimming alone in a sea and wondering ‘who do I go to in the administration to figure this out?’”

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View from Emma’s Apartment 

Emma also had to adjust and try to understand the deep-seeded race tensions in the country. “I think they’re making a lot of progress…and coming form the US it was really interesting to see because obviously we have our own issues which are somewhat similar, but it was difficult to be an outsider. Yes, I had some understanding of what was going on, but you can’t really understand what it’s like until you live there I think. That was more a learning experience culturally to see what the country looks like twenty years post apartheid because they are still undergoing a lot of change.”

Q: In terms of spending money, were things more or less expensive than in the U.S.?

“SO much less expensive – it was really phenomenal.” Emma really enjoyed that between groceries, drinks, and eating out…everything was cheaper than in the US.

Q: What was a downside to studying abroad in Cape Town?

“Overall, I had a great experience in Cape Town but there is the issue of safety…one of the biggest downsides for me coming from New York City was transitioning from being able to go anywhere I wanted by myself in New York City, to not being able to go anywhere by myself in Cape Town after dark.” During the day, Emma felt safe walking around by herself. It was just a bit of an adjustment coming from New York.

Q: What coffee shops, restaurants, and bars do you recommend for those going to Cape Town?

“Truth Coffee is a really good coffee shop and it’s the most famous one. The Codfather is my favorite restaurant, the have a fresh fish market and you just take your pick. I had the best lobster there. Fork Tapas is really good, medium priced. Mama Africa is delicious and relatively cheap. Jerry’s Burger Bar is super cheap and delicious too. And my favorite local bars were Four X, which has Monday night trivia and beer pong – super fun. Stones has a bunch of pool tables and has two for the price of one drink deals. Beerhouse has 100 different kinds of beer, we went all the time, and La Parada was another one of my go-to’s. Club-wise, Yours Truly and Tiger’s Milk were my favorite.”

Q: Where else did you travel?

“We did a lovely spring break trip to Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana…we met up with a tour group in Namibia and drove through Batswana and stopped at Chobe National Park, and ended our trip in Zimbabwe where I did white water rafting down the Zambezi and had a really great time. The spring break trip was great because we got to do those three countries which were very different…but I would’ve also loved to go to Mozambique as well.” Emma also traveled to an area within the Greater Kruger National Park, and to wine country.

Q: What was the highlight of your experience?  

“I really enjoyed how the locals treated us. I really enjoyed going out and being able to talk to somebody I didn’t know. And then it was so refreshing how interested and friendly they were. If I could point to one moment my favorite moment of the trip was over spring break when we passed through Namibia…we stopped for the night at this campsite that was right on the Okavango river and they took a group of eight of us across the river to a little sandbar. There was a bar and they brought a cooler full of drinks. We chilled there on the river, hanging out and listening to music and watched the sunrise. I loved everybody I was with, it was just the eight of us, and it was really fun.”

When I asked if she wished she studied abroad anywhere else she said, “Absolutely not. I was so happy.”

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About Nicole Kaplan

Nicole Kaplan draws inspiration from her semester spent studying in Amsterdam. This senior from Chicago loves laying in Audubon Park, reading a good book, and cooking her famous chicken fajitas.

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