7,736 Miles from Home

Gwen Marquis
January 26, 2018
Old Mill building at the University of Vermont

Reflections on packing, preparation, and hopes for a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa

My first post! Where to begin? I’ll be arriving in Cape Town in just a couple days, and it goes without saying that the time I have left in the U.S. is being spent trying to think of every last thing I might need to prepare, pack, or plan for my semester abroad.

One thing I’m doing differently with this international trip, compared to ones I’ve taken in the past, is that I’ve gone through the registration process for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Control program. What this means is that on the outbound part of any trip I take from the U.S., I will have TSA Pre✓® allowing me to go through security lines faster, and on the return side, I will also have an expedited line going through U.S. Customs. The process was super easy: after creating an online account, filling out an application and paying a fee, I had a brief in-person interview where I verified some information and went over the program’s details and expectations with a Customs and Border Patrol officer. My application was quickly approved and I received my membership card in the mail and activated it within a week! As a frequent traveler, I decided this program was right for me. If you’re interested, I would definitely do your homework on the program and see if it’s right for you too.

As far as other prep goes, I think I’ve done relatively okay. I’ve never been the type to pack well in advance (I once packed for a high school trip to Greece the night before my flight), so the physical clothes-in-suitcase part of my preparation has definitely come pretty close to my departure date. However, I’ve been working my way through a list of things I need to purchase or gather together so that I’m not left panicking at the last minute. I think the most important of these are South African travel adapters (type M, ordered on Amazon!), prescription medication, and contacts.

But I can only prepare to a certain extent. Part of the challenge of studying abroad is reckoning with the fact that I’m putting my life in the U.S. on hold and instead choosing to stay for an entire semester in a country I’ve never been to before. This can genuinely be paralyzing if I think about it too long. Instead of getting sucked into this mindset, however, I’ve been focusing on the positive and making a list of just some of the things I’d love to do during my time in South Africa:

  • Hike! Get outside, explore the natural beauty of the mountains & the coastline. @ Table Mountain & Lion’s Head
  • See penguins?! @ Boulders Beach
  • Understand the conversion rate between the rand and the U.S. dollar (this one’s a little less exciting, I know, sorry)
  • Attend a rugby match
  •  Visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
  •  Try new foods
  •  Be able to get around UCT
  • Make friends!

Cape Town may be 7,736 miles from home, but I’m looking forward to making it my new home for the next five months. That’s all for now! The next time I’ll post, it’ll be from South Africa. Till then…

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Gwen Marquis

<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:10.3pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt">Hi all! My name is Gwen, and I’m a junior majoring in Political Science and Anthropology with a concentration in Global Health at the University of Vermont. I love taking photos, being outside, and pretty much every dog I’ve ever met. I’ve never been to the Southern Hemisphere before and am looking forward to studying abroad in Cape Town and escaping New England mid-winter. This semester abroad, I look forward to traveling as much as possible and (hopefully) learning to cook for myself. Wish me luck!</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
University of Vermont
Walpole, MA
Political Science
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