Thankfully I can say that I successfully made it though my first week at UCT. Every other student in the IES program and I all agreed that the week felt like freshman year of college all over again. None of us had any idea how to navigate around campus to find our classes, and we jealously watched all of the returning students greet each other as they reunited after ‘holiday.’ It made me miss my tight knit community in Vermont where I feel like I recognize every face on campus, and can’t enter a single building without stopping to make conversation with someone I know. By the end of the week, however, I managed to configure the perfect schedule of classes, and feel much more at ease on campus.
My current schedule consists of four very different, and very wonderful courses. My first class is a religion course titled ‘Religion, Spirituality, and Ecology,’ where we will be focusing on the importance that religion plays in getting humanity to respond to the immense degradation of the environment that is occurring globally. Additionally, I am taking a course titled ‘Gender and the Politics of Development.’ Taking a gender studies class within the African context is an opportunity that I would have never been given at my home institution, and as a Gender Studies minor, I am very excited to be in this course. My favorite class so far is titled ‘African Instruments,’ a course that is specifically constructed for semester study abroad students. On our first day, we played the djembe for two hours straight, and occasionally sang and danced to traditional West African songs. I was in heaven.
My fourth course is specific to the IES program, and is not a part of the UCT curriculum. The course is titled ‘Polity, Community Development, and Urban Life in South Africa.’ Here, we will be dedicating 60 hours of volunteer work to an organization of our choice, to conduct a project within the context of social or community development in South Africa.
I have begun to work with the Egoli Township, which is a very impoverished settlement located just outside of the city. After engaging in conversation with some of the community leaders, it became clear that many members of the community struggle immensely with feeding their families, as many of them are unemployed and have little to no income. As a result of this, I have decided to dedicate my volunteer work to implementing a community garden in Egoli, where members of Egoli can create sustainable livelihoods for themselves, and work towards cultivating nutritious food for their families. I will be working with a few other students from IES on this project, and when the idea was presented to the community leaders of Egoli, they were very excited. Tomorrow, one other IES student and I will be meeting with a Social Development team to look at plots of land surrounding Egoli, and go over the process of getting approval from the government to use the land for gardening.
After my visit to Egoli on Sunday, I ended the day with a sunset hike up Lion’s Head. I have been viewing the mountain in awe from a far since the second I arrive in Cape Town, and was waiting for a perfectly clear day to embark on the journey up the mountain. The weather on Sunday couldn’t have been any better, and additionally, the full moon was rising right over Devil’s Peak to my right, as the sun set over the ocean to my left during the entirety of the hike. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect way to end the week.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Jules Ashe is Senior at the University of Vermont majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Women's and Gender Studies. Her passions include traveling, cooking, music, photography, and making new connections and relationships with people all over the world. She is very excited to live beside both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean in Cape Town, and be surrounded by a range of beautiful mountains. Mostly though, she cannot wait to take many new pictures and share them with everyone back home!</span></p>