February 4,2017

My first week in South Africa has been a whirlwind of sand and surf. I don’t think that the floor on my room will ever not be covered in a layer of sand. I landed in Port Elizabeth last Thursday morning. I got moved into my room and then immediately the next morning a large group of international students took a bus out to Tsitsikamma, a nature reserve in South Africa. Tsitsikamma was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. While there I went zip lining and went night swimming in a natural pool. On Saturday we all went hiking and we could either do the scenic route or the “adventure” route. Of course, I decided to do the adventure route, which including rock jumping and ended with a swim in a waterfall. When we got to the waterfall I was blown away by how incredible nature can be. The waterfall we were at was a river with fresh water. When swimming in the waterfall area, I could see the ocean just over a shelf of rocks. The trail we hiked is rated in the top five most beautiful hiking trails in the world. It’s called the Otter Trail, and it was our guides favorite trail in South Africa to hike. At the end of the hike, a few of us climbed onto a big outburst of rocks right in the ocean. From the top of this mass of rocks, we watched the Sunset. It was the kind of Sunset that could make an atheist want to believe in God.  We spent an hour on the rock, and our guide said that in August through December that rock is the best place to watch whales. Although I didn’t see any whales, I did see a dolphin.

The weather here is incredible, the heat is bearable and the wind is refreshing. From my room, I can see over some of the city and I am a five-minute walk from the beach. It feels good to know that I can walk to the ocean and go swimming whenever I want to. The place I am staying is filled with international students. Most of the people here are either from Germany or the United States. I know that all the Germans are at least twenty-one years old. It is interesting to them that we are allowed to study abroad so early. The locals here are cool, most of them are in great shape and everyone runs on the beach at night. It’s a lot more laid back and slower going here than it is at home. When we go out to eat here you have to ask for the check, otherwise, you could sit at the restaurant for hours and no one would ask you to leave.

The entire first week has been orientation.It’s exhausting, the University packs every day with activities to prepare us for school and to help us get to know each other. My favorite activity was when we went to the game park. It’s  a new experience to witness animals in an open place, not locked in a cage at a zoo. One day the school had African drummers come in and drum with us. The drumming made me realize that I really have no beat.

So far I have only gotten sunburnt once, I went to the beach today in a long sleeve t-shirt because I still look like a tomato from yesterday! Believe it or not, it even gets chilly in the evenings here. I can already tell that these five months in Port Elizabeth are going to fly by too quickly. I am excited to continue to experience new things and learn about South African culture.  This first week or so here has already been the most incredible experience of my life and I am glad that I decided to take the leap and study abroad as a freshman.

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