Thursday 14 July
Today our day started off with more information about our stay here. We very briefly went over the history of South Africa and its recent rulers. We found out that although there is no overwhelming anti-American sentiment in Cape Town, it is not uncommon to find South Africans who will brush us off because of our nationality. However, they did tell us that it has gotten a lot better since President Obama has been elected (President Bush was not well received here at all). The current South African president is Jacob Zuma, and many people refer to him jokingly as J.Z. He has somewhere between 5-7 wives and is engaged to another. Polygamy is pretty acceptable here, but only for men.
Special notes about the school system I will be encountering! Most classes are strictly lecture and the professors (and students) do not welcome questions. If you want to ask a question, you must go through this long bureaucratic process and make an official appointment with your professor. But most often you won’t have the same lecturer throughout the duration of the course, they usually run on 2-week shifts. The grading scale is also very daunting. 100-75% is considered an A. But they told us we will receive somewhere between 50 and 75%, basically meaning if you get over a 75 you are a genius and prodigy. From there: 70-74 B+, 63-69 B, 60-62 B-, 51-59 C, 50 D, and anything below that is an F. If you do not hand in all of your assignments and go to at least 80% of your lectures, you are not permitted to take the final exam… which constitutes 50% of your grade. This results in a fail. So anyway… pretty nervous about all of that! But classes don’t start for over a week so I’m trying not to be too worried already.
Our big activity today was a scavenger hunt around the campus of University of Cape Town called the AMA-zing Race (which is basically the African version of the American show). We had 14 different locations around campus that we had to decipher clues for. My group ended up coming in 2nd place and won 100Rand to the UCT store. Not sure what I’ll be able to actually buy with that (it’s like $15), but it may help defray costs at least! Anyway, I still can’t believe I go to this school now. We kept looking around in disbelief. It is the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen… and it will only continue to grow more beautiful during my stay as we move into Spring!
Tonight we are planning to go into downtown Cape Town for the first time! I’m really excited to experience the “real” Mother City.