Embracing the Differences
My Time at University of the Western Cape
I knew I was going to a school that would be vastly different from Georgetown when I began looking at the different course options for the upcoming semester. As a sociology major at Georgetown, I am used to at least 20 or more course offerings for one semester. However this was not the case for University of the Western Cape (UWC). For this semester, I chose from a pool of 5 courses offered by the Sociology department.
University of the Western Cape does not have a privileged history of Jesuits establishing a Catholic university in the 18th century. Instead, UWC was built in the 1960s as an institution for Colored South Africans in the Western Cape (the part of the country where Cape Town is located.) When one looks up the University of the Western Cape on Google and glances at the short blurb provided by Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, but it can be useful at times), one sees the words “oppression”, “disadvantage”, and “struggle”. Georgetown’s blurb has “private research” and “1.5 billion USD” endowment. Feel free to do more research to compare the day-and-night differences between the two institutions. A history of an institution, whether it is privileged or disadvantaged, tells one much about the social and educational climate. I could have attended University of Cape Town (UCT), the other public institution, where I would have received a comparable education to Georgetown. But I chose University of the Western Cape, a public school with a less peaceful history.
With these facts in mind, I have a deeper understanding of the differences between my private school in the states and my public school here in South Africa. I am so fortunate to be in the classroom with the Black and Brown faces. This color-filled scene is not an experience I have in the states. Did I also mention that I am taught in big lecture halls where I am one out of a hundred or more students? I am used to the average class size being 20. I also appreciate being in the classroom with people my age, expecting mothers, parents, and grandparents. The spectrum of ages adds to the diversity of the classroom discussions where we analyze globalization, African colonialism, social identity, and health in developing countries. This is also the first time where my class readings are not solely produced by American academics. Fun fact: Instructors here do not have students buy books. Instead we buy course readers. I spent less than 5 U.S. dollars on books this semester. I usually spend around $300, and this is even after renting, borrowing from the library, and attempting to find online copies of books.
The campus climate is also different from the atmosphere at Georgetown. I honestly feel like I am outside of the loop because I am one of the few international students on campus and I commute to and from school, making it hard to participate in activities and clubs. I’m not complaining though because I only have classes three days a week. I simply enjoy going to school and going home. It gives me time to do homework, write blog posts, zumba at my local gym, and work on my poetry. This is my first semester without working and I can actually afford to live on the wealthier side due to the exchange rate.
I have spent the past two months at UWC adjusting to campus, making friends, and gathering enough information to make concrete comparisons between the University of the Western Cape and Georgetown University. The semester ends in June and I head back to the States in July. Then I start senior year at Georgetown in late August. I am excited to see how going to UWC has changed my perspective of the Hilltop once I get back.