Stellenbosch, South Africa – Let’s have a Braai.

Long time no see. But finally I found the time to let you know how my stay in South Africa turned out after the first week. Why only now? Well, read it for yourself.

Table Mountain

August, 2014. Last time, I promised to introduce you to another very important word in the South African culture: braai. The first time a South African tried to explain to me what a braai is, it seemed pretty clear to me. Basically, a braai is nothing but a barbecue. But, dear me! Stupid European! I also had to learn that South Africans don’t agree with this comparison. I have to admit: Americans and Europeans probably wouldn’t barbecue on a half barrel, in Winter. „Yeah right, Winter in South Africa“, you might think. But more on that later. South Africa even loves its braai enough to write a song about it: The National Braai Day Anthem.

After my first two weeks in Stellenbosch, I startet to get used to my new life. To Stellenbosch University (with its beautiful campus but tough classes), the „Eikestad Mall“ (basically my second home as I had to buy all the things that didn’t fit into my suitcase) and Academia (my actual new home). Academia Residence would be my home for almost 5 months but I didn’t know at this point how much more I would find here: true friends, unforgettable memories and the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.

As a German, it seemed weird to me to stay in a fenced area at first. But once you passed the security gate, this student residence proved to be exactly like the rest of Stellenbosch: Academia consists of lots of white little houses, even more green areas, a student center, the Academia hall and a little necessity shop. Each block has different kinds of apartments; mine consisted of three floors with one living room and four kitchens per floor. The kitchens were shared by two people each, which makes (yes, you counted correctly) eight students per living room. Although my room was tiny and very basic – I had a single bed, a closet, a desk, a chair and a cupboard -, I at least had my own bathroom. To be honest: you can live in prettier and cheaper residences in Stellenbosch. But after my time in Academia I would’t change a thing. Living in Academia means meeting new people every day, never getting the chance to be homesick and being close to everything that’s going on in Stellenbosch. By bike, it never took me longer than 10 minutes to get anywhere.

But August was not only the month I got to know Stellenbosch, it was also the month I started to explore its surroundings. We decided to make our first trip to Cape Town, so we rented a car and spent the whole day walking around Long Street (a must see for every girl that loves affordable boutiques – and for every guy that loves partying. Or the other way around). One day is by far not enough to see and do everything Cape Town has to offer. One advice at this point: Stellenbosch tends to be a bubble. It is very tempting to live your life in Stellenbosch and forget about all the beauty that surrounds it. After your first month, classes and duties will catch up with you, so use every spare second in the beginning to see and feel South Africa.

The university organizes trips to „must sees“ in the area, which makes it easy to see things before you know your way around. But don’t be sad if you’re too late (yes, these trips are usually booked out fastly) because you will definitely see all the important places, no matter what. I joined two of these trips: the first one was a day trip to the legendary Cape of Good Hope and to Boulders Beach. Did you know that penguins live in the Western Cape? I didn’t. But I’ve never been closer to a penguin before. On the second trip we went to Robben Island, the island Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on for many, many years. Lots of history and a must see, in my eyes, if one wants to understand the Apartheid history a little bit better.

But I’m running off the track. What else happened? During the „Grape Day Out“ (you HAVE to get tickets!) I experienced how South Africa loves its wine. Even at 10 a.m. in the morning. But I also learned to love hiking, as „Academia Adventures“ took us on my first hike ever. Stellenbosch is surrounded by mountains – Stellenbosch Mountain and Jonkersheuk are only two possible destinations. Last but not least, August was also the month of the „International Food Evening“. Students from all over the world get the chance to present their local food during this university competition. This year, we tied in with our national soccer team by winning the first place with „Käsespätzle“ and so on.

But sometimes pictures speak louder than words…

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Cuddling African Penguins

Food Evening

Winners of the International Food Evening

Stellenbosch Mountain Hike

P.S.: Just so you know, a South African winter is not what you expect it to be. During the day you still get temperatures up to 25°C – just as you would expect it from an African winter. But once the sun goes down, the temperatures drop by 20 degrees. And the sun goes down at six p.m. So, would you be tough enough for a braai in winter?