Cordelia "Sabrina" Antoine

Study abroad in Cape Town

For the spring semester of 2010, I had the opportunity to study abroad with the CIEE Cape Town, South Africa Program. CIEE offered its students three living choices: home-stay housing, University of Cape Town (UCT) residential housing, or CIEE housing. I chose to live in a residential building called Liesbeeck Gardens, where I had three roommates, two of whom were from South Africa, and one from the United States. While at Liesbeeck, I had the pleasure of building great friendships with many local South Africans and students from across the world.

At the University of Cape Town, I took courses with the humanities faculty:

African Dance History: This class explored the rich history and identityness of African Dance traditions from South Africa, Zambia, Guinea and Kenya. I learned the history and identity of African dances through dance, music, song/chants and research.

International Trade and Finance: I had the chance to do an analysis of tariffs and trade deficits, quotas and subsidies, exchange rate determination, and exchange rate policy using South African economic data.

Sociology in the 21st Century: This course focused on the change from social life organized around personal, communal relations to social life organized around impersonal, associational relations in a South African context. Students had the opportunity to discuss ongoing social changes and its implications for life in the twenty-first century. The context of this course was focused on life in South African and in the United States.

isiXhosa: The third most spoken language in South Africa. This course was broken up into two sections: The first section of the course section focused on basic communication skills and the second focused on Xhosa culture. At the end of the course, students had the opportunity to do a one-week home stay in a township called Guguletu.

On weekends, I took trips into local townships where I was able to practice isiXhosa. The word "township" refers to locations settled by black South Africans and Coloureds who were forced to move from the city into rural areas. Many Townships lack access to clean water, Internet, food, and electricity. Spending time there meant I didn't always have access to basic amenities, which impressed upon me the perversity of a place where the rich have almost everything; the growing middle class have limited access to goods and services; and the very poor lack clean water, food, electricity, or adequate bathing facilities.

Living in Cape Town helped me to understand the gap between the haves and the havenots as a global phenomenon. I had the chance to reflect on what my role as a privileged American should be in the global community. Is it right or fair for some to have access to certain basic necessities while others do not have the same access? Lastly, in a place where so much wrong against South Africans has been committed by other South Africans, I also wondered whose responsibility it is to right the wrongs of others?

Although I may not have the answers to these questions, I appreciate having had the opportunity to live in South Africa experience a world from my own so I could ask and explore these questions. My semester in Cape Town gave me real world experiences that complemented and enriched what I have studied in my AAS as well as my economic classes at Smith.

Sabrina is a senior with a minor in Afro-American studies.