Ana De Almeida Amaral
Ana De Almeida Amaral (she/her) - Stanford in Cape Town
Major: Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Watching the sunset on top of Lion's Head Mountain on the night of a full moon!
Questions and Answers with Ana
Why did you choose to study abroad in Cape Town?
I chose to study in Cape Town because I wanted to apply what I was learning in my major (CSRE) in a new context.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Cape Town?
I was very nervous to study in Cape Town, I thought that I would feel lonely and I had anxiety about being a woman traveling in an unfamiliar place. My time in Cape Town completely exceeded my expectations. I felt so supported by the Stanford in Cape Town staff and made many local friends. Cape Town is such a special place to study because it allows you to experience the incredible history, culture, activism in South Africa.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Cape Town?
Most of South Africa's monumental history happened very recently, apartheid only fell 28 years ago. As I met locals and interacted with professors, I realized that everyone older than me had a direct experience with apartheid. The collective memory of apartheid is still extremely prominent in the political and social conciseness of every South African. Hearing directly from people who participated in anti-apartheid activism and took part in the powerful political history in South Africa was the most impactful part of my time in Cape Town.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I'm able to adjust to difficult situations in ways I didn't know I could. I was faced with some tough situations that forced me to advocate for myself. Studying in Cape Town also made me realize that I have the deep desire to live abroad after graduating. I'm so grateful that I now know that is a priority for me because it's allowing me to set myself up for a future I didn't know I wanted.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
One of the most challenging experiences I had while in Cape Town was that I got COVID19. This seems like it would be one of the scariest things that can happen while abroad, and although it was challenging, the Stanford in Cape Town staff made my recovery so smooth. I felt SO taken care of and supported by them. I'm so grateful that I could lean on them while I was recovering.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was contextualizing my identity in this new place. Many of the things that are integral to who I am were perceived very differently in South Africa. Being Chicana is a large part of my identity and many people in South Africa had never met someone from Mexico before. I was very used to being perceived as a person of color and I was interested to see how that would translate in a South African context. However, I found that as soon as I spoke with my American accent the prominent identifier that others perceived me as was American. I'm so grateful that as I learned how to navigate this new context I met Capetonians that, despite being of different cultural backgrounds, had so much in common when it came to how our cultural identities as people of color influenced our political identities as well.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Cape Town?
My favorite part of everyday life in Cape Town was the food and the nature. Cape Town has such a spectacularly high quality of food everywhere we ate. I loved everything I ate, from the small cafes we ate at between classes to the fancy 6 course meal we treated ourselves at the end of our trip, everything was delicious. The land scape in Cape Town is truly stunning. It is so special getting to walk out the residence every morning and have a gorgeous view of Table mountain. Cape Town is a beautiful city with such proximity to nature. I LOVED it!!
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Cape Town?
My most memorable experience in Cape Town was getting to hike Lion's Head Mountain with a few local friends I had made. We went at sunset and got to see the most beautiful sunset view I had ever seen. We brought headlamps to climb down the mountain in the dark. It was physically challenging, beautiful the entire way, and special to get to do it with my new friends.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
My time in Cape Town was a true experiential learning experience
What was your favorite food you had in Cape Town?
Every dessert I had in Cape Town was delicious!!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
A coat!! Cape Town being in the Southern Hemisphere meant that while everyone at Stanford was enjoying Spring weather we were bundled up for fall!
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Cape Town?