Darnell Carson - Stanford in Cape Town
Minor: Creative Writing
College year while abroad: Sophomore
About the photo: So, I don't have many digital photos of my time in South Africa because I took mostly polaroids, but I took this one at one of the many weekend markets in Cape Town, this one at the Old Biscuit Mill. It was a mix between a food market and art market, and I went with a couple of friends just to hang out. I saw this lady chopping open coconuts for fresh coconut water, so of course I had to get one. I took several pieces of art home with me that day, but this coconut lives on in my heart.
Questions and Answers with Darnell
Why did you choose to study abroad in Cape Town?
I chose to study in Cape Town for several reasons. I knew I would had to be studying abroad during the summer because of my various commitments on campus during the regular school year. Once I realized this, Cape Town stood out to me immediately. All of my friends who had done the Cape Town program absolutely loved it, but I didn't see it get all the wide support programs like Florence and Paris get. As a person of color, I wanted to go abroad somewhere I felt I would be safe, so I took the advice of my friends and did Cape Town, and I'm glad I did!
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Cape Town?
One of the expectations I had was that we were going to be much more plugged into the University of Cape Town, which is right up the street from the Stanford residence. However, we found out that Stanford has its own center in Cape Town where we take all of our classes, and that did make it a little harder to meet locals than we expected. Luckily, many of us had internships that helped us to meet new people in the city.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Cape Town?
Cape Town has such a deep and rich culture and history in the story of the Africa and as a case study in considering how class-stratification and colonization affects Black people, even in their native land. I think being in Cape Town really put me face-to-face with some of the false narratives we are given about the African continent and how it so different than the little we are taught about it in school. It gave me a brand new perspective on many different systems we deal with here - education, policing, race, multicultural living - that I don't think I could have gotten in the bubble of Stanford or somewhere the people are more homogenous.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I adapt to living in new places very quickly, but adapting doesn't mean you don't get lonely or homesick! It didn't take me very long to get used to my surroundings or feel like I knew where I was going and what I was doing in Cape Town. Even stil, I was thousands of miles away from everything I was used to and a lot of the people I know. The most important thing I learned was how to make myself feel welcome in a new place, and a lot of that came with exploring the city with friends and enjoying it!
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging (but ultimately most rewarding) experience I encountered was as a teacher at a primary school for my Engaged Learning Internship. For about 6 weeks, I had a total of 68 different students that I taught English two during the course of the week. If you've never worked with kids, I can tell you they are already a lot of work. Now take that, but add on that they are middle-schoolers from a completely different culture, and some of them don't speak the same language as you! (Three of my classes were Afrikaans English-learners, and i don't know a lick of Afrikaans.) It was a little rough at first (the kids teased me relentlessly about my American accent), but at the end of my time there, we were all sad to see me go. I learned that kids are really the same anywhere, and the most important thing in any classroom is patience and encouragement, it goes a long way.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
In South Africa, my status was completely different than it is here. Here, I'm a low-income Black student who deals constantly with microaggressions. In Cape Town, I had a certain level of privilege as an American and a lighter-skinned Black person than I don't have here in the states, and it was an adjustment to recognize that. It was also new to be in a city that was majority Black, and that I didn't feel out of place or like I stood out when I went somewhere with my friends (unless I opened my mouth to speak.)
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Cape Town?
It was really sunny, and getting around the city is super cheap (Ubers are only a few bucks to go 10 miles or so), so I loved going down to the waterfront and hanging around the mall or going to different markets and seeing the liveliness of the city.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Cape Town?
On one of the weekends, we had a Braai, which is the South African equivalent of a BBQ or cookout here in the states, and it was such a fun time. Our RA made some of the best ribs I have ever eaten (a hill I will die on) and we had so many different kinds of food that everyone helped to make and put together. We also played a bunch of games and things, and it was just a really good weekend.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Immersive, Surreal, New, Challenging, Rewarding
What was your favorite food you had in Cape Town?
In Cape Town, they have these things called buttermilk rusks, and I was CRAZY for these things. They are kinda like biscotti, excepted a little less dry, and little more sweet, and so so good. They are very crunchy, so it was a little awkward trying to sneak bites in during class, but the Stanford Center obliged and made sure there were always some stocked when I was there.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My PS4 and my switch! I packed my gaming system into my bag with me, and I'm super glad I did. There were a lot of nights where I think I would have been bored without it, but it paid off in the end. I ended up buying a computer monitor while was there, and was able to play my games with a couple of friends there with me, so I consider that a win.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Cape Town?
Okay, so i didn't discover a band, per se, but I did make a friend named Unopachido (Nopi) Mubaiwa who is an R&B singer, and she has an amazing voice!