Paloma Moreno Jimenez
Paloma Moreno Jimenez - Stanford in Cape Town
Major: Urban Studies
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: I am in Cape of Good Hope, and behind me shines the most beautiful sunset everrrrrr!!!! I am standing in front in disbelief with my jaw on the floor before driving back to the city and getting ready to leave this beautiful city.
Questions and Answers with Paloma
Why did you choose to study abroad in Cape Town?
I chose to study in Cape Town for many reasons, a main one being the way previous cohort students talked about their experience abroad in Cape Town. The culture, the history, the classes offered, the beautiful summers! I wanted to be somewhere warm and sunny for the winter, and also be able to take classes that I knew I would really enjoy and learn so much from.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Cape Town?
Before arriving in Cape Town I thought I would definitely feel super lost! I felt like I didn't know enough about South Africa overall, and I had never been so far away from home. But the staff at Cape Town BOSP was amazing in guiding us and helping us adapt. It was still difficult, but I was quickly able to get the hang of it, meet people, and develop a confidence to get around on my own and with friends. Through the courses offered, various professors also presented the opportunity to get to know Cape Town and its history on a deeper level. I was able to engage in scholarship that was particular to South Africa, as well as go on field trips related to our course topics and readings, and also meet folks from the city who shared their experiences and anecdotes with us, the students.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Cape Town?
Academically, my time abroad in Cape Town was one of the most enriching but also rigorous. It was difficult to find a balance between getting to know the city I was in, while also being a full time student, and other factors. But I ended up taking some of my favorite classes during my time in Cape Town. I loved the focus on a more interdependent and critically engaging style of teaching. In various of my courses, professors went beyond my expectations of usual Stanford classes and pushed me to engage critically, internally and externally, with my peers and with myself, on the topics we discussed. Many times the discussions extended outside the classroom time and to our dorms and dinnertime.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned a lot about myself through my interactions with my cohort, my coworkers, the BOSP staff, my roommate, etc. I was able to do a lot of personal reflection and growth during the program. I also learned to listen to my body and follow my instincts a lot better - whether it was my body telling me I needed to rest, or learning to navigate new spaces, a new city, a new country, etc.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
It took me a while to learn navigating spaces that I didn't know, in terms of feeling safe, knowing what were no nos, and how to best take care of myself and the group I was with in any moment. There were various moments in which a friend of mine or I felt unsafe - especially as young women and foreigners. Before Cape Town, I had traveled on my own to other foreign countries and I picked up some tips that also helped me in Cape Town. I saved my google maps offline, I was always aware of my surroundings, I made sure I had data and access to uber or other drive services, and I always tried to do activities in a group or with a person I trusted. As I got to know the city and talk to other peers or locals, I added more tips to my list on traveling safely. However, there are also many moments in which I turned to my instincts and, even if I was on my own, I was able to stay safe and have a great time. For me it was really about prioritizing my safety, but not letting fear or the unknown cloud my mind.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
It took me a while to learn the Xhosa language click and to get used to people driving on the alternative side of the road. But by the end of the three months, I was able to do it ~ still not very well ~ and, well I ended up renting a car, so I definitely adjusted!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Cape Town?
The sun!!! The sun WOW!!! When I first got there it was kind of the beginning of the summer (what would have been my winter). The summer days lasted almost 14 hours and I remember waking up so early to the sun, feeling refreshed, and the sun setting past 8pm. I also loved going to my internship with my friend, the office itself was such a fun and warm space - I was able to meet some amazing folks that truly make up a lot of the memories I remember when I think about Cape Town. I also loved going up to the roof of our residence and seeing Table mountain in front of me every morning and evening. The amount of conversations, dance sessions, and beautiful moments spent on that roof make me all warm and nostalgic inside.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Cape Town?
The last day in Cape Town, my friend and I rented a car and drove to the Cape of Good Hope, the point of the Cape, making various stop down our small road trip. It was the perfect closure to my time abroad there. I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets of my LIFEEEEEE!!!
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Warm, Deeply Engaging, Growth, Bumpy, Fun.
What was your favorite food you had in Cape Town?
Ohhhhhh this is haaard!! The most memorable has been the malva pudding and AMAZING braai we had during our Bing trip in Johannesburg. That was one of the best feasts of my life. I also think a lot about the chakalaka and pap from Big Momma's, Prashad Café - ICONIC - delicious vegetarian Indian food a block from the residences, as well as the seafood, the coffee, and I wouldn't be honest with you if I didn't mention the Mcdonald's fries with the jalapeño dip and popcorn chicken at 2 am. Delicious.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
I took a photo album my mom made me. It helped me a lot with homesickness and just grounding myself whenever I needed it.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Cape Town?
South African house music, Sun El-Musician.