Hana Tadesse - Stanford in Cape Town
Major: Computer Science
College year while abroad: Sophomore
About the photo: My friends and I sitting on the grass at the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert, waiting for AKA to come onto the stage.
Questions and Answers with Hana
Why did you choose to study abroad in Cape Town?
I'm originally from Ethiopia and I've always wanted to travel to other African nations. Seeing that Cape Town is the only full-quarter study abroad program in Africa, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and learn about colonialism from a country that has and continues to address its colonial past. I was also really interested in the internship opportunities the program offered. Overall, I really enjoyed my experience in Cape Town!
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Cape Town?
Before going to Cape Town, I based most of my expectations on my time and knowledge of Ethiopia. I assumed it was almost entirely populated by Black and Brown people and that even though one of its official languages was English, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit in since I didn’t know the other native languages. It turned out that both these expectations were wrong. For one, as a previously colonized nation, Cape Town’s population makeup was much similar to that of the US than Ethiopia’s. Similarly, language was not a barrier for me as almost everyone I interacted with spoke English and even thought me some common phrases in Xhosa, Zulu, & Afrikaans.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Cape Town?
One of the academic benefits of studying abroad in Cape Town is learning about reparation, restitution, and other decolonizing efforts from a country that is dealing with them and has to constantly engage in these conversations. Moreover, our professors were Cape Town University professors, a world-renowned university with some of the best professors in their respective fields. They were extremely knowledgeable about their subject but they also bestowed their wisdom and life lessons onto us, which I found to be very valuable.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
Although academic work is very important, there are so many other ways to learn about a place than simply sitting in one’s room & reading the assigned text. As a freshman, I was constantly worried about my course work and forwent social life to prioritize my academics. In Cape Town, I learned how to make compromises so that I actually enjoyed my experience there and had time to immerse myself in all that Cape Town had to offer. And in the end, I got way more out of my experience than I would have had, had I stuck to a “script”.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
One of the challenges of my experience was having to cook for myself and having to plan out how to spend my money wisely. It was very tempting to dine out every day but I quickly realized that eating out that often was not sustainable. So I learned how to meal prep and pack my food when I went into Scalabrini (my internship). I also had to plan for when we had a power outage- I learned how to spend my time efficiently so I wasn’t just waddling around and wasting time. Unlike Ethiopia, Cape Town gave us a heads up for when we were scheduled for a power outage so we could make/change plans accordingly. Plus, some of the best conversations were had during these outages since we didn’t have our phones or computers to distract us and were able to spend time just talking with friends and enjoying each other’s company.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Here in the US, I’m used to having my Blackness be the first and most defining perception people have of me on the first interaction. In Cape Town, this was also true until I opened my mouth and they picked up on my American accent. At that point, my friends, who were also Black, and I recognized a shift where our Americanness preceded our Blackness. This was an experience I wasn’t expecting and it took some time to recognize and adjust to.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Cape Town?
At night, I would go up to the rooftop of our residence and admire the night sky. Table mountain was directly in front of us so that view was lovely. We would sometimes cook dinner and take it up there to eat or bring our painting kits and paint the view from up there. I enjoyed that rooftop and communal space (also located on the top floor) and tried to make an effort to go up there every day.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Cape Town?
Our program-organized trip to Boulders Beach is one of the most memorable experiences I had in Cape Town! We got to spend the day in the private part of the beach where we got to swim with penguins (yes, there are penguins in South Africa)! I loved the entire day there, just relaxing with friends and climbing rocks to get closer to the penguins. And the view, as is with most places in Cape Town, was breathtaking! It’s definitely a place I’ll have to go back to in the near future!
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
1. Stunning view - not one word but this has to be said. Maybe we got lucky or maybe that’s just what Cape Town has to offer but from sunrise to sunset, it was so beautiful to be in that gorgeous city.
2. Homey - everyone was so welcoming and the Stanford Center, where we had our orientation and classes, felt very homey.
3. Connected - the apartment-style housing and centrality of our residence made me feel very connected to the other Stanford and Cape Town University students
4. Welcomed - Working at Scalabrini, I felt very welcomed. The on-site BOSP staff was also extremely kind and welcoming to us all
5. Privileged - As a Stanford student, I felt privileged. The places we went and the experiences we had were catered to us and often sheltered us from other parts of Cape Town. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just important to understand the privilege we have, especially as outsiders.
What was your favorite food you had in Cape Town?
It has to be Ferdinando's Pizza. This was a favorite Friday night destination for me and my friends. This pizza place is located in the city and has finger-lickin-good pizzas on their menu (their vegan pizza is outstanding). On top of that, the interior design of the restaurant is very cozy and inviting, especially for a late Friday night go-to spot! Oh, and the servers are so kind and welcoming- we were on a first-name basis by our third visit! Some of my favorite memories were at Ferdinando's Pizza.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Everywhere I go, I take a small, hand-sized cross that was gifted to me by my uncle for my 6th birthday. I’ve always kept it with me as a good luck charm. It may not be worth much, but to me, it’s the most valuable item I carry on me at all times.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Cape Town?
I didn’t listen to as many local bands and artists as I wished but I enjoyed the South African artist, AKA, and his performance at the Kirstenbosch Summer Concert. Acclaimed as the best rapper in Africa, AKA gave us a pretty memorable performance. Besides, live music rarely disappoints so I definitely enjoyed this experience!