Cameron Cross - 2014 Program Participant
What inspired you to look for an international program?
At school, I am surrounded by peers who have enjoyed life-changing experiences abroad. Some go on foreign exchange; others take classes for a semester or two in an exotic location. Though the details and locations differ, the core message of the resulting stories is the same: traveling abroad as a college student seemed to be the best way to learn and grow as a person. So as a rising college junior, I looked overseas when determining how to best use my summer.
Why did you choose iXperience?
I chose to go to iXperience because it offered a unique combination of everything I was looking for. This program includes four weeks of in-class learning, four weeks as an intern with a local South African company, and unending adventure along the way. Before hearing about iX, I was torn between wanting to study abroad, intern, and vacation - this was a really cool opportunity to do all three at once.
Standing on top of Lion's Head, overlooking Cape Town
What was your favorite part about Cape Town?
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Granted, my sample size is pretty small as a 22-year-old college student, but I am convinced that this city would be world-shaking to even the most seasoned traveler. Cape Town is a developed, metropolitan city on the southwestern tip of Africa. This area offers a wonderful blend of outdoor adventures and enriching cultural excursions. In addition to its natural attractions, Cape Town also boasts an incredible and cosmopolitan selection of foods and coffee. Though we did a lot during my time with iXperience, my favorite adventure was cage diving with great white sharks- definitely something to tell your mom about after the fact, but it's a must-have on your bucket list.
What made your experience abroad with iXperience unique?
Despite its specialness in being the nexus of a traditional study abroad, an internship, and an adventure vacation, iXperience's real uniqueness lies outside of its core structure. Instead, I would cite the most unique facet of this program as being the magical learning environment it has created.
Driven by the inspirational educational philosophy of founder and CEO, Aaron Fuchs, the iX classroom engenders in its students a truly intrinsic desire to succeed. This is in part due to selection bias, since the program attracts students from top universities around the world, but even after controlling for the high quality of its students, I could not help but be amazed at how hard everyone wanted to work despite there being no grades. A very special combination of incredible lecturers, engaging curricula, and motivational peers pushes students to learn more in a month than they would typically cover in an entire semester.
How would you describe the local staff at iXperience?
The iX staff is easily one of the most valuable assets of the program. As a small academy, iX takes special care to ensure that each student forms relationships with the staff members. It is not uncommon for the CEO to sit down and personally review a student's resume. It is equally likely that he or another staff member will take a few kids to go surfing during their lunch break. To engage so personally with such accomplished people was very special as a student, and this personal attention helped to make iX feel less like a school and more like a home.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish that I had prepared a little more thoroughly when doing my pre-course work. When I went to iX in 2014, I took the Web Development course despite being a business major. This is totally normal for the program. In fact, students are encouraged to take something foreign and out of their comfort zone. However to ensure a common base level of knowledge on Day One, all incoming students are given pre-course work germane to their course. I certainly worked hard at mine, but I still felt a little behind during the first week of class. Whether this was due to the fast pace of the course or to the amazing intellect of my peers, I highly recommend that incoming students take the pre-course work seriously!
Presenting my final project to all iX students & staff
What was a typical day life during your program in Cape Town?
Days differ drastically throughout the course of the program, but here's a representative sample from my experience. I would usually wake up around 6 a.m. to go for a run or hit the gym early in the morning, often with my workout buddy from class. I'd then head back to shower and pack my things before going to breakfast with my classmates. We had free breakfast every day at this great local cafe, and we'd usually hang there from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. or so. Morning class started at 9:30 a.m., and then we'd have an afternoon class at 2 p.m. Each lecture was 90 minutes, leaving us plenty of time between these two sessions.
On a typical day, I would stay in class for about one hour after each lecture to work on the related exercises and mini-projects. For the rest of the time, I would either go surfing, play soccer, or nap - and there was always time to grab a quick lunch in between. In the late afternoons, we'd usually go back to drop off our things and find a place for dinner. Evenings were super mixed, but the most common activity was to meet up and work on our final projects. For me in the Web Dev course, this meant working with my partner on coding our web app. All in all, a very exhausting but rewarding day.
What was your favorite special activity from your time abroad?
My favorite excursion outside of the normal schedule (and after shark cage diving) was riding ostriches at a local ostrich farm. One weekend, a group of friends and I took a bus trip around the coast and ended up at one of the largest ostrich farms in the world...not sure how impressive a superlative that is, but it was definitely a cool experience. In addition to learning about the animals, we each had the chance to mount and ride an ostrich around. This was actually a little scary (ostriches are huge), but it's a memory I'll carry with me forever.
Where did you live? How were the accommodations?
We all stayed in an international backpackers hostel. This was such a cool experience because the entire academy lived together in a place that had a really down-to-earth, fun vibe. There was a fire pit out back for our Friday night barbecues (braai, in Afrikaans), a bar, and a really friendly staff. I liked this arrangement because it was really comfortable, clean, and safe while still feeling authentic and unlike a hotel.
How has interning abroad with iExperience impacted you?
This program impacted my life in many positive ways. I now know how to code, I have lifelong friends from other universities who are destined to do great things, I have my dream job due largely to the impact that iX had on my life, and I have the chance to return this summer as an iX Teaching Assistant. From these and other benefits, it is clear to me that going on this program was the best decision of my life.