Ted Ling Hu - 2015 Program Participant
Nighttime view of Cape Town, South Africa from Lion’s Head
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I found my college scene to be mundane and routine and wanted a change of environment, so I decided that I definitely wanted to do a semester abroad.
Why did you choose IES Abroad in South Africa?
Having grown up in South Africa, I thought it would be an experience of a lifetime to go back and get in touch with my roots. I thought it'd be great to come back to the place I grew up in as a matured young adult, and see what I saw as a child to help me understand some of the values I hold today.
Another big reason for me to have applied for South Africa was the fact that my family lives there currently, and thought it would be amazing to have a semester back home with my mom and my sister.
What was your favorite part about Cape Town?
The scenery and nightlife were amazing, and perfect for young adults. There are also a lot of extreme but not-so-extreme sports that should be experienced by most.
What made your program unique?
I think the fact that our program was a bit smaller than others, so everyone seemed to know most people in the program at least semi-well, which made it easy for us to communicate and get to know one another better.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They were very helpful in the sense that they pretty much walked us through step by step on how to get started there. Not even just the administrative stuff, but realistically how to live like a local and the things that locals do and say.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have tried more things and explored more of Cape Town. Living at home as a special case really limited my time exploring Cape Town and I wish I could have done more.
Do you have any packing tips for students headed to South Africa?
Pack light, because you can buy pretty much anything you want there. Although I'd recommend packing some hiking or camping equipment because South Africa is a great place for outdoor activities.
Describe what a typical day was like for you in Cape Town.
Wake up, eat breakfast, go to class, lunch, lab, and back home to do some homework. On the weekends, repeat typical day, then go out to probably long street to go bar hopping and mix and mingle with locals.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
Personally, I joined the basketball team at the university just for fun, because I understood that basketball there was not as competitive and so it was almost just like an intramural game, which I really enjoyed.
What surprised you most about Cape Town?
What surprised me about Cape Town was how much the country has changed since after the FIFA world cup. As I said previously, I remember South Africa to be a developing country where there were still infrastructure that needed to be enhanced. However, this trip to Cape Town really opened my eyes and helped me see Cape Town as the international city it is and why it has earned this reputation.
How has studying abroad impacted your life?
I think that I have come to appreciate my college life more. Even though I thought Cape Town was amazing and I'd imagine myself living there someday, I think because of that I want to soak up every last bit of time I have left in this college year. It also left me with the desire to try and explore the city of Memphis now.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
Other than the fact that you can see and experience things outside of your culture, it really opens up your mind to be more accepting and to become a global citizen, whereas your duty as a human being lies not only to yourself nor your immediate surroundings, but to the entire planet.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
For me, the hardest part about studying abroad was fitting in. As an Asian with an American accent in South Africa, I was definitely immediately recognized and picked up on in any kind of setting. Although I sometimes enjoyed the attention, I wanted to experience what locals experience instead of being constantly treated like an outsider.
The second thing was the classes. Coming from a small, liberal arts school, the system is totally different than that of a big university, not to mention a non-American big university, and so I think I just got caught off guard by how hard some of these classes turned out to be.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in South Africa?
One thing I wish I would have known is how hard the classes were, as to be better prepared in possibly choosing alternative classes or choosing an alternative studying pattern to do better in my classes.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
I think if I could choose again, I'd want to spend a semester in Europe, traveling, and living there. I went there this past year for two weeks on a Eurotrip, but thought it too short, and now if I could choose again I'd definitely choose somewhere in Western Europe.
Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?
Yes, I definitely would, because I think it is easy to apply and the staff is really friendly.