Pre-tip to Scotland 2018:
It was hectic.
The whole year began on a very sad note. I never actually thought that I would be planning a fully-paid trip to Scotland for my studies. Last year December my father was retrenched at his work with a settlement agreement that would not be able to cover our annual expenses for the next year. So, at the beginning of this year I had to look for a part-time job to help cover my expenses. Luckily, I found a post at a Stellenbosch hotel. Suddenly, I am doing my Masters, working and applying for a summer school that I didn’t think I will get. I had to apply for the scholarship for which only two were handed out worldwide. Then, I got the news, that I was the one of the two winners! What a time to be alive. Quickly, I had to apply for the travel grant from my university to help me get flight-money and pay for my visa-application. I did not know that visa-applications were so time consuming. You literally have to make time and get all the documents together before you go for your meeting. The money from the travel grant was deposited into my account which I used to make my official visa-application appointment. Someone told me that I had to put a whole day aside for this and I managed to get a day off at work. During all of this, I still had to do my research for my thesis and also start on the books that the summer school send as primary reading before classes and our arrival in Edinburgh, Scotland. I don’t know how I got through it all but I did. The application process went smoothly and everything was handed in.
Oh, I forgot. Before the visa-application, I also had to wait for my passport because I didn’t have one. That was also another full-day at Home Affairs offices in Paarl. Thank God for the hotel manager and staff that supported me so much during this time. My parents weren’t near me so I had to do everything all by myself. I’m not complaining but I do think it is very stressful for one person but luckily up until now there hasn’t been any complications. I booked my flights, got my travel insurance and I now I was only waiting for the outcome of my VISA-application. A month later it arrived and I went to go pick up my passport. Again, another day off but I exercised time management and it all went well. Now, it was to get some warm clothes and also to inform my parents that we are all set and that we had to now get that extra pocket money together. With our financial situation, and some people in my community hearing that I received the bursary, they all made a contribution and before I knew it I went to exchange my Rands for Pounds. Oh, and don’t forgot about activating you bank card at your nearest branch so that you can use it in another country.
Experience at Host University:
This was my first time aboard and when I arrived in Scotland I thought that I have actually done it. Travelled on my own for the first time with no hiccups and even enjoying it all. Thanks to the travel grant I flew with KLM and their services was amazing. I arrived at Edinburgh Airport and had to go through border-patrol. Luckily, because I am a student it wasn’t that long. I took a tram from the airport to the city centre and from there a taxi to my hostel. I manage to do it all with still looking around and not panicking. I arrived there to warm welcomes and an amazing room. I was a day early there and decided to go and explore the town.
The next day the other exchange students arrived and our first day started. I was present in every class and in every workshop. Every morning we had a lecture, followed by coffee, then seminars, followed by lunch and late afternoon was our shows, workshops and social activities. I really enjoyed the classes. The buildings were fully equipped and transport from our hostel to the university was so efficient. I also like their classroom set up and lecture halls. The academic program that was worked out for us, was so amazing and I was so glad that I read all the books that were suggested as primary reading.
The students were mixed in every group and there were so many cultures and nations together. The big EU-students were a lot but they were so friendly and I started making friends easily. One thing, I must say, before going on exchange I thought I might struggle to express myself and explain myself in classes because I’m from South Africa and my home language is Afrikaans. But when I arrived there, I was surprised that my English was so good. Our English is on a way better standard then most of the EU-students or from Asia. They even told me that my English (First Additional Language) was good. I couldn’t believe it and I was so glad that even though Afrikaans was my home language, I started handing in academic work at university in English. I was comfortable and I was on standard to express, explore and critical analyse the works in seminars and in general communication. My tutor also suggested that if I ever wanted to study abroad, I should just tell her and she will be able to help me because she knows that I have the potential and that I could be a great asset to the theatre industry in Scotland. I was deeply humbled and overwhelmed. We did some hiking, dinners, club-hopping, shopping, eating, did the underground Edinburgh tour and so much more… It makes me teary to just think it all happened in two weeks. I was blown away and I didn’t want to leave. I made a promise to myself that I was going to apply again to do my Doctorate or another Masters in Scotland in a few years. Lets hope I keep to my promise.
Returning to South Africa:
The Sunday evening when I arrived, I immediately felt that I was back where I belong. Just by the smiles of the airport staff and also my family greeting me. I knew that I was in my country and that I had to get back to reality. So fast because immediately after I landed I had to get back to my studies and also to my part-time internship in Cape Town. I knew that there wasn’t time to process everything and that I should just use the energy and motivation that I got from Scotland to put into my work and studies. I really missed South Africa. I awkwardly smiled when I drove into Stellenbosch which has been my university for the past five years and I also realized that I have more confidence now in my studies.
The Summer School helped me also to re-think my thesis and all the development that I did with it so far. I immediately, with a glass of South African wine, started to read through my research and managed to apply some of the skills that I got there, into my basic organizational and academic work. I missed my people and I missed out on very amazing weather. I promised myself that I will not every complain about our weather because we are so lucky. In Scotland, even though it was summer, temperatures were so low and it was overcast the whole time. Even raining some days. It really affected me in the beginning but later on I got used to it.
The next day my friends and I when out to see Stellenbosch again and for me to tell them all about my experience. I even missed our library because when we had to work over there, we had to use their library and even though their library is more tech savvy, I miss the Afrikaans, English sounds and just the community sometimes when I was studying in their library. Back home, in front of the library and on the ‘rooiplein’ steps, I saw that this is what I also missed and wished I had over there. I realized that even though our country has a lot to do and to grow, that we as people shouldn’t forget that we are so beautiful, friendly and compassionate. And no European standard or privilege can ever come close to that feeling. Our university is also on another standard and not far away from the international standards that I saw in Scotland. It made me proud and I wish that there will be more development and growth in our self and what we have achieved already. My blood is South African and I still want to go back to do another postgraduate degree in Scotland, I know that I will come back and work in my home country because I want to be part of the change and the further development of our societies and people.