Spending Summer in the South African Winter

By Lauren M. ’18
Photos by Hayden F. ’20

On July 18 this past summer, three students and two teachers met before dawn at Lancaster Country Day to begin a 21-hour journey to Cape Town, South Africa. Every year, LCDS sends three students to study at the Herschel School for Girls and Bishops College for boys for a month-long exchange.

We would be staying with host families, but before we met them, we spent four days taking in Cape Town. We rode a cable car to the top of the magnificent Table Mountain, which overlooks the city, petted cheetahs, and explored Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost two decades.

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After these packed days, we met our host families. The students we stayed with will later come to stay with us and study at Country Day for eight weeks. For me, this was the best part about the trip because I was able to take in much more of the culture and experience more things authentically South African than I otherwise could have.

For the next four weeks of our time in Cape Town, my fellow students and I attended classes either at Bishops or Herschel, as well as participating in many activities with other exchange students and our host families. With my host family, I was able to attend a rugby match, go on a boat ride to observe wild flamingos, and visit the University of Cape Town.

The last week of the exchange we went on a tour of the Garden Route with all of the exchange students from places such as India, Spain and the U.K. that were currently attending Bishops or Herschel as well. The tour included a visit to an ostrich farm where the challenge was feeding the giant birds without getting bitten by one (not all of us succeeded at that).

The next day, we visited the Cango Wildlife Cheetah Ranch where we were able to observe various large cats as well as animals such as meerkats, alligators and pygmy hippos. The following day, we went ziplining in the morning and as if that weren’t enough of an adrenaline rush, students were given the option to go bungy jumping off of the Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bungee jump bridge in the world. Finally, we visited an elephant sanctuary where we were able to walk around with and feed the elephants while learning about conservation.

The week — and the exchange as a whole — was full of friendship-making, adventures and experiences that I would have been unable to have anywhere else. Leaving was bittersweet because although we had to say goodbye to all the friends we had made and our host families, we knew we’d be able to see our host siblings again soon when they attend LCDS later this in the fall.