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By kcampbell94

During the month of November, most of us moved out from our host families’ homes and moved into our own house to do our ISP (independent study project). Eight of us moved into a house in Kimironko, very close to a well-known restaurant called, New Hello’s Corner. Four of our other classmates lived down the street, and the remaining three chose to remain living in their homestays. The ISP time is usually used to do research. Usually, one chooses a research questions and then interviews many people who are familiar with that area. Some of the things my classmates researched are as follows:

  • PTSD treatment in Rwanda (or lack thereof)
  • Gender based violence in post-genocide society
  • Art therapy as a coping mechanism for genocide survivors
  • Ethnic identity

Since my arrival, I had known that I wanted to get involved in an NGO here. Originally, I had planned on doing a case study, comparing a few different NGOs in Rwanda. My academic advisor, however, told me that it would be a better idea to pick just one. Somehow, this quickly spiraled into me finding Never Again Rwanda, or NAR. Its focus is exactly that which its name tells you: to reconcile Rwanda and prevent genocide from ever reoccurring. Their goals are sustainable peace and an empowered youth. I ended up securing an internship with NAR for three weeks, eight am to five pm every day. Immersing myself in the work place here was an entirely new experience. It was difficult at times with cultural differences, but I ended up getting very close with my coworkers, which of course, was making my quickly dwindling time here harder and harder to accept. With NAR, I went on many excursions such as high school debates about unemployment, debates about early pregnancy, and a mobile exhibition. In the end, I wrote my ISP as more of an internship report, discussing the incredible success of this organization.

With my leaving on December 7th, I have less than a week left of this experience. It’s unfathomable. It has undoubtedly been the smartest decision of my life. To wrap up this post, I’d like to list some of the highlights, or peaks, if you will.

  • Our Thanksgiving (comprised of going to Kieran’s home stay family’s house to feast and then watch The Lion King 1 and a Half and later having a dinner together completed with Pringles, Nutella, and pasta)
  • My revisiting of my home stay family one Sunday afternoon, where I met my extended “family” and resumed card playing with my host brothers
  • Going to different art exhibits with two of my NAR coworkers to see how we should set up our mobile exhibition
  • A trip back to Butare with Kat to attend the mobile exhibition, full of adventures, split Chinese food, and Rwandan ice cream
  • Halloween, when we had dinner at my homestay and then had a Halloween party at our new house with our Rwandan friends

With these memories, the friends, and the immense knowledge I have gained, I find myself on the daily asking, “How can I leave? How can I possibly leave?”

By Hannah Radner

It is weekends like these that make me so glad I chose the program I chose and that remind me why study abroad is so special. I am lucky enough to be a part of a program, the LSE General Course, that organizes more or less weekly excursions to places around the UK and Europe. I only signed up for one, this past weekend, which was a weekend in the Scottish Highlands.

Anyone who knew me at all in high school knows that I am a little obsessed with Scotland and it carries some of my most cherished memories, as my first ever trip outside the United States was to Edinburgh. I spent ten days there with members of my high school drama company, exploring the wonders of the city during its Fringe Festival as well as performing in it. We all had the most incredible time and since then, Edinburgh and Scotland have held a very special place in my heart.

At first, it might not sound that appealing when I say we spent the majority of the weekend on a coach bus, but for this I am quite grateful. We saw so much on Saturday; the beauty of the scenery is not to be believed, especially in autumn when everything is different shades of red, orange, yellow and green. We first stopped at Stirling Castle, a place I remembered well from my last visit. I was happy to reclaim my throne in the throne room. We continued up through Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and I am pretty sure we saw the Hogwarts Express because obviously there is only one steam train in the entire United Kingdom and it is definitely the Hogwarts Express. We stepped outside for two minutes at a scenic overlook in Glen Coe; it would have been longer but it was raining fairly heavily and to say the wind was gusty would be an extreme understatement. We then went to a place called the Clansman Centre, where we watched a rugged old Scottish man (proudly of clan Robertson) speak of how utterly disgusting and brutal life in the Highlands was hundreds of years ago as well as demonstrate how to properly pleat and put on a kilt. We then drove up the entire length of Loch Ness. Fun facts about Loch Ness: It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, Nessie has not been sighted since early 2013, and there is a monetary prize of a million pounds for someone who can provide concrete proof of a legitimate sighting (i.e. a good photograph). For anyone who doesn't know how much the exchange rate hurts us Americans over here, that's about 1.6 million dollars. Needless to say, we were somewhat disappointed we didn't see her.

We stayed Saturday night at a hostel in Inverness. If that sounds familiar to you, it's probably because you had to read Macbeth for school at some point, because Inverness is where (spoiler alert) King Duncan was murdered. I'm actually a big fan of Macbeth so I was busy geeking out just being there. Our tour guide recommended a pub called Hootenanny's to us, and I must say the Hootenanny's experience was my favorite night I have had abroad so far. It had live music and a lively crowd, and being the strange Americans we stood in the front but didn't know how to move to Scottish folk music until a seemingly random man walked in and showed us how to dance and wouldn't let us stand still. After that, we were not the strange Americans sitting on the floor but the strange Americans who were trying to have a Ceilidh (basically a Scottish dance party) even though we couldn't dance. I have had the chorus of a folk song about Thomas Paine stuck in my head for 24 hours now.
On Sunday we mostly drove so we could make it back to Edinburgh in time to catch our train back to London. We did make three stops: Culloden Battlefield (think Braveheart), Clava Cairns (4000 year old rocks and burial grounds), and the Hermitage, a beautiful wooded walk with waterfalls. I geeked out here too, as the Hermitage was the setting for Birnam Wood in Macbeth and I thought of those great prophecies and multiple smacks to the face all laid out for Macbeth. Well done, Shakespeare.
It truly was the "Americans take over the Ceilidh" night that made it for me. Even as I danced, if you can really call it dancing, I thought to myself how special Scotland is to me and how this is an experience I would have never been able to have without study abroad and indeed without this particular excursion. To think I'd made it all the way back to this place four years later, and made a new, unique memory that makes it that much better. I didn't think it was possible for Scotland to get any cooler, but clearly I was mistaken. I can't wait to go back.

By rbhargava

Last week was my last week of classes, and my last week of the semester. Normally I would be preparing for exams now, but my three courses had their final exams/final classes last week. The first round of exams goes on until November 19th, so I could have hypothetically been taking exams until then. I got lucky! Last Wednesday was my final exam for Transitional Justice as well as my last CIEE class, and last Friday was our “Celebration of Work” for the community engagement course I am in. At the celebration of work we presented a 20 minute documentary on our time as part of the LSCE course. Although I helped with the editing, I think the documentary is a complete exaggeration of the “transformation” that it advertises, and romanticizes the idea of working with “African” kids. Nonetheless, it offers a great taste of what part of my life has been like the past few months. If you have the free time here is the link to watch it:

For the next week I’ll be hanging around Stellenbosch trying to fit in one last trip to my favorite restaurants and places, new trips to places I have yet to go to, and lots and lots of goodbyes to friends from around the world. Next Sunday I’ll begin a 3 week journey through parts of South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia and then head back home. Having finished all my classes last week, I’ve had some time to reflect and many of my activities nowadays are unfortunately labeled as the last time I’ll do XYX.

Last Thursday, CIEE organized a farewell dinner at Bistro13, a top restaurant in the area. Eating our last meal together as a group (the group is the program director Joe, our course convener Ruenda, and then the three students on the program), I realized how much time we had all spent together and the journey we went on. It is very strange to think the program is essentially over at this point and I won’t be seeing Joe and Ruenda regularly now. Over the past few months we have had countless meals and classes together, and at times felt more like a family than a program. We’ve spent time with the Joe and Ruenda’s spouses, traveled around the area with them, and even gone to a Heritage Dinner with them at one of their friends’ homes. Having only three people on the program has allowed for a very unique experience that I am extremely lucky to have been part of. I’ve referenced this many times before in this blog, and I’ll say it again – the experience that CIEE offers at Stellenbosch is like no other – because you quickly forget you are an exchange student and become deeply entrenched into regular day life here.

Speaking of regular day life, almost all of my weekends have been abnormal since I’ve tried to see and do as much as possible. But this past weekend was an exception as I stayed in the Stellenbosch area for both Saturday and Sunday for the first time in a long time. Both days I ended up going to the Jonkershoek Valley and spending time with two of my closest friends here. On Saturday I went with my friend Callee to the Jonkershoek Nature Valley with the intention of swimming in the dam, but that failed and turned into us walking through a stream in the valley and finding nice little pools along the way to relax in. The next morning I returned to the valley by bike with Nadine (a Dutch friend!) and we biked through the valley – stopping at a beautiful bikers cafe to enjoy the valley one last time. In total, I’ve now gone through the valley/hiked in the nature reserve 5 times. It’s returning to your favorite places again and again that make you really appreciate the place you are in, and I am definitely going to miss all the great memories I’ve made biking and hiking in Jonkershoek.

Just this evening a South African friend living in Metanoia – Natali – invited 6 of us internationals living in Metanoia to her house in Durbanville for a braai. It was a fantastic time eating some great food and meeting some of her family and friends. It was a fantastic way to end my last full weekend in Stellenbosch. Only after dinner when Natali was dropping us all off back at Metanoia did we realize we may leave Stellenbosch before she would come back for her exams. It was a sad wake-up call to the ever-nearing end of my time here! I think it might already be time to start planning another trip here.