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Student shares South Africa study abroad experience

Published: February 13th, 2012

Category: Feature

Ali Wender and South Africa study abroad

Ali Wender (3L) rides an ostrich at a farm in South Africa during her summer study abroad trip in 2010.

By Ali Wender
Guest writer

When first asked to a write a brief article about my summer study abroad through the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law Program at the University of Cape Town (affectionately known as UCT), I was oddly motivated. Even two years later I was still eager to share my experience with whoever would listen. However, I have never been good at giving the abridged version of things, and those who know me can attest to my long-winded chronicles of my extraordinary summer spent in South Africa.

After scouring old emails from that summer, in the hopes of narrowing down some highlights, I figured the most accurate portrayal of my experience would be to make public an email I sent to friends when I first arrived in Cape Town. I apologize in advance for the glaring spelling/grammar errors and often bordering on a little T.M.I., but you wanted to know, or at least found yourself bored in class reading FlaLaw Online.

Sent June 30, 2010

“Mis amigos favoritos! Now I apologize for the dreaded mass email but given that there are cheetahs to see, ostrich to ride, mountains to climb, World Cup games to sneak into, bungee jumps to dominate, sharks to dive with, penguins to cuddle with, and mostly because I am dying to share with everybody, but could not send the individual emails that everyone so deserves, this email narrating my misadventures thus far, will just have to do.

26 hours, 3 flights, crying babies, screaming soccer fans, middle seats, bad airplane food, numerous mini bottles of wine, and 2 sleeping pills later, I arrived safe and somewhat sound to Cape Town. Next time, please someone remind me that in fact I am not a hippie backpacker and should splurge for the nonstop flight.

But, it was all worth it. Cape Town is a beautiful city, surrounded by the ominous Table Mountain engulfed in between two oceans, the Atlantic and Indian. Cape Town is like most modern cities, not at all what you think of when you think of Africa, Africa. Its winter here so clearly as a Floridian I packed flip flops, and shorts for which I am constantly inappropriately dressed.

I am staying in this little university suburb called Rondebosch (10 minute cab ride from downtown) right near the University of Cape Town, and it reminds me of any university area: cheap restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and is very safe especially during the day. I’ve been going nonstop since I got here so I haven’t explored as much as I’d like and then there is always a soccer game to go to. I went to my first World Cup game Italy v. Paraguay it was insane. If you have been watching any of the games you are sure to hear the screeching of the vuvuzelas, which are nonstop every morning at 6 a.m., a lovely wake-up call.

Students in the South Africa study abroad program at the University of Cape Town benefit from a dual focus on comparative and international law. American and South African professors will draw upon their experiences in their respective systems to highlight the similarities and differences in the administration of justice in the United States and South Africa.

The program runs June 11 – July 6 and allows you to live in and enjoy a rich culture, while studying law amidst the historic legal, political and social changes occurring in South Africa.

This six-credit program includes Comparative Constitutional Law (Professor Sharon Rush), Introduction to South African Law (UCT Professor Paleker), and Comparative Alternative Dispute Resolution (Dean Rachel Inman). Enrollment is limited to 27 U.S. students. In addition, a number of students from the University of Cape Town enroll in Comparative Constitutional Law.

Deadline for applications is March 23. You can apply here. Direct questions to the program’s directors Dean Rachel Inman and Professor Sharon Rush and the Director of Student Programs Michelle Ocepek at or 273-0620.

This past weekend, the motley crew, a group of 20 law students from all over the country, went on a vineyard tour of Stellenbosch Valley which incorporates over 30 wineries; each with its own unique blend of grapes and farm to fresh restaurants situated intimately within the vineyards. The following day, a group of us from the program organized a drive down the Garden Route; picture Southern California’s Pacific Coast highway but more exotic. Along the way we stopped at little beach towns until reaching our final destination to Boulkran’s bridge, the world’s highest bungee jump (and yes you will each be receiving a complimentary copy of my bungee DVD.). After 30 seconds of pure adrenalin, we spent the night in a local campsite and enjoyed a decadent South Africa Braai-up which is basically just every kind of meat you could imagine.

After passing out in a food coma, I awoke the next day for a canopy, zip-lining tour in the trees, followed by a ride to an ostrich farm to race ostriches, a personal favorite of mine. They are the oddest creatures, but I secretly wanted to steal one as a pet. Actually I take that back, what I really want is a pet penguin, which I got to play with (aka watch from afar) on a class trip to Cape Point. What I do not want as a pet is a baboon. A pack of them ran out into the road in front of our bus and basically began to mate- pick at themselves in front of us. Nevertheless, it was all worth it as Cape Point is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It’s where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet, the southern-western most point on the African Continent on this giant cliff overlooking the world.

And now what I know you have all been waiting in anticipation for, the most important part (this is for you Mom): the classes. Honestly this is what originally attracted me to the program as I am interested in international law and have little, if any exposure, with that practice field. I am taking three classes at UCT: Comparative Constitutional law, Law & Politics in South Africa and Intro to South African Law. Comparative Con. Law is especially intriguing as we are in class with other UCT students who have very unique and quite opinionated views on American Law and the state of South African law. Plus it has given us a chance to meet South Africans who know the best places to eat and drink (of course this aspect is vital to me). Additionally, the facility at UCT has exposed us to some international human rights attorneys whom I can beg for a job

So basically this old lady is exhausted but happy and has come to terms with the decision that we all need to move to South Africa. It’s an incredible country where I still have so much to do and see; I still need to play with sharks and climb Table Mountain. I am sad that the time is going by so fast but can’t wait for what happens next.

Hope you are all having a nice, warm and relaxing summer.

Bafana, Bafana!
-Ali Wender

This article was submitted by 3L Ali Wender, who studied abroad in South Africa in the summer of 2010.




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