2016 Fall Arcadia University External Programs Madeline Clapier South Africa

My Natural Comfort Zone

IMG_1495Did I mention in my last blog post that I’m from Philadelphia? Well, I am. Born and bred.

I’m pretty proud of my city. I love a lot of the comfort that comes with living in Philadelphia my whole life. Navigating the city is a piece of cake. The buildings are familiar to my eyes. Graffiti covered buildings are typical. I don’t look twice at the abandoned factories. SEPTA takes me from my home to my church to my jobs. I have a favorite mural, water ice place, and park. When I walk through center city, I have accepted that I will always run into someone I know. Philadelphia is beautiful to look at from far away, but as I walk the streets I am faced with the inequality, the litter and the smells that come with summer heat. I love the city I left behind. I miss it every day, but Cape Town has so much to offer me.

Cape Town is nothing like Philadelphia. I’ve been here for two months now and I am not super confident I could navigate most of the city. I get lost in the same areas. I wander down the same streets. I still am not sure what the fastest way into town is. It is so much larger than my home city. When I ride down Nelson Mandela Boulevard and I look over the city it puts the skyline of Philadelphia to shame. There are almost four million people living here. Compare that to Philadelphia’s one and a half million people. Cape Town is surrounded by mountains and ocean. I spend a lot less time in the City Center than I did in Philadelphia because it is so far away. I spend a lot more time climbing mountains and on the beach, which are not as accessible at home.


I did not choose Cape Town for its mountains and beaches. Despite what you see in the picture above, I don’t love being out in nature. Trees make my eyes water and I can’t swim all that well. I find that is a part of why I love being in an urban environment. Most of my peers chose to study in Cape Town because of the outdoor activities. They are excited to bungee jump, to go on safaris, and to hike Table Mountain. I did not plan on enjoying those experiences, but I have. This semester has begun with more hikes than I’ve ever done in my life. My daily life no longer consists of streets of high rises, factories and Philadelphia’s familiarity. Cape Town has challenged me to quite literally climb mountains. I now begin some of my days with a hike, most of my days with an hour-long bus ride to school, and all of my days with the understanding that I will experience something unfamiliarly new. I chose Cape Town to study history at the University of the Western Cape, but the last few weeks I have been consistently challenged by how different this city is from Philadelphia.

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