Back to SummaryRacquel Enad - Student Profile
MAJOR: Human Biology
“Indescribable” is the first word that comes into mind when I think of Cape Town. To be completely honest, I have trouble writing things like this, because there are so many things I could share, but I do not even know where to begin. There are no words, but too many at the same time. So here is my attempt to write about (and condense!) something as “indescribable” as my time abroad in Cape Town.
From the time I read the program description, I knew it was the right fit for me. Throughout my years at Stanford, I had grown in my passions for public health, public service, and working with communities; and the Stanford in Cape Town program perfectly combined my personal and academic interests through its coursework and fieldwork.
I came to Cape Town in March, not exactly sure what to expect, but feeling “ready” for whatever experiences I would encounter…I just knew first and foremost that I wanted to learn—in whatever way I could, in however way possible, from whoever would be willing to share…
The first place I expected to learn of course, was the classroom, but not to the
degree that took place. Never had my classes before been so thought-provoking and challenging. Not necessarily because the material was too difficult to comprehend, but because the readings and discussions made me deeply reflect and ask critical questions about my intentions, passions, and existing beliefs. Questions such as what is development and progress, and why do those of us who are from “developed” countries get to define and standardize what development is filled my mind. Unsure as I was about how to answer them, I was grateful for the chance to challenge myself in a way that would reveal things about my so-called “good” intentions. I would learn lessons that would seriously alter my perspectives on service.
A second place I acquired an incredible amount of insight was at my service-learning placement, Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA), an NGO based in the township of Khayelitsha. Over the next three months, I would work in GAPA’s somewhat chaotic environment, working closely with black South African grandmothers who, due to the high unemployment and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, would become the main caregivers and oftentimes the sole economic providers of their family households. GAPA provides its almost-300 members social support, educational assistance, workshops, and income-generation.
When first told that I would be placed at GAPA, I immediately “googled” the organization, and in the first sentence, I read that it was founded by a group of “feisty grandmothers,” and “feisty” they were. I would witness the grandmothers’ strength and perseverance and hear their joy and hope in their cries, laughter, dancing, and constant singing. At times, my eyes would water when they would share their personal stories of hardship and how GAPA had become a positive life force in their daily lives.
Every day at work, I felt there was something to be learned, whether it be about the women, the Xhosa culture, the challenges of confronting HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, etc. I was continually inspired, and wanted to aspire to carry the faith and attitude of the GAPA grandmothers and dedicated staff.
Beyond the classes and service-learning, I could write even more about the other Cape Town experiences that added to my learning of South Africa and my
personal growth—from conversations with people I randomly met (many with some crazy stories!) to spontaneous dance parties to unexpected traveling adventures to weekend trips…Not to mention that I formed valuable relationships with the locals and my fellow peers in the program. Moreover, South Africa is an absolutely amazing country, full of diversity, vibrancy, natural beauty, and rich history; and I encourage anyone who spends time there to take complete advantage of the limitless opportunities. My time abroad far exceeded anything I could have imagined, and by the end of my stay, Cape Town became a “home” to me in many ways (partly evidenced by my pride in Bafana Bafana—South African’s national soccer team—during the World Cup.)
So rather than “What I did in Cape Town,” here is the conclusion to what Cape Town did for me, in an indescribable way: it crystallized, more clearly refined, my passions. I am inching closer to understanding what I am meant to do...And let's just say, I would not be surprised at all if, in the future, I find myself dancing with some feisty grandmothers again.