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a person sitting on a bench next to a body of water

Over the past five months I had the amazing opportunity to live and study in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa is an incredible country that provides so much to see and do and it is also a place that gets some really really great waves. At the University of Cape Town, clubs and societies are a very large part of student life, and lucky for me they had a Surf Club with over 200 members. I joined during the first week of classes and I am so thankful that I did. Surfing has the ability to transcend borders and connect individuals around the world from all different cultures and backgrounds. Through the surf club at UCT I made some awesome South African friends who became great surf buddies. I was so lucky to have super kind South African friends who would take me to surf different breaks all around the Cape peninsula. Whenever I wasn’t hitting the books, hiking the beautiful mountains, or wandering around the Mother City, I tried to surf as much as possible.
One of my favorite parts about living in Cape Town was volunteering at Surfshack Outreach Center in Muizenberg nearly every Friday with a few members of the UCT surf club. Surfshack is a strictly volunteer based organization that runs an extensive mentorship/tutoring program for extremely underprivileged children who grow up in extremely harsh and impoverished environments. Many of them come from townships (urban living environments/informal settlements that were reserved for non-whites during the Apartheid era) and communities within the Cape Flats, an area that is known for high incidence of crime, gang activities, alcohol and drug abuse, and socio-economic issues. Fiona and Dave Chudleigh, the operators of Surfshack, dedication to the program is truly inspiring; they have devoted their entire lives to providing a safe place for at risk youth to come and just be kids. Surfshack has made a huge impact on the community and continues to better the lives of these children by keeping them off the streets, out of trouble, and helping them to stick to their studies (Check out to learn more about this great organization). The UCT surf club focused on helping the children to develop personal and life skills through fun and creative activities as well build healthy relationships with their peers and mentors. After we completed the activity for the day everyone would head across the train tracks and paddle out at Muizenberg for a big family surf session. The SurfShack kids have the biggest hearts and are so amazing and happy despite the burdens they face on a daily basis and the majority of them and incredible little shredders as well. They made such an impact on my life and I feel so lucky to have been able to volunteer at the outreach center during my time in Cape Town. I haven’t been home for long, but I already miss hanging out with these kids every week and I can’t wait to go back one day and see how far they’ve come.
Thank you Shaun, Gil, and Gilly for awarding me the STS study abroad scholarship. This experience was absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to do and see as much as I did without your help!

-Marissa DiNappoli