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Rural Homestay in Amatikulu

One of the most memorable moments of my study abroad experience in South Africa was my rural homestay. My urban homestay in Cato Manor was coming to an end as the second week of March approached, and I was feeling anxious about our program’s transition into the rural part of KwaZulu-Natal. I grew up in a city with a population of over 8 million people and felt comfortable in Durban where there were more than half a million people. Now I would be spending a week in a city that was 1000x smaller than Durban. 

Our program’s assistant briefed us on what to expect for our rural homestay a few days before our departure. She told us to pack light, dress conservatively, bring our own drinking water, pack bug spray, and to let our families know that they might not hear from us during our stay because of how unreliable the cell towers could be. I found out that students would be staying with families together in pairs, and I would be living with a Gogo and her grandson and granddaughter. I was excited to learn that I would have younger host siblings because I brought chocolates and a bunch of toys with me to South Africa as gifts for my host families. 

Living in rural Amatikulu completely opened my eyes to the challenges South African families face when they lack immediate access to resources. I lived at the very top of a hill surrounded by a field of grass. The walk to the road was about ten minutes and the nearest store was about a fifteen minute drive. I learned that there were members of the community who volunteered to shop for the elderly so that they would not be burdened by the long trek. My Gogo was the head of household and took care of daily tasks such as food preparation, cleaning and child care while her daughter was away working. 

While I was staying in rural Amatikulu, I had to make some lifestyle adjustments. I took bucket baths frequently and grew accustomed to using the outhouse. Through these activities, I learned the importance of water conservation and how to limit my waste. My host family led a simple life but were still deeply connected with what was going on in the rest of the country through television and media. I loved sitting around the tv with them and getting to watch some of their favorite soap operas. Even though my rural homestay required me to step outside of my comfort zone, I am grateful to have experienced multiple perspectives of South Africa and meet people from different walks of life.

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