Yu Pei Fern is a 22-year old National University of Singapore (NUS) student studying sociology and minoring in philosophy. Last year, she and many other NUS students signed up for the IPSU Summer School programme in South Africa, and went on the adventure of a lifetime.
In June/July 2014, Fern spent her time in Stellenbosch University (which – fun fact – is located next to a mountain). Along with her were people from all over the world, like America and Belgium, and South African students from the university who played a double role as facilitators. After classes and on weekends, they had additional activities lined up and free time to roam as they pleased. Here’s where the excitement begins.
(Photos courtesy of Fern)
A crazed month of excitement and…
A jam-packed schedule
Within a span of five weeks (the programme was a month long, but some students stayed on a week after that), the group of them visited vineyards, museums, reserves and so much more. Here’s some of the highlights:
Free wine and beer sampling
A visit to Robben Island and Nelson Mandela’s cell
The Cape of Good Hope
Art museums and galleries
Auwal Mosque, the oldest mosque in South Africa
And of course, exploring mountains..
.. reserves and safaris.
A jump off Africa’s highest bridge
Despite having weeks filled with activities, it’s not hard for Fern to declare bungee jumping as her most memorable experience. After all, she did jump off Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world.
What was different about Fern’s bungee experience was that instead of plummeting straight down, she went down spinning. Eventually, she could no longer tell if she was going up anymore, as it felt like she was “just being flung through the air”.
“The scary part is when you’re hanging upside down and waiting for the people to get you. The person took very long to get me and all the blood was rushing to my head,” Fern explained. “It was embarrassing when he came to get me. I was looking up at him and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m safe’ and I kept reaching out to grab him and he was like, ‘Please don’t touch my equipment’.”
What was even more awkward was the ascent back to solid ground. Fern was hanging on the cord and what was in her front view was the man’s rear view.
“I was like, ‘Hi nice to meet you, I’ve never met you before but I’m already looking at your butt’,” Fern remembers. “Then I said, ‘Maybe I’ll see you next time?’ and he said, ‘No I won’t be here next time, I want to be a musician’.”
Well, we wish the man the best of luck in his future endeavors!
You can watch Fern’s bungee jump here:
(embed video of Fern bungee jumping)
It’s funny now, but…
She got hit on the head four times
You could say Fern’s time in South Africa was quite smack-tacular. Don’t like the pun? Brace yourself for this whole subsection. (Disclaimer: Memories are as her concussed head remembers.)
HIT #1 Fern definitely “fell in love” with the country. During their farewell function, she tried to photobomb someone and leaned back a little too much. Don’t worry, she landed on her head.
HIT #2 The next morning, they had to leave early. While at a rest stop, she should have done just that and “stopped”, because she got off the bus and walked right into a signboard.
HIT #3 The day after that, they visited Cango Caves, which was narrow and required you to maneuver your way through. Fern bumped her head numerous times here. At one point, they had to crawl around and afterward, sit and slide down. For some reason, Fern went down the slide face-first. Sitting down must have “slipped” her mind!
HIT #4 In an elephant reserve, Fern really “hit it off” with the elephants. They were being shown how elephants could be trained and got to watch elephants play football. Sounds fun right? Well, a particularly mischievous elephant kicked the ball towards Fern and friends. A girl yelled “Duck!” but used Fern as a shield, pushing her into the line of sight of the ball, which hit her on the head.
That’s pretty cool though – not many people get to say, “I got hit on the head by an elephant playing football.”
A thief stole her friend’s phone
Make sure to keep your windows shut at night! One night, a man crawled into Fern’s friends’ room through the windows and stole their phones. An hour later, the same man stole another girl’s bag.
Thankfully, the lot of them got their valuables back with the help of a “Find my iPhone” app and the police. When looking through her phone to check if anything was lost however, Fern’s friend found that the thief had taken selfies with the stolen phone. #SelfieOfTheYear
Initially wanting to go on internship, Fern felt like she made the right choice going for a summer school programme instead.
“I get to work for the rest of my life,” she says. “This is an experience that’s unique to schooling life and I really wanted to do that.”
What are some fun things you would like to try in South Africa? Let us know in the comments!