In part 2 of the student stories series, ELC caught up with Galina from Moscow, Russia who is a student of economics back home. She is entering her 4th year as an honours student and would like to continue with her master’s afterwards. Before coming to Cape Town, she would not have considered doing her master’s at the University of Cape Town, but she has, like most people, fallen in love with the city and would like to explore her options for pursuing post graduate studies at UCT.
Galina’s older brother actually spent some time working in Cape Town and decided to surprise her with an English language exchange at UCT’s English Language Centre. He compared ELC to another language school and opted for ELC because he felt it would be of a higher quality. Galina chose the intensive general English course where she was in the advanced class and took English for Academic Purposes in the afternoons. This is a tough afternoon elective, but Galina really enjoyed it. As the advanced class is generally small (only 6 people) she explained that this was perfect – almost like getting private lessons.
These are a just a few of the questions we asked her, along with her answers:
1. Even though South Africa has 11 official languages, do you think being in Cape Town helped your English?
“Yes, of course, because everyone speaks English here.”
2. Do you feel you have improved your English in the time you have been with us?
“Yes, but most important for me is that my confidence improved and it’s no problem to speak English to anyone. This was far more valuable because I had this problem before. I could speak French and would say I only speak French and a little English. Now I can say I speak French AND English.”
3. What’s the best thing about ELC for you?
“The people. My teachers and the other students. The people are so friendly and I am not used to this, especially at a university. It’s so different to my university which is so competitive. Here I feel so relaxed and comfortable.”
4. What will you do after your course with us is finished?
“After graduation I will cry while packing my luggage, then go home to Moscow and continuing with my studies in economics and then a master’s degree (maybe in Cape Town!) “
5. You stay in the student residence. What is it like?
“I have never stayed in a student residence before and I thought it wouldn’t be very nice because I am not very sociable, but I really like it very much. The conditions of the rooms and everything is very comfortable. I have my own room and own bathroom and I have the kitchen directly in front of my room so I don’t have any problems. I can enjoy my privacy but at the same time I can enjoy socialising with all the other students and this is also the reason for the improvement of my English because we come from so many different countries and cultures and we get to learn about each other’s cultures.”
6. What do you do on the weekends/free time when not learning English?
“We are together all the time, this is also for safety, but if someone needs to buy something we all go together. We also do the school’s social programme. If there is not anything scheduled for the social programme, we cycle, and two weekends ago we hiked Table Mountain and I am so proud of myself. It was so hard because I am not sporty, but I enjoyed it so much and it’s so beautiful.”
7. What do you think about Cape Town?
“You can just walk and see people living and enjoying their lives and maybe it’s because I am from a big city and people are always hurrying and nobody enjoys life (traffic jams, etc.) but here it’s different. It seems people live their lives here. “
8. Were you nervous about coming to Cape Town?
“Strangely, no. It’s strange because I am always nervous about something [laughs]. I think it’s because my brother praised it so highly and I trust him blindly. I also learned French about 5-6 years ago on a language exchange in France so I knew what this was going to be about.”
9. And is it what you expected, or is it very different?
“I did a lot of presentations at university about South Africa this year about economic things and it was a dream. I am not disappointed. It’s better than I could have ever imagined because I adore nature, and it’s so beautiful here. You just leave school and you see mountains, 20 minutes walking and you see the ocean. “
10. What was the most difficult thing about planning your trip to Cape Town? (visas, the long flight, making a booking at ELC, etc.)
“My brother did everything for me, but I imagine that the most difficult thing for me would have been arranging everything via email and having to communicate with ELC in English because my confidence was so low before I came here (like I said). If I had to do this now, it would be absolutely no problem for me anymore.”
11. What is one thing you think students like you should know before coming to Cape Town?
“It’s about safety. I don’t want to make anyone scared, because it’s not an awful situation and sometimes I walk alone, but to be aware and know what your situation is.”
12. What is your favourite restaurant/bar/activity/coffee shop/place to go in Cape Town?
“Nandos. It’s not my favourite, but definitely my most frequented [laughs]. My brother told me to go and visit some expensive restaurants because there are so many good restaurants in Cape Town, but nobody else is interested in doing this with me.
So far my favourite activity was hiking Table Mountain. And I also like cycling along the promenade because it’s very beautiful, especially when you reach the area where there are a lot of expensive houses close to the beach.
My favourite place to go in Cape Town is the kitchen in the residence because we spend a lot of time talking together.”
13. What is one thing students should not forget to pack in their luggage when they come to Cape Town?
“Don’t forget to pack your camera to take a lot of photos. I want to take a lot of photos to remember every moment. “
14. Where can students shop for food in Cape Town?
“My brother came to help me settle and he took me to the Pick ‘n Pay in the Waterfront, but that’s too far for me. So usually I buy something at Spar, but I prefer the Checkers on Kloof Street because there is more choice. I usually have lunch somewhere at a restaurant with friends and then just eat something light like a salad for dinner. “
15. Do you think Cape Town is expensive?
“No, it isn’t. Well, it depends. Food is cheaper and I can eat every day at a restaurant, but not an expensive one. Uber is also very cheap. But clothes are expensive, or the same as in Moscow. “
16. How do you get around in Cape Town? (transport)
“Nothing [laughs]. I don’t miss anything at all. I prefer family and friends visiting me here in Cape Town. I was discussing this with Asako from Japan recently and she misses certain things, but I don’t think I have culture shock because things here are the same for me (the people, food, etc.) “
18. How do keep in touch with family and friends back home?
“I communicate with them via whatsapp and a Russian network caller (similar to whatsapp) by using wifi in the residence and I bought extra data from Vodacom.”
19. What has been your best memory in Cape Town so far? (a day, or an event, or a weekend…?)
“It was when we were sitting in the residence kitchen discussing something and in one moment I understood that around me there are people from different countries – from different countries – Japan, Saudi… ok, I can understand people from France, United Kingdom, Germany, I‘ve met people from there, but it was the first time I met somebody from Saudi, Japan and South Korea. And we were sitting and discussing something and in one moment I understood that it’s these cultural differences, all these stereotypes, all these things – it doesn’t matter when you have real people to whom you can speak and we can understand each other and there is no problem, really no problem. I’m just so surprised – yeah, I think that’s the best moment for me.”
20. What did you learn that was not English?
“There are two groups of new thoughts I had; first of all it’s about people because this trip made me really open-minded and I hope I will stay the same back home. I hope I will not forget all these things I have learned and the feelings I have. And the second thing is about me because I’m usually too shy and I don’t usually engage in conversation or things like that. And I understood here that I have to work on this. And here it’s so easy. I’m just afraid of returning to my university into such a different atmosphere. “
21. Do you have any regrets about choosing Cape Town or ELC? Is there anything you would have done differently?
“Maybe I would have chosen to do 25 hours per week (instead of the 30 hour intensive course) because I also want to enjoy the city and CT is not like a European city where it’s one city centre. There are many beautiful natural spots and they are all around the city you can only drive there. So, I also regret I didn’t do a driver’s licence [laughs]!”
You can watch Galina’s graduation speech on our YouTube channel here. It’s always very sad to say goodbye to students, but we know that the relationships we forge with them here means that we all truly get the chance to make friends wherever we go in the world.
We wish you all the very best, Galina! You deserve nothing less, and we look forward to a visit when you get accepted for your masters at UCT in 2 years!