In this Student Stories series, we caught up with Kanon from Japan. Before coming to join us at ELC, she was completing her last year at high school. And just two weeks after her final high school year she braved the world and joined us in Cape Town to learn English at UCT!
Kanon went to an international high school back home in Japan and was always exposed to people from different cultures and from different countries. English was spoken by her school peers and it was said among them that you had to be able to have English skills by the time you were 18 so you could study. So, feeling like her English needed improvement to be able to study in it, she initially looked at going to the USA to learn English only to discover first that IT’S SO EXPENSIVE, and secondly, she worried that she would not get to meet as many different people and learn about new cultures as she would in a place like South Africa.
There were two important things for Kanon; first, she loves the beach so needed to be near the sea and second, she wanted to be able to study at a world class English speaking university. This provided the perfect recipe for her to choose Cape Town as her study destination. In researching the University of Cape Town’s website, she also found ELC and promptly made contact with us to book her 6 month stay.
Kanon’s course ended a few weeks ago. She started out in pre intermediate and ended up doing her IELTS exam which she feels she could have done better in if she had not been so sick on the day! She has applied to study at both UCT and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban in 2018. Read on to find out what made her fall in love with South Africa and why Durban all of a sudden became an interesting option for her to do her studies. She also reveals more about student life in Cape Town and provides some funny tips for Japanese students looking to come to learn English here.
1. Do you feel you have improved in your English skills since you came to us at ELC?
Yes, I also have much more confidence and here is good for Japanese because they can work on their accents a lot.
2. What’s the best thing about ELC for you?
It was my dream to come here so I feel like every day I am dreaming! It met all my expectations. But for me especially, I dream about becoming a full time UCT student and I really got to feel like one while I was here at ELC.
3. Tell me about your IELTS class and teachers?
In IELTS I had to focus and study and I couldn’t see anything else. My teachers Alex and Liam were so helpful and kind and they gave me so much extra stuff to learn and study with. I asked them to check my essays and they always helped out.
We were 6 people in IELTS with fellow students from Italy, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. Most of the people needed the same score and had the same goals so it worked out very well.
4. What will you do after your course with us is finished?
(If I don’t get into UCT or Durban for 2018) I will go back to Japan, check out Australia for a year and work and continue improving my English because Japan and Australia have an agreement where Japanese can go and work for a year and stay there. Then I will come back for sure. I love South Africa so much, I just don’t want to leave.
5. You stay in the student residence. What is it like?
It’s not so much about the building, but we share the kitchen so it’s so nice to meet people. And it’s not only UCT students, I met South African students there from other universities which helps a lot with improving English. People are friendly and the type of people you meet will depend on the time of year when you are there.
6. What do you do on the weekends/free time when not learning English?
I watch movies. In the residence we share movies. We download movies at school from the university Wi-Fi and then share the USB among us to watch movies at residence. Also, I go to the beach when I can. I have done a lot now (skydiving, boat trips, surfing) and I actually didn’t do anything for months and now I feel like I have to do everything before I leave. We also used to go out on Fridays and sleep most of Saturdays. Residence is great because you can just knock on doors and gather people to do something with you when you feel like it.
7. What do you think about Cape Town?
There are a lot of international people here in Cape Town, so I think sometimes it’s not like the real South Africa. But it was nice to meet so many people from all over the world. I was also surprised that everything closes in the evening here. It’s different for me because in Japan it’s open to midnight!
8. Were you nervous about coming to Cape Town?
Yes, I was confident about my choice, but Japanese people think its poor, criminal and people tried to stop me from coming. But I was determined. Everyone said it would be not good. So I was nervous about my decision in the beginning.
And then, on the first day I arrived at the residence the housekeeper was not there yet and I did not get a key/fingerprint ID so I couldn’t go out and stayed in my room. I just cried and thought how I want to go back home. And once I got my keys and fingerprint ID I went out to walk around but I was so nervous that if I looked at my phone or my map I thought someone will steal my phone so I didn’t look at it. And I got so lost, so I walked 3 hours to find the residence again. And I couldn’t speak English so I couldn’t ask for directions! [Laughs] Everything would be different now.
9. What was the most difficult thing about planning your trip to Cape Town? (Visas, the long flight, making a booking at ELC, etc.)
Before I came here I didn’t not know that the residence was self-catering and I cannot cook! I had to learn quickly, so in the first days I ate a lot of steaks because it’s easy to cook, or instant noodles [laughs]. But we share the food with the other residents and I remember Umberto from Brazil. He really couldn’t cook so he asked ME to cook for him. It was very funny, but he was worse than me. We shared the costs for everything. I also got to try some different foods, like Pap. The Congolese guys know how to cook this so I got to eat it.
10. What is one thing you think students like you should know before coming to Cape Town?
Japanese students should know that Cape Town has a winter [laughs]. I expected it to be hot all the time. It’s not that I would say don’t come in winter, because it is better than Japanese winters, but I just didn’t expect it.
11. What is your favourite restaurant in Cape Town?
My favourite restaurant is inside a souvenir shop on Long Street. There is an African restaurant – not fancy and very simple, but they have the best pap!
12. What is one thing students should not forget to pack in their luggage when they come to Cape Town?
Swimwear. I forgot it! I have just been using my sportswear. And miso sauce!!! I couldn’t find any good Miso sauce here!
13. What would you say about the safety and security in Cape Town?
I haven’t had any problems. I just put my phone away and have never lost anything. Just don’t walk in dangerous areas. I generally felt safe and everyone is kind. They [friends from residence] walk me home if I leave earlier than the others. Stay in groups if you feel unsafe.
14. Where can students shop for food in Cape Town?
There are a lot of supermarkets and restaurants and I go to Checkers on Kloof Street.
15. Do you think Cape Town is expensive?
I feel like it was cheaper when I arrived, so there has been a slight increase in prices for milk and bread and things like that. But otherwise, it’s the same as in Japan. This was a surprise mostly for my parents because we thought it would be cheaper than Japan.
16. What do you miss most about home?
My dog. She slept with me and I don’t miss my family, I miss my dog sleeping in my bed [laughs].
17. How do keep in touch with family and friends back home?
I call them a lot via WhatsApp and a Japanese version of WhatsApp. Before my IELTS I used to call every day because I was so nervous.
18. What do you think about the food in Cape Town?
It’s nice. Nicer than I expected, but not so healthy. I put on 5 kilograms in 6 months. We eat a lot of fresh fish and rice in Japan. Also, I couldn’t eat mushrooms and cheese before I came here and now I can and I really like it now.
19. What has been your best memory in Cape Town so far? (…a day, or an event, or a weekend…?)
My most memorable day is difficult to choose, but I think it was a day I was fighting with Khalid (another ELC students also staying in residence) and I realised “I CAN FIGHT IN ENGLISH!!!’ And I was quite happy and proud about this revelation! I don’t think Khalid realised because he was quite angry, but I was so happy [laughs].
20. What did you learn that was not English?
I became really interested in the Zulu culture and language because I got to speak to South African students originally from KwaZulu-Natal. So, I started learning a little bit of Zulu and now I want to understand everyone and be able to talk to them.
21. Do you have any regrets about choosing Cape Town or ELC? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I think I would have chosen to stay a bit at a homestay family because I visited a homestay in Bo Kaap last weekend and it was fun to be speaking English with the South African family and being forced to speak English without much of an escape option.
If you would like to join us at UCT’s English Language Centre and experience Cape Town and an international student life here with us, please contact us with any questions you may have.