The Catholic University of America

Ryan Fecteau - IES Cape Town


Top Five Reasons to Select the Program

  1. The first reason is simple. Cape Town, South Africa is unique. There are very few programs that can offer the profound uniqueness that one finds in Cape Town. This a country having only 20 years ago faced racial segregation imposed by its government. Yet, now finds itself as a free and vibrant country featuring tremendous ethnic and cultural diversity. At the same time, the country is characterized by struggles which includes massive poverty due to geographical racial segregation. You will literally be a witness to history as it progresses and develops. If you so choose, you can even be involved in that progress by volunteering in a community in need of assistance!
  2. It is chill. I am not just using a term tossed around by the “guys.” Cape Town features a very laid-back atmosphere. The people are happy-go-lucky and the pace compliments both the city goers with the beach-bums. It is a welcomed transition from the fast-paced demands that we have accustomed ourselves to in the United States.
  3. While you have the option to enroll in one of the IES courses, the other courses that you select will be at the University of Cape Town. It is ranked as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world and the best university on the continent of Africa! There are a plethora of student organizations to get involved in… You can choose Mountain and Ski, Tennis Club, political groups like DASO, Film Society, the rugby social group Ikeys Vibe, and many others! Being enrolled at UCT allows you to meet South Africans and make friends that will last a lifetime!
  4. The lingo. I don’t want to spoil it for you. But there are so many funny sayings that South Africans use. You will find yourself slowly using it in your everyday conversations. Perhaps, you might even begin to develop a South African accent.
  5. Mountains, beaches, safaris, city-center, winelands, oh my! There is just so much in Cape Town. It is an absolutely gorgeous country with so much to offer. You will also have access to the entire country. IES sponsors a few trips to different parts of South Africa that will be some of your fondest memories!


What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went

  1. Cape Town is very much a by-product of globalization. You will find your favorite cereal at the grocery. In fact, the first Burger King in South Africa is now located in Cape Town. This means that you will not have to worry about losing some of those integral comforts from home. The WiFi can be a little troublesome, but you will learn where to find it (for example, you get uncapped Internet on UCT’s campus).
  2. It is not a very expensive country to live in. Unlike the European destinations, Cape Town is very affordable. You will never pay more than $12 for a cab. It is just very friendly on your wallet.
  3. It does end up getting cooler. Cape Town winters are a bit chilly (compared to the summer weather you arrive into) and it does get rainy. You will want to pack some warm clothing (don’t overdo it) and some rainwear (due to wind – umbrellas are mostly useless).
  4. Leave room in your luggage for gifts. The best thing you can do is pack things that you won’t end up bringing home with you, for example, shampoo, snacks, cosmetics, etc. When you go to pack for your return flight, these items will not be in your luggage leaving room for gifts.
  5. Do not think that carrying around your iPhone is a good idea. But you can get away with a Blackberry. Like the United States’ big cities, thieves target iPhones because they are worth more money. This does not necessarily mean you should limit yourself to the “brick phones” that you will be offered upon your arrival. But it does mean you should just be smart about this sort of stuff.

 A Funny Story or Situation

IES sponsors a trip to Kruger National Park. This site is as large as New Jersey and it is one large nature reserve where you will get to see lions, hippos, zebra, jaguars, cheetahs, and many other animals. One of those animals is the rhino. During our trip to Kruger, we split up into four different group which meant each of us had our own tour guide. Our guide just happened to be a great deal of fun. He suggested that as we drove by one of the groups, we should toss water all over them. So, we drove by and splashed them with water until they were soaked. Of course, they wanted to pay us back. They drove by and got us wet with whatever they had in the truck (mostly soda). Needless to say, it was hot and we were sticky with soda. So, one of our friends suggested we pick up rhino dung, place it in a bag (double-bagged and tied), and throw it into their truck. Our driver stopped got out and with his bare hand picked up a huge piece of rhino dung. We drove by their truck and tossed it. However, the girl that caught it looked down at the bag and with wide-eyes tossed it back into our truck. She later told us that she told her group that she though we threw dung at them, but no one believed her. Anyway, we were not satisfied. So, we drove by again and this time I threw the bag long range as we drove past them. Like a laser, it missed the entire backside of the safari truck and went right through the passenger side window. It hit their driver in the face. He was very upset. As we approached the exit to the reservation, the driver got out and came over to our truck and ripped the bag of dung all over us (specifically me). There were mixed emotions at first, but in hindsight it was all in good fun. And look, we got rhino dung on us—dung from an animal that could very well go extinct.


An Embarrassing Situation

During the IES sponsored tour to Kruger, you will spend a night in Soweto, a township that was very active in ensuring freedom through South Africa. At a stop on the bike tour of the township, I was asked to wear traditional tribal headwear and carry this large stick which is used for some sort of dance. Needless to say, I was not very good, but I did perhaps looks pretty good wearing the tribal dress. I can still do the dance (well… sort of).

The Teacher From Whom I Learned the Most

Professor Bob Mattes teaches a very interesting courses titled “Democratic Theory and Practice”. Though I did not have high expectations going into the course, it actually had some really eye opening material on understanding how countries democratize and the statistical evidence that might indicate what triggers democratization. I found a liking for political statistical data that I had not predicted that I would ever have. Also, he covers a great deal of the South African democratization which is incredibly interesting!


I lived in an apartment with another IES student who was from the University of Rochester. It was a very good living arrangement with separate rooms for each person, a kitchen, and even an in ground pool for its residents!

Student Profile:

Major: Political Science, Theology and Religious Studies

Hometown: Biddeford, Maine

ProgramIES Cape Town

Term Abroad: Spring 2013

Contact Ryan