Lessons from the Road

Scott Dai
George Washington University
African Ecology & Conservation in South Africa – Spring 2019

As an OTS student, I’m exposed to unique experiences I wouldn’t really get in a typical college class. And with these unique experiences, there are many lessons that have been taught to me throughout the semester. Here’s a few lessons that I’ve learned


Nothing like watching a good game of cricket in bed to get ready for the semester!

Lesson 1: Cricket is really complicated.

 Not even into our first field site, and I’m already learning about South African culture. After relocating into another room at the backpacker’s lodge, the boys of the program discovered the TV in the center of the room. We instantly turn the TV on, and we are graced with a cricket game. At first, I was terribly confused by the game – who was playing? Why do they hit the ball so low to the ground? What do all these symbols on the scoreboard mean? These questions were thankfully answered by a South African student in the program, and now I can say I’m about fifty percent sure I know how the game works. I’m still relatively new to cricket, but I’m already rooting for South Africa.

Lesson 2: Leave no doors unlocked.

These guys may look cute now, but my time in South Africa made me realize they can be real jerks sometimes.

In an area far from the nearest city, you would think that all your classroom materials would be safe for safekeeping in your classroom, even with the door unlocked. What we failed to realize, is that humans aren’t what we should’ve been worried about – the monkeys are. As we entered our classroom one morning for a lecture, we were greeted with the mess the vervet monkeys left for us. We called the cleaning staff immediately, since they left quite a mess for us. The monkeys won this time, but we made extra sure the doors were left locked for the duration of our stay at Nylsvley Nature Reserve.


An amazing view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain (since it has me in it)

Lesson 3: South Africa is a gorgeous place to be in.

We’ve been climbing Table Mountain for about 6 hours. Water is empty, and my thighs are burning from going up stairs, climbing rocks, and climbing ladders to get to the top. Then, I made it – and the view was worth it. I’ve been exposed to so much during my time in South Africa, learning lots of life lessons in the field or in real life. As we gear up for this final stretch in the semester with capstones, I’m eager to see what more South Africa can teach me.

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