Alexis Sweeney
Alexis Sweeney
South Africa, 2021
My name is Lexi Sweeney, and I am so excited for this 5 month journey in Cape Town, South Africa! I will be a social work intern at School of Hope, a school for vulnerable youth, as well as a social work intern at O' Graceland, a home for women who have aged out of foster care.

Welcome to my House in Cape Town!

I officially made it to Cape Town, South Africa without any major hiccups in traveling, and I am so excited for this journey to begin! But man, was I overwhelmed the first day.

To be honest, I think I came into this a little ignorant when it comes to how I would adjust. I thought, because I had been to Cape Town before and did not experience any culture shock and was never overwhelmed when I studied abroad here, that it would be the same this time. However, that was not the case. The entire first day I was very overwhelmed and felt slightly uncomfortable, but I could not explain why. I love this city, I am truly excited to be here, and so far everything is going great- so why do I feel strange? Once I finally tuned into my feelings I realized I just needed time to adjust and get used to actually living in Cape Town. I don’t have a guide planning my days for me, my days are not filled with back to back tours and activities, I don’t have professors to help me process everything- I just have myself. Once I was able to recognize that and give myself grace with everything, I automatically felt better. I am so lucky to be here and I am thankful that this experience is so different from the last time I was in Cape Town because this time I am actually living here and this place will soon become my home.

My house!! So here are some pictures of my house:

 

I am sure you noticed the big fence/gate with wires on top, and while that might look strange to anyone from the States, it is the norm here. For safety reasons, everyone has a big gate like that one and then normally 2 doors to get right now it is me and 3 guys, and more should be here by the end of the month. My housemates have been extremely nice and

welcoming. They have showed me around the neighborhood inside the house. My house has 2 full bathrooms with showers, a great kitchen, and a fun common area/ living room. We also have a nice patio in the back along with a pool. My house holds 7 people, but right now it is me and 3 guys, and more should be here by the end of the month. My housemates have been extremely nice and welcoming. They have showed me around the neighborhood, chatted and played games with me, let me know all the “need to knows” about living in South Africa, and overall are just kind people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My neighborhood is so fun and full of character!

Just a 2 minute walk from me is Lower Main where all of the shops, restaurants, book store, and more are at. There are a multitude of coffee shops on that street, and I may have already found my favorite- it’s called Dolce Bakery. They have gluten free items, as well as a breakfast special where you can get any tea/ coffee with any bagel and cream cheese for just R45, which is only 3USD!! So far, I have only tried two other restaurants, but I am hoping to try more soon!

Dolce Bakery

 

Right now I am still adjusting to life here and slowly doing more things. The first day I unpacked, ate dinner, and basically went straight to bed. In these last two days I have gone to the grocery store, got my SA SIM card to work (that took way longer than it was supposed to), hung out with my housemates, and explored the neighborhood a little. I don’t start my internship until the 25th so I am hoping to do some sight seeing and/or hiking this week, too! So far, I have had a lot of fun and am beginning to see how this place will become my home so soon.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this, and you are welcome to comment on any thoughts or questions you have!

 

Love Always,

Lexi Sweeney

Just the Beginning

8 days. In just 8 days I will embark on this new journey to Cape Town, South Africa.

About two years ago, I made the decision to go on a Maymester to South Africa. At the point of that decision, I knew very little about South Africa, I knew no one going, and I truly didn’t even know why I wanted to go. All I knew was what a friend who had gone on that trip a year before said to me when I was casually thinking about studying abroad. He said, “Lexi, you have to go on the South Africa/ Tanzania Maymester- it will change your life in ways I cannot describe. You are someone who is meant to have that experience because it will help you serve others more purposefully and connect with others more deeply.”

Little did I know that those words would lead me to this day- being 8 days away from moving to South Africa for 5/ 6 months.

Picture from study abroad trip to South Africa.

When someone hears about my upcoming journey to South Africa, they then begin asking about what I will be doing and why I chose to do this. My first response is always, “I studied abroad in South Africa and that experience changed my life in ways I cannot describe, but I know I am meant to go back and experience life there; where I will be doing a social work internship at a school for vulnerable youth and at a home for women who have aged out of foster care.”

However, my honest response would be, “I didn’t necessarily choose to do this one specific thing. I chose to begin fulfilling my purpose, and I believe one’s purpose is the intersection between their passion and compassion.” Why don’t I answer honestly? Because any time I have tried to answer honestly, I am met with confusing looks, laughs, or people telling me I am not making a “smart decision”. It can be hard for people to understand why I would choose to move halfway across the world alone to serve a community I did not grow up in and not get paid while doing it. But the reality is that I don’t even know if I can fully explain why, all I know is that this is something I am meant to do. Moving to a new culture all by myself is defiantly going to be hard and not everything is going to go well. I

Just hanging out with some of the greatest kids who are a big part of the reason I am returning to Cape Town. (Picture from when I studied abroad in South Africa)

will make mistakes, there will difficult days, and there will be times I will debate if I made the right decision. Even though I know how hard it might get, even though there are many things to be anxious about- I have no feelings of worry, only peace. And that is how I know that I am beginning to fulfill my purpose.

Preparing for this journey has been a journey within itself. To save you the details, I applied for the Lumos Travel Award Fall of 2019 and did not get it, but I am very thankful for that because it pushed me to truly seek my purpose and craft a project that aligns with that purpose while also fulfilling a need in which those currently in that community determined, as opposed to a need in which we in America think exists. I reapplied in Spring 2020 and was chosen. Originally, I was set to go August – December of 2020, but due to COVID, that got pushed back. I am extremely grateful that I am still able to go (January – June), and I cannot wait for you all to join me via web.

Moving abroad during a worldwide pandemic is of course coming with its own set of preparation. In order to get into South Africa, I must have a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to departure that is also signed by the practitioner that administered the test. Along with that, I have personally been quarantining this past month before going. South Africa is currently in their “Level 3”- meaning that masks are required at all times in public (you can be arrested if you are not wearing one), beaches and bars are closed, restaurants and other public places have limited hours, and there is a city-wide curfew from 9PM – 6AM. I am very thankful that the South African government is taking this pandemic seriously and doing everything they can to ensure safety.

For some reason, I cannot help but think about how different this experience is going to be than when I originally planned it. Questions that continue to go through my brain are: How will I meet people and make friends? Will I be able to do anything fun on the weekends, or will I be sitting in my house whenever I am not working? How will I experience new things if everything is closed? While I have no idea what the answers are to these, I am confident that I am going to grow throughout this experience. And honestly, I am excited by the fact that I don’t know. I think sometimes I get caught up in the preparation. I always want to make sure I think through every scenario and am prepared for whatever may happen. Well, now I am getting forced into the unknown, and I cannot wait.

The final goodbye to my Nashville home.

8 more days. Just 8 more days to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for this journey. But honestly, I am ready. These next 8 days will be filled with orientations via zoom, packing my suitcases, and mentally preparing to move away from my friends and family to another country to begin fulfilling my purpose. I am ready to step into the uncertain and choose joy along the way.

I cannot wait to continue to share this journey with you. Thank you for joining me!

 

Love Always,

Lexi Sweeney