Divya Gopisetty


Stanford in Cape Town, Spring 2015-16
Major: Human Biology
College year while abroad: Sophomore


Why did you choose to study abroad in Cape Town?

I chose to study abroad to allow myself to grow and learn in new ways, particularly through interacting with South Africans who work and study in Cape Town. Cape Town also appealed to me because of the complexities of post-apartheid society, as well as the beautiful scenery of the region.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Cape Town?

I was expecting to be challenged to think about South Africa’s history and present, and expecting to work with my peers to think critically about issues in Cape Town and back home. I wasn’t expecting there to be such differing opinions around the classroom; this made me understand some necessities for productive conversations.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Cape Town?

Studying abroad challenges the status quo of pre-med students. Cape Town allowed me to intellectually engage in issues surrounding race, politics, and colonialism – all issues that are critical to the field of medicine. The professors we were lucky to have challenged, questioned, and taught us an incredible amount. As a student interested in global health, the community engaged learning aspect forced me to think about the repercussions of short-term and American involvement.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

In Cape Town, I began to think and understand my Indian culture’s narrative in the United States. I realized how important it is for me to support visibility of marginalized communities in general.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging experience for me was the growing recognition of my dual invisibility and visibility in the United States because of my heritage. I learned that the partial invisibility and select visibility (a.k.a. the model minority myth) should not always push me into silence.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Once I arrived in Cape Town, I quickly realized that I was challenged to “adjust” to my heritage’s place within Cape Town’s history. Based on how you look, you were placed in a racial category – blacks, coloured, Indians, etc.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Cape Town?

Hiking was a common outing for us in Cape Town. The views are absolutely stunning, and there are hikes at many different difficulty levels. It was not uncommon to hike high and stand above a blanket of clouds. SO beautiful.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Cape Town?

One week, we went to Mzoli’s, a popular butchery (with the best meat and marinades) in Gugulethu. The Mzoli’s experience was an elevated ‘darty’ with incredible food, vibes, and music. We probably danced for four hours non-stop! I also really enjoyed the Secret Sunrise series in Cape Town, which was a silent disco at sunrise put on at a secret location (disclosed 24 hours before the event) – amazing way to start the day!

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Listening to very critical narratives

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food you had in Cape Town?

Banana bread bunny chow – a warm banana bread loaf with the top cut open and filled with home-made vanilla ice cream (Made in Honest Chocolate, 10/10 would recommend)

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

Though I didn’t use my phone much, I’d say it was the most valuable because it let me talk to my family back home. 

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Cape Town?

Black Coffee and South African House in general!