When people told me that the internet was slow in South Africa, I didn’t think much of it. I figured it’d be just a little slower than what I was used to back in the U.S… but it couldn’t be that bad, right? Wrong. The internet connection was far slower than what I was used to. Because the entire university was all on the same server, during the peak hours of the day (7 am – 5 pm) it was pretty much guaranteed that all internet endeavors would move at a glacial pace.
To top it off, wireless was far less common. At DU, getting on the internet is easy – whether you’re on your laptop, a school desktop, or your smart phone, signing in is as easy as 1-2-3. However, in many other parts of the world, that isn’t the case. In my residence hall in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, there wasn’t any internet connection available, much less wireless. To check my emails, Skype with family (forget video chatting ¾ of the time… the internet’s too slow to bring in a solid picture without dropping the call), or to do research for a school assignment, I needed to head to the main campus where I could sign into wireless on my laptop (with great difficulty) or sign onto one of the university’s computer lab desktops. In addition, Mac computers are extremely uncommon in South Africa, so getting the server’s information installed on my laptop was a feat in and of itself. I still remember walking into the computer help office at my university, where the technician stared and prodded at my MacBook Pro with curiosity. He then turned to me and asked, “And what made you decide to buy this unusual machine?” It was pretty funny.
Though this all may sound like a total pain, I remember it with a sort of fondness. Studying abroad is a completely new experience – things often do not go as planned! When I arrived in South Africa, I was a super type-A student that was used to the instant gratification of quick processing, fast internet connections, and accessibility at my fingertips. As my study abroad experience went on I began to slow down with the slower lifestyle of South Africans, and I realized that there is a kind of beauty in taking things one day at a time. Also, with a slower internet connection, Skype dates were regularly interrupted or put off. At first this was hard; I desperately wanted to be in touch with my family and friends, but over time it became a blessing. The lack of constant communication gave me the freedom and time to immerse myself in my new South African life.
Now that I’m home, I can’t deny that I enjoy quick internet connections and fast and easy communication. Except now, I use it to keep in touch with my friends back in South Africa… with a few dropped Skype calls or two. 🙂
Christina Hunter, DU Alum, Office of Internationalization Staff