My name is Julia McGrath and I come from a small rural town on east coast of South Africa called Mtubatuba. I am in Grade 11 at a private school called Grantleigh and I come from a family of four – my father is an accountant and General Manager of a sugar cane company; my mother is a high school Biology teacher and I have a sister, Chrissie who is studying medicine at university.
Earlier this year, I decided to embark on an adventure – to travel to Germany to learn what life is like for a teenager in this part of the world. I applied to an organization called Friends of South Africa and was selected to become part of the programme. I was allocated the best host family ever! Elisabeth and Franziska have been so kind to me and I am so grateful to their family for this wonderful month that I have spent in your country.
Most people want to know how things are different at home to what they are here so I have thought of a few things that are different and some that are the same.
Firstly the climate – in Mtubatuba we have summer for about 8 months of the year. The average temperature in summer is over 30⁰C and in winter, most days are 20 - 24⁰C. I'm really glad I came here in your summer (which is mostly colder than our winter).
School is also very different: we wear a school uniform and the discipline is much stricter. I have enjoyed the freedom at your school. Another difference is the transport system. Our school has its own fleet of 16 buses but we never use public transport to school. We are not able to leave school during the school day at all unless we have written permission from the teachers and our parents. Although there are trains, most are not passenger trains and it would not be safe for me to travel on the passenger trains. Your school building is also very different from my school – there are many stories and I have got quite fit running up and down to class. My school is very spread out and is only on the ground floor – it is a very beautiful school which was only started 16 years ago on a chicken farm!
The food here is also quite different from what I am used to but I have really enjoyed tasting some of your German dishes. Most times when we have guests we have a braai (barbecue) and we eat steak and boerewors and sosaties. My favourite South African treat is koeksisters which I enjoy baking.
One of the things I have been amazed about is the number of different chocolates you have here – it takes me so long to choose!!
I would like to thank you all for the kindness you have shown me and for making me feel so welcome in your school. As a token of my appreciation I have donated a book to your school library which is about the life of our beloved Nelson Mandela. I hope that you will read this so that you can appreciate what this wonderful man means to South Africa.
Lastly to Elisabeth and Franziska, my amazing host sisters. You have made this month such a special and memorable one for me. I hope that you will come to visit me in my country so that I can return your wonderful hospitality. One day I will return to visit your beautiful country again. Until then goodbye and God bless.