Rebekah Pothaar – Canada
I attended UCT International Exchange Program 2005 to 2006 coming from Canada to Cape Town or the first time. Months before I arrived in Cape Town, I emailed Penny regarding housing, sent her a list of very specific requirements and hoped she could put me in a shared house with good people. I was very concerned with the living situations. Penny was amazing in handling everything, put me in a beautiful house with students she knew personally and who became life-long friends. Her office door was always open and you could drop by to chat with anything you might need. She really took care of all the international students coming in from every country and took the time to get to know us and make our time at UCT and in Cape Town wonderful. I have kept in touch with Penny over the years and highly recommend this wonderful, insightful and kind woman.
Andreas Sola Fischer – Norway
One of the first faces I saw when coming to Cape Town in July 2012 was Penny’s. She was always a very kind and caring person every time I reached out to her with different issues and responded very thoughfully. I worked in the role of Orientation Leader for my second semester in Cape Town, and I got to know Penny a little better than most other students, which I now am very grateful for and I know that we will be friends for life.
Having lived there for a year, I can truly say that Cape Town is the perfect destination for a short stay or even the rest of your life! It has amazing nature, fantastic wildlife, awesome surf and kitesurf spots, the best wine in the world, the most inspiring people I have ever met, and a great atmosphere in every single bar when the sun goes down. And the sushi! Fantastic! You cannot find a better city in the world. I hope you take the trip.
Ryan Vermette – USA
Spending a semester of my undergrad education in Cape Town was easily one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The city represents a truly unique intersection of so many different, exciting things in a way that it has something special to offer every person regardless of his interests. For me, Cape Town offered world-class educational opportunities while it simultaneously offered beautiful beaches and mountains to explore, live music and sporting events to attend, restaurants and nightlife to enjoy, and history and culture to learn.
Unfortunately, I was hospitalized while I was in Cape Town for several weeks after experiencing a traumatic accident. As a study abroad student with no family or close friends in Cape Town, Penny played an instrumental role in advocating for my care. On very short notice, Penny also facilitated transportation and housing for my mother when she arrived in Cape Town after my accident. My accident served as one of the most challenging times in my life, but Penny was selfless in the help she offered my family in making the absolute best of the circumstances.
Cape Town is such a unique and special city that even my accident couldn’t taint my memory of it. It is certainly number one on my list of locations to visit next.
Kim Vermette – USA (parent)
I am happy to give this personal reference to add to the experience for any student (and parents) wishing to travel to Cape Town, South Africa. Our son’s experience (as well as my husband’s & mine) was definitely a more positive one because of Penny Van Zyl.
Our son wanted to spend a semester abroad during his junior year of college, which seems to be the case for most college students these days. While we were a bit apprehensive, he had already traveled to West Africa twice through his university as this enhanced his second major of Ethics & Social Responsibility for Business Management. When we asked him why his desire to study abroad was so important to him, he replied that the cultural experience would be so rewarding and gratifying as well as the challenge of the education in Cape Town would be what he desired.
During his stay in Cape Town he was unfortunately hospitalized for an accident (that could’ve happened anywhere, especially at home). Why it is important that I tell you this is because without Penny’s help & guidance we all would’ve been lost. She was the coordinator of the study abroad program from The University. I traveled alone, so she met me at the airport when I arrived. She was my taxi, my confidant, my liaison to the University of Cape Town and to our son’s university back in the states.
In a nutshell, she was my (our) glue and I (we) would have never managed in such a challenging situation without her compassion, guidance, willingness, tireless energy and above all, kindness. She made a most challenging situation seamlessly smooth (as it could be). We will be forever grateful to her and happily stay in touch across the pond as I have grown to form a bond with her & consider her a friend.
Dennis Beckedorf – Germany
When I was studying in Cape Town Penny was very supportive. Everything was more difficult for me because I came as an individual student and not through any organisation. Penny helped me out with everything and it all went well.
Cape Town has so much diversity and so many awesome things to see and do. It is my favourite city in the world and South Africa is my most beloved country. I would encourage you to go there and experience it for yourselves. I have been there so many times now and I met up with Penny each time – well I guess you could say we are friends by now!
Benedikte Lindqvist – Denmark
My stay in Cape Town while studying a semester at UCT was a very positive and enriching personal experience. The city is beautifully situated with panoramic views and calls for adventures, exploring not only hikes or beaches within short distances from the city center, but also the unique and quite defining history of the country is not to bypass. The city itself also holds a lot of culture as it consists of a mix of so many nationalities, and this makes it not only interesting, but gives the city a pulse and there is always lots of events going on.
What made it an even better experience was the fact that I was especially taken very good care of by Penny who is not only a very delightful and kind person to be around – but I knew I always had a place to go to with questions or any worries I might have had during my stay.
In short, I really couldn’t have wished for a better stay abroad!
Anna Johansson – Sweden
Coming to Cape Town as a Swedish exchange student from Uppsala University is probably the biggest and best decision I ever made in my life. It was a big change of course – and a nerve-wracking one – moving to another continent and make contact with students, teachers and new friends from all over the world. But I remember meeting Penny van Zyl; she made us feel very at home and safe, especially during those first weeks. Penny was never far away, she was quick in her logistical arrangements, very trustworthy, kind, and also fun! Today, 13 years later, I am still in love with Cape Town, just started my visa application to actually live there, and I am still in contact with Penny. 🙂