This year’s orientation week where our brand new batch of Bridging Year students met each other for the first time was a whirlwind three days of introductions, team-building, bonding, hiking and other fun activities. The BY team was happy with the enthusiasm of our new students and especially with the 90% attendance rate across the three days. We kicked off orientation week with a meet and greet and information session at the Mowbray town tall, followed by a few games and ice-breakers to get the students interacting. Student photos were snapped and then everyone tucked into our home-made tuna and chicken wraps as plans were consolidated for the rest of the week to come.
Our BY student group stems from a variety of areas across the Western Cape, including Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu, Blue Downs, Phillipi and as far afield as Paarl and the West Coast. An important goal of Orientation week is to facilitate cohesion amongst our students and create a bond through shared experiences.

On Day Two, BYers assembled at the Cape Town train station around 8am eager for the beach team-building day to follow. After a scenic one-hour train trip along the coast to Fish Hoek, we hopped off at the station and started towards the beach club house. Our enthusiastic social worker, Buhle and experienced drama teacher and programme coordinator, Nothando introduced and instigated a variety of team-building activities for the BY group. In order to successfully complete the tasks or “win” the games, students had to collaborate to create strategies for success, use creativity and flexibility to solve problems, delegate roles for optimum division of resources and embody an attitude imbued with team spirit. The group reflected favorably on the experience, insightfully commenting on the skills they had used to excel at the tasks as a team. During the free time that followed, students wandered along the shore, some brave ones dipped in the chilly waters and an impromptu football match commenced, with the day ending with a lunch of burgers at the club house.

On Day Three, BY students assembled at the SAEP offices kitted out in hiking gear ready for the trek up to the Block House on the shadow-side of Devil’s Peak. For many BY students this was to be their first hike ever and excitement and a sprinkling of nervousness hung in the air. Around 10am, we set off from the SAEP offices and after winding through the bustling streets of Mowbray, we nipped up through UCT, dodging students and braving the multitude of steps, to cut across upper campus and push on up through the leafy tree line to Rhodes Memorial. Here students enjoyed the sweeping views of Cape Town while feasting on sandwiches and snacks and filling up with water for the hike up the hill. It was a steep trek and with the sun burning through the mist, the students started to feel the heat! The faster walkers kept the novices motivated, slowing down and waiting to egg them on with clapping and cheers of encouragement. The students learnt how to assemble mountain cairns leaving those making up the rear clear signs for which route they should follow and after about an hour the whole group was accounted for high up at the Block House.

There was a clear sense of achievement amongst the group and a feeling of unity permeated the rest of the day and the decent back to civilization. Students headed home tired and happy, looking forward to what the rest of the year will hold.

This year SAEP welcomes the biggest BY group yet, an impressive seventy-seven students (up by thirty from 2015) and with classes having started last week, the year is already in full swing. Classes run from March till October with a short break in July, and students attend classes in Academic Literacy, Careers, Critical Thinking, Reflections and Computer Competency and gain hands-on experience through a community service project and a job shadowing placement.

Written by Celine Fjeldheim