Written by Allie Ivener, iXperience '14 (Coding), University of Virginia

A few things were back to normal. I stopped freaking out when I drove clockwise around traffic circles. The light switches aren’t weird little buttons, and no one says “keen”, “vibe”, or “bru”, well, except for me.

Leaving Cape Town caused a whirlwind of emotion. Sure, I was excited to see my family for the first time in nine weeks, head back to UVA (the best school on earth), and eat Chipotle. But no place in Virginia can even compare to the beauty of Cape Town. I wake up to houses outside of my window, not Table Mountain. A five-minute drive takes me to more houses, not the beach of Camps Bay. There’s no Biscuit Mill on Saturday mornings and no Myog at nights. And don’t get me started on the lack of Knead breakfast.

iXperience exceeded all of my expectations. I am one of few friends who actually learned something worthwhile while studying abroad. And I’m one of few friends who actually made a difference to a company as an intern. I learned to troubleshoot on my own, to never doubt my abilities, and that even an intern on day two of work can contribute ideas and make a difference.

However, nothing can compare to the irreplaceable and unforgettable memories fostered by iXperience. Each day in class, I was guaranteed to laugh, crack jokes, run into some bug in my code, and get help from the incredible instructor and TAs. During breaks I ate a variety of delicious foods, cuddled with Ruby, the iX cat, and continued to take in the beauty of Cape Town with the amazing students and staff that surrounded me. The nights were unpredictable. Would we bike around the city under a full moon? Or grab drinks at a beachfront bar? Or watch a movie on the massive beanbags in the iX house? Or maybe work on our projects before class the next day? Each night was different but just as exciting as the last. And each weekend, too, was full of adventure. One weekend the CEO, Aaron Fuchs, took eight of us camping at Beaverlac, about two hours outside of Cape Town. We swam in frigid water, braai-ed, and bonded not as the CEO and his students, but as friends.

At 11pm on my last night in Cape Town, I grabbed hot chocolate at a fancy hotel’s bar with Darren, the CFO of iX, and another iXer. That may sound weird or unusual, but I thought nothing of it. The iX staff ate meals with us, went to the beach with us, went out with us, helped us attempt to plan our futures, and happily took us to late night hot chocolate. Sitting at Mount Nelson hotel reflecting on the summer, brainstorming ideas for next year, and, of course, talking about the incredible city of Cape Town, I realized that what makes iX the fantastic summer experience of a lifetime that I now know it to be is the people.

The students that iX attracts and the staff that make sure we have the best time are one of a kind. And now that I’m back home, I constantly remember how much I miss Cape Town, programming daily, and exploring a new place. Mostly, though, I miss the people. But even from across the ocean, the iX staff constantly help me in my pursuit of success in the tech world. I even had a life chat with Aaron and Alexis when they visited UVa. They started as the CEO and COO of an amazing summer program, and now they're mentors and friends.

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