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“My German roots” . 2002/2003

This story telling project has taken me down memory lane, a fond one where I reminisced on my first international flight to Germany in September 2002. At that time, all international flights from South Africa were out of the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Today one can travel to many more countries around the globe from Durban, Cape Town and other airports in the country!

Trawling through the time as a student is filled with memories of learning to speak German, experiencing snow for the first time, in awe of the trains system and general organisation of all things, mesmerised by the size of the campus and its facilities compared to mine back home, the wonderful classmates and lecturers at the Fachhochschule Aachen who took me on and made me feel so very welcome with my broken German and of course the many good parties and bar hopping nights.

A memory that vividly comes to mind was after living in Germany for a year, our mentors from the Aachen-Partnership would arrange social events for the exchange programme students and this particular one was an outing to the cinema. The cinema was a very cosy, almost like your own living room at home, only it was a public space, with comfortable chairs, you could take food and drinks inside. It was a lovely little cinema in Aachen. Not only does that memory pop to mind because of this unique setup for a cinema, that I liked back in 2003, but also the fact hat my German had improved to the level that I could watch a movie in German at the cinema is what made me, on that day, realise how far I had come.

Living in a  foreign country, with a culture very different to mine, a different language spoken was a huge stretch in character, resilience, a maturing of a then 21 year old that has seen me make one brave and courageous choice and decision after another. It also planted a travel bug in me (I travelled to 5 EU countries and most major cities in Germany during my time there) and the keen interest in people who were different from me, spoke a different language, held different beliefs, interests. It has led to an interesting career path and the deep-seated knowledge that the world is my oyster. I can live and work and thrive anywhere that I so choose in this world because we all have a common thread as human beings.

Thank you to the partnership for the past 20 years of being a part of this wonderful partnership through the mentors like Norbert Kuntz and Josephine Ebel. You keep me close to my “German roots” .

I have these lovely memories from 2003 when I was “young and free” and I am happy to still possess the same smile of gratitude for the life and the incredible opportunities I have been blessed with. What has also remained constant is the afro, the crown on my head.

Benedicta Durcan
(nee Mahlangu)

Since the INWENT exchange program in 2002-2004 and involvement in the Aachen-Cape Town Partnership, I have made lifelong friendships with close friends in Germany, completed undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering; worked offshore in upstream Oil & Gas Exploration, in Shipping and Logistics Operations and now as an Executive in a Special Economic Zone. I am the 2nd year running Chairperson of SAWISE (South African Women in Science and Engineering). My husband and I started a Biotechnology company (Afrobodies) in 2016. Travel is still my passion (have travelled to 42 countries & sailed around the globe). Married with a 2-year-old daughter.

“Not all who wander are lost”