"You look so different!" was the chief response from fellow semester at sea students to UCT's Nara Manjate, on boarding the Universe Explorer in Mombassa.
"I guess they were expecting an African student in traditional clothing," the Postgraduate Diploma in Tourism and leisure student observed. "They also found it hard to believe that Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city," added the jeans-clad Mozambican, who for 10 days was both an ambassador for the country and a student.
For the UCT graduate in anthropology, sociology and gender studies the cruise aboard the ship, a luxury liner converted into a travelling university, was as much of an eye-opener for her as it was for her shipboard peers.
Manjate believes that misconceptions about South Africa have implications for local tourism. But representing the country provided a useful opportunity to promote its splendours - and to dispel some myths.
Initiated by the University of Pittsburg, the semester at sea project gives students insight into other cultures and countries as they call at different ports. At each stop an "interport" student from the country the ship will visit next boards the vessel for a programme of lectures and presentations.
The Maputo-born Manjate hopes to take her tourism knowledge back to Mozambique, a country eagerly rebuilding its tourism industry. Her presentation on Cape Town to a packed lecture theatre gave her a chance to practice her presentation skills.
"It was a huge room with cameras and microphones everywhere!"
Today, sitting in the crowded NescafÃ© coffee shop on upper campus with a slab of a book on financial management before her, Manjate says she's glad to be back on terra firma.
"It was fun, but I missed my freedom!"
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