My name is Ambani, but people call me Dean. I am a 17-year-old from South Africa who has been granted an amazing opportunity to go on a student exchange.
With AFS Investing in Africa’s Future Leaders scholarship, I am now spending a school year in the Philippines.
I have always known that I wanted to be an exchange student and now that I have been granted this opportunity, I am living my dream. I wanted to be an exchange student because I want to broaden my horizons. I did not want to limit myself to what I know and to what I know how to do best. I want to think far beyond South Africa, learn new things about other cultures and traditions.
In short I want to be a global citizen who doesn’t judge other cultures but celebrates our differences. Being an AFSer for me is definitely more than just hopping on a plane and setting off to live in a new country. For me it basically means adopting the new culture as my own and embracing the way of life.

My introduction into the Philippines was in Manila where I was greeted by the warm and friendly people of the Philippines, to such a point where I forgot that I was a foreigner. The skyscrapers, busy people and the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila made me assume that all places in the provinces would be somewhat like Manila – which is actually not the case.
I was shocked when it was time for dinner and we were given a fork and a spoon instead of a fork and knife, that was because in South Africa we use either our hands to eat just like in the Philippines or a fork and a knife instead of a fork and a spoon.
I live in a quaint city in one of the many provinces in the Philippines. My city has a certain charm about it, it is rustic, peaceful and generally a happy place to live in. I am proud to say that I live in Dapitan City because of the history behind this city.
For me Dapitan has a little bit of everyone, it is a good place for nature lovers, history lovers, tracking and sunbathing by the beautiful beaches.
Learning the language has been quite an obstacle for me but in time I will overcome it. Language barrier almost cost me my uniform… weird I know.
So the story goes like this: One day I went to the tailor and got measurements done and I kept on telling him, “I want to be able to move in the uniform, please make it a little bigger.” He made it super big to a point where it looked like a dress. Fortunately enough, he agreed to shorten it but then there was another problem: he made it too short and now it almost looks like a tank top.
One thing that people ask me a lot is, “Since you are from South Africa, is there North Africa?” I always explain that there is no country called North Africa but there is North of Africa as a geographical cardinal point of other countries who are in the northern part of Africa.
From South Africa to the Philippines, big adjustment, from my culture to theirs, not easy, first time in a plane, awesome and weird in so many peculiar ways.