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Semester in South Africa

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

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Revolutionary Awakening

I had an incredibly time in South Africa. I was there during the monumental movement of at UCT entitled Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) which spawned the movements at Stellenbosch University, #OpenStellenbosch. This experience was so amazing. I learned so much about South African history, culture, and social environments. I was also able to learn even more about the Black Consciousness.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    6

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

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Indescribable Experience in Stellenbosch and South Africa

One tries to avoid setting expectations, however, any expectations I had before coming to this country and continent were incredibly exceeded in every way imaginable.

Academics:
Classes are definitely different. I understood the professors fine. I just felt limited to what I could take because of the classes that I had my home university approve. I strongly recommend getting up to 8 classes approved, I only had 5 and chose 4.

The first week of classes is strange, they did not stick to the schedules given and changed the venue and times around to fit the majority of the class. If I had more classes approved I could have had more flexibility to decide. Anyway, my courses were great wound up great, I will never forget those about those courses. Mainstream classes have mostly domestic students where as IPSU is entirely international exchange.students to keep in mind.

Living Situation:
Incredible.

Cultural Immersion:
Perfect.

Health and Safety:
Being a male, I felt safe most of the time. Of course, there are some sketchy places and theft is a BIG issue and at night it is strongly emphasized to be with somebody if you are walking.

The country gets a bad rep for crime and you really do hear about some messed up stuff happening in the news, but no students EVER need to worry about that happening and it should not discourage ANYONE from visiting this beautiful country.

Social Life:
I found absolutely no problem.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Social Life

    9

  • Health and Safety

    5

  • Program Administration

    2

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Academics

    7

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Go to Stellenbosch- without CISabroad

Where to begin...in short, don't go to Stellenbosch with CISabroad. There are many better choices, and while they are cheapest, they are cheapest for a reason. I came to find that while it's more work, going on your own as a Freemover will save the you thousands of dollars, and is the route most European students took.

A little more detail: I went to Stellenbosch around a year ago for the Spring 2014 semester. The program was small: 3 of us in total. The size wasn't necessarily a problem but other programs were bigger and arranged trips for their larger groups which would have been nice. The second day I was in South Africa, our in-country support was supposed to take us to Cape Town, show us around, and take us to a welcome dinner. First of all, she lives in Cape Town, not Stellenbosch. She had never been to Stellenbosch and honestly wasn't of much use for the duration of the semester. Some of the other programs had support located in Stellenbosch, some even on campus, which is really what is needed of something were to ever happen. I don't think having her in Cape Town did anything that we couldn't have figured out ourselves. So the second day, she sent a cab to get us, walked us around Cape Town for two hours, bought us an afternoon snack, and sent us back to Stellenbosch. We were completely on our own finding our way around campus and Stellenbosch. This is totally doable but it would have been nice to have someone show us where to get groceries and other necessities. We didn't see her again until finals, where she stopped by to drop off a packet of snacks. We saw her once more at the end of our stay where she set up a cooking lesson for us in Bo-Kaap. CISabroad said they would take us on trips, in reality they paid for some of the excursions that the international office organized. This was nice, but the prices from the office were already subsidized for us so taking us where the international office did not offer trips would have been better. she also arranged a "tour guide" to take us around several times. Turns out he had just graduated university and was her husband's friend. While he was a cool guy and took us to some nice spots, he was not a tour guide and not very professional, always trying to get more money for the trips. Other programs take their students to popular tourist sites such as Cape Point or the Cape of Good Hope, but our "guide" said gas was too expensive to go to Cape Point and so we ended up renting a car ourselves to visit. Other questions we had for her were better answered by those working in the international office or a quick Google search. Overall, I don't really see the point in her job. Essentially, by going through CIS, you are more more than $10,000 for them to do paperwork for you. We had to sit through a session that told us the fees for classes and housing and everything during orientation, so it was shocking to see how much extra we were paying for some simple services. If I were to do it over again, I would have started planning earlier so that I could have applied to Stellenbosch myself. These complaints are not to say that I didn't love my semester at Stellenbosch, I really did. For the most part, South Africa's negative reputation is unwarranted, and it was definitely the most beautiful country I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. While the wealth gap is startling, and seeing the townships and how people live in them is startling, it's not everything that South Africa is. Stellenbosch is a beautiful town, with so many shops and restaurants to pick from. I spent many days just walking around, window shopping, and getting some gelato. Prices of food are less than those in the States, and so eating out relatively often is doable. I stayed in Concordia. While the furnishings were sparse and not of good quality, I shared a bathroom with just my roommate and we had a kitchen to cook. A maid comes almost daily to clean the bathroom, kitchen, and common area. There's laundry in Concordia and I always felt safe inside. Walking the streets in Stellenbosch during the night is a different story. Never walk alone in the dark and be very cautious. There are beggars in town who will try to rob you if you are alone in the dark. It should be safe on the green route but towards the end of my stay, there was a crime spree, followed by an increase in security. Transportation within South Africa is cheap but slow. It was simple enough to take the train to the beach or Cape Town, just for a few bucks round trip, but the trains are older and can be late. It's also relatively cheap to rent a car, and contrary to what is posted online on several car rental sites, they rent to people even if they aren't 21. I would recommend doing all the PGIO activities, and joining some clubs to meet South Africa. Academia Adventures goes on cheap trips and turned out to be one of the best parts of my stay. There's good nightlife in South Africa, people are at the bars and clubs all days of the week. Just be careful of your phone, mine was stolen at a club and basically everyone I met had had their phone stolen at some point. Take advantage of all the national holidays and breaks and travel. The garden route was the highlight of my stay. Hostels are cheap and the ones I stayed in were pretty good. You'll be able to do many more things than on other places on the same budget in South Africa. The one thing I didn't really do: shop. Little souvenirs are good, but clothes are better bought in the US. Spend the money on traveling and food and you'll get the most out of your stay.

A lot of people warned me about going to South Africa. The one common denominator of these people: they had never been. Don't listen to them. If you're careful and travel smart,you'll be fine. My five months were the most amazing experience and I learned so much about the country. I had some eye-opening experiences, and as cliche as it is, South Africa really did change my life. I've been wanting to go back since a week after I left. In short, I highly recommend studying at Stellenbosch, just not through CISabroad. Go on your own, or if you really want to go with a program, research others.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    9

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Exceeding all expectations.

Springbok steak with pap and chakalaka.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Academics

    7

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    9

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My Journey in South Africa!

Words could never truly explain what a wonderful experience my journey abroad was. Although there were a few bumps along the way, I wouldn't change a thing! I will always carry a piece of South Africa with me and look forward to returning soon.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Academics

    6

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Program Administration

    2

  • Health and Safety

    5

  • Social Life

    9

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Great Experience

I would recomend studying abroad at this university to anyone. I truly had a life changing experience in South Africa. Very happy with my choice to spend this six months in Stellenbosch.

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Academics

    6

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    6

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Health and Safety

    4

  • Social Life

    9

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Just Beautiful

I'd been told by many people how beautiful South Africa would be, but no words can do this country justice. Mountains rising straight out of gorgeous blue oceans, historical sites at every turn, and restaurants and coffee shops with views and prices you wouldn't believe. The drive out of the airport is quite a shock, throwing the extreme poverty left from apartheid years straight in your face as you drive past miles of cardboard and plywood shacks, but the reality of the cuontry's history does very little to dampen its natural beauty and cultural diversity. Stellenbosch University is located in the Cape winelands and only an hour train ride outside of Cape Town, placing it ideally in a small community close to big city excitement. The atmosphere throughout the University, town, and country is courteous and friendly, although all travelers should stay on their toes and watch out for opportunistic thieves. Classes at the University tend to be large lectures, but it's easy to see that all of the professors are very enthusiastic about their field and are open to talking to anyone else who shares their passion. There's quite a large bar culture in Stellenbosch among the University students which usually leads to after-class pizza and beer at one of the many laid-back bars around town. Travelling is a must in such a diverse country, but a well developed tourism culture makes it quite easy. A highly diverse and life-changing study abroad experience.

Academics:
Professors were knowledgeable, but almost all classes are straight lecture in large lecture halls, which is a style of teaching I was not used to.

Living Situation:
Concordia was very nice; furniture and dishes being provided was extremely helpful. Cleaning staff came in every weekday and the administration staff was quick to take care of problems.

Cultural Immersion:
Since SA is an english-speaking country, cultural immersion was not too difficult. However, the international student courses and housing made it more difficult to expand outside of the international student bubble.

Program Administration:
I didn't see much of our program administration, but I got emails that kept me fairly well informed.

Health and Safety:
South Africa is still plagued by the economic discrepancies caused by the segregation during the apartheid era. Although Stellebosch is a relatively safe town, opportunisic thefts are not uncommon. The basic rules that you should not go out alone after dark, should not carry big bags or purses with you, and should avoid leaving valuables out in plain sight are key throughout the country, but play it safe and be smart and you shouldn't have any problems.

Social Life:
A very vibrant town, there's lots to do in Stellebosch from shopping to wine tasting to hiking to just hanging out.