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USAC SOUTH AFRICA: Stellenbosch - Undergraduate Courses
University Studies Abroad Consortium participants University Studies Abroad Consortium participants

USAC SOUTH AFRICA: Stellenbosch - Undergraduate Courses

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    8

#Stellies

I attended Stellenbosch University in the Summer semester (Jan-Jun) in 2016, and I absolutely loved it. What a truly amazing experience! In terms of support and assistance, USAC was excellent - though there is no on-site USAC staff, none was really needed (and it keeps costs down!). The town is gorgeous, and there are nature reserves and mountains right next door; not for nothing is Stellenbosch’s nickname “Eikestad”, city of oaks!
As someone who attended a small liberal arts school back home, going to a big university seemed daunting but really wasn’t bad at all. The only thing that surprised me was that we couldn’t bring food or drinks into the library (or perhaps my school is unique in that respect), the fact that the library closed in the mid-afternoon, as well as the requirement that we pay for WiFi and internet. It makes sense, what with so many students, but it adds up really quickly.
I never once felt unsafe in Stellies, but you do have to be smart about safety: stay in groups at night, stay on the patrolled routes as much as possible, don’t leave your stuff where someone can take it, etc. But especially on Wednesdays and weekends, there are always tons of people going out so it’s fine. And the nightlife in town is great! No need to go to Longstraat in Cape Town.
The two things I didn’t like: USAC required us (it might have changed) to take this sociology course, which I absolutely hated; I understand they wanted us to learn more about the country and its history/social nuances but I think there might have been a better way. Second, they placed us in a residence (Academia) (this also might have changed) where we were surrounded by Americans and Europeans. I was lucky to be able to make South African friends through my classes, but some of my flatmates pretty much only made non-African friends because they were in only the IPSU (international) courses.
Tips: Take real SU classes, not only IPSU classes; you’ll meet more people and it’ll be a lot more “authentic”. Don’t just stay in Stellies/Cape Town, explore the rest of the country/region after classes end if you can! Visit a bunch of vineyards, they’re worth it. Learn as much as you can about the history and current affairs of SA, including the complex racial issues/apartheid, before you leave. Do NOT pay for a gym membership unless you’re really and truly going to use it. Get a Matie bike!! they are sooo worth it. Hike Stellenbosch Mountain and don’t be afraid of getting robbed; you’ll be fine as long as you don’t look flashy and are with a group; and the view is beautiful! Visit Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch. Hike in Jonkershoek. Go chocolate tasting at Spice Route. Learn some Afrikaans and some isiXhosa. Get season passes for the Maties rugby games, they are so much fun! (It’s “mah-tees”, not “may-tees”!!) Don’t forget you’re there to study, too; it’s not just fun and games... but make sure you’re enjoying yourself too! Try rooibos tea at a cafe, ostrich burgers at Food Lovers, braaibroodtjies at De Stomme Jonge - branch out with your food choices! (protip, the avocados are phenomenal in SA). Get your SA friends to teach you how to braai, and then go do it on a beach and sleep overnight! Do not mess with baboons, they are scary. The giant muffins at DCM in the Neelsie are worth the ten minute wait. It gets really really cold between May and September and the buildings are not insulated. And finally - chocolate chips, (good) marshmallows, and Graham crackers do not really exist in South Africa. Be prepared. To conclude: PICK THIS OPTION. GO HERE. Enter with few expectations and you will have the experience of a lifetime.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health & Safety

    5

  • Community

    10

Stellies: a second home

G'day all! Tom from Australia here, and this is my review of the incredible time I spent in South Africa's most beautiful wine district, and also studying!

I arrived in Stellenbosch in early July, 2016, without any knowledge of what was before me. How was I to know that it was in the centre of the Cape Winelands district? Or that nearby Frranschoek is one of the oldest settlements in South Africa?

Though I have attempted to describe the experience to my friends and family, it is hard to define. The words I would choose, after much consideration, would certainly be 'life-changing'. This city with its Cape Dutch architecture, marbled floors and intangibly beautiful surrounds welcomed me as if I were its own. The university itself is well-established, with all facilities being similar in provision to my home university of Deakin (in Australia), though with the obvious exception of being 100 years older. The curriculum was challenging but rewarding, opening my eyes to learning I deemed irrelevant before I attended a class in South Africa. Support, facilities and security on campus is all very established; safety on-campus is the best available in South Africa.

The city; my word, its beauty! As if it had been lifted from a small town in Central Netherlands, this city provides outstanding, aged oak-lined streets and a vibrant coffee culture, which contrasts well with the classical feeling the city portrays as you walk through the cobbled streets surrounding the university.

The nightlife; there is no point heading to Cape Town (just a 30 minute drive away), given the way the students at 'Stellies' jol (party)! You will be welcomed into countless friendship circles, and as soon as people hear your accent they become immediately interested in where you are from, why you hose Stellies, and your history. Confrontation about political stance may arise, but can easily be avoided if that's your desire.

The people; ever-welcoming and always willing to help! The weak South African currency also means that you will enjoy a strong conversion rate if you are traveling from Australia, Europe or the Americas. Don't forget to tip - and tip well!

I travelled extensively throughout South Africa during my time studying engineering/finance at Stellenbosch University, and also into Namibia and Mozambique. Befriend the locals and they will be more than happy to take you along the Garden Route, into Cape Town or up to Lion's Head (far better than Table Mountain!).

Stellenbosch and everything it provided me changed my life and the way I view our privilege, in Australia, of being a first world country. Volunteer, and make the most of your free time helping out people as you are abroad, and get to know the customs!

Downsides? Safety isn't great in South Africa, and whilst Stellenbosch is better than most of the nation, be aware and do your research prior to arrival. The language barrier is only apparent in smaller towns across the nation - most people will speak English! Try to learn some local languages though, Afrikaans is quite frequently spoken in the Western Cape. And make the most of your precious time abroad, take every opportunity, live and thrive in the gift of studying abroad!

Also if you like cricket, go have a hit with the Van Der Stel Cricket Team, and tell them Tom the Aussie sent you! Like I said, everyone is welcoming! Don't be afraid to approach a group of people and say hello, they will always welcome you in! And beware of 'Africa Time', things will happen, they may just take a little longer to happen and it may occur 'now now' instead of now!

Feel free to contact me with any questions!