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... Thomas Sudholz
Health & Safety
Stellies: a second home
Submitted by Thomas Sudholz - Geelong Australia Deakin University | July 30, 2017
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!