Africa is so much more than just The Lion King and that place rich dentists go on safaris. Students who study abroad in Africa will have the benefit of stepping out of their classrooms (and comfort zones) to engage in extra-curricular events that will supplement their academic schedule beyond what they’d ever have available at home. Whether your passion is medicine, music, or anything in between, look no further than some of the incredible universities located all around the dynamic continent of Africa.
Africa is a monstrous continent; made up of over 50 countries, every country in Africa has something special to offer prospective study abroad students. However, the following four countries are home to a handful of established study abroad programs and high quality universities, and each one also offers opportunities and resources in the way of community involvement.
South Africa. Home to all five top-ranked African universities, it is no wonder this country jumps to the top of our list. Noted as one of the most diverse and complex countries in the world, South Africa is the perfect place to study abroad in Africa. Public universities in South Africa are divided into three categories: traditional universities, universities of technology (more vocational), and comprehensive universities (a combination of the two). Students will find that most schools in South Africa offer multi-cultural student communities, strong academic facilities, and a bevy of social activities and clubs, which create an excellent support system for international students. Additionally, several universities in South Africa offer community volunteer programs (aka. service learning), which can serve as a source of additional opportunities for students to flex their academic experience and help develop a local community.
Ghana. Located in a suburb of the capital city of Accra, the University of Ghana – Legon is Ghana’s premier, and oldest, university. Originally an affiliate of the University of London, this institution offers strong study abroad programs in agriculture, fine arts, the social sciences, and medicine. The University of Ghana is also one of the few schools on the continent that offers offer nuclear physics and nuclear engineering degree programs and courses.
Kenya. Students looking to focus their study abroad program in Africa on the fields of medicine, engineering, or entrepreneurship should look no further than study abroad in Kenya; international students should specifically be sure to check out opportunities at the University of Nairobi, located in the nation’s capital and largest city. Nairobi is a bustling metropolis boasting seven university campuses, where students can focus on a range of interdisciplinary studies and work hands-on with experts in their field of choice.
Egypt. Nestled in near the Nile river, and located in Egypt’s sprawling metropolis capital, the University of Cairo is well-known as one of the top universities not just in Egypt, but in all of Africa. Home to several notable Nobel Laureates, as well as some famous political leaders, studying abroad in Egypt gives students incredible access to some of history’s most famous cities and landmarks. Strong academic programs in foreign languages, law, and medicine make this an excellent place to study abroad.
Studying Abroad in Africa
While each major university has its own specialties, the focus of study abroad in Africa will be largely dependent on the interest areas and major of each student, as well as the geographic and social properties of the location they choose.
Students who want to study medicine, for example, might lean toward studying abroad at a university with access to cities that have high infectious disease rates or, on the other hand, may want to seek out program opportunities in rural communities that lack health care services and medical supplies. Both of these locations would provide students with a very unique perspective of medicine and healthcare in Africa. On the opposite end of the spectrum, music students or those with an interest in the fine arts, may decide to study abroad in Africa because they want to explore traditional African dance or music, in which case they would want to choose a location that offers access to the specific style they are looking to know more about.
Rehargless of where students choose to study in Africa, the most popular subjects of study include foreign languages, politics, history, medicine, and the fine arts. However, with a scope as wide as an entire continent, especially one as massive as Africa, students interested other fields and subjects don’t necessarily have to rule Africa out either.
Accommodations & Visas
Most major universities in Africa offer some form of room and board for international students, whether it be “dorm-style” or apartment style living. It should be noted that many universities are commuter schools, and plenty of students work full-time jobs or head back to their communities and families when not in class. Therefore, for more of that “classic college” feel, students will need to look into study abroad programs at larger African universities in the bigger cities.
Study abroad programs in Africa are some of, if not the, most inexpensive study abroad programs in the world. With average annual tuition rates (not including room and board) running between $1,000 and $3,000, it is hard to find study abroad programs any cheaper.
Students are required to obtain a visa to study abroad in Africa, in nearly any country. South Africa is an exception, as it grants visas “on-the-spot.” International students can apply for student visas on each individual country’s embassy or consulate website or in person.
Benefits & Challenges
Communication Capabilities (or a lack of). Communicating with the outside world is not as easy and casual in Africa as it may be in your home country. Although some larger cities are stocked full of internet cafes, students should be prepared to be stingy about internet usage, international calling, and communication with friends and family back home in general. Cell phone providers and “pay as you go” phone cards are typically available, but these can rack up charges quite quickly.
Health Concerns. As a result of the health issues prevalent throughout Africa (specifically West Africa), taking care of your health will need to always be your number one priority when studying abroad in Africa. Before you leave you will need to find out what vaccinations you should get and also research everyday tips on how to stay healthy. Staying healthy is an imperative part of having an enjoyable time in Africa, especially for students who choose to study abroad in Africa for extended periods.
Ease of Travel. Unlike some other geographic regions, traveling between countries and “border hopping” is not very easy in Africa. Aside from the obvious reason that countries are simply too large, due to some past (and present) political implications, traveling between some countries may be difficult, or even illegal. While it is certainly possible, make sure you do your research before embarking on a long weekend getaway to another country. Also worth noting, while studying abroad in Africa can be very cheap and affordable, flights can be expensive.
Uniqueness. SO, do you want to be like every other student at your school and study abroad in the UK or Spain? Do you want to have very similar experiences as your peers and have stories that are only slightly different? Or, do you want international experience that will not only fulfill your passion for travel and culture, but also increase your marketability and skills as a scholar and future employee? Study abroad in Africa, and you will return with a lifetime of memories, an unparalleled worldview, and a new perspective on life that just cannot be beat.