Whether it’s the Kalahari desert sand in your hair or the brisk Atlantic air that gets to your bones, something grabs hold of Namibia’s visitors and makes a lasting impact. This recently independent nation (as of 1990) has been working tirelessly to eradicate the kinks and cramps of its growing democracy. If you are ready to take your international program to a level more extreme than the African sun, consider study abroad in Namibia. If you want to make better sense of the complexities of international development, of the current political climate of Africa, or of your shared humanity with others whose lives look very different than your own, then study abroad in Namibia!
Covering 318,500 square miles, with a population of only 2.303 million, Namibia hosts the world’s second lowest population density. For those less apt at doing math in their head, that works out to be about two and half people per square kilometer. Despite this vast (and epic) land space, students will be pleased to know that study abroad programs in Namibia are fairly limited, which makes choosing a program all the more easy!
Windhoek, the capital and largest city in Namibia, is located smack dab in the center of the country. While this city does not have the familiar urban pulse that you may be used to, Windhoek still offers a host of amenities and comforts that are rarely found elsewhere in the country (including a diverse population, a beautiful city park, and even a skyscraper!). Students can attend the University of Namibia Windhoek, the Polytechnic of Namibia Windhoek, or the International University of Management (yup, you guessed it, also in Windhoek).
Further afield. For those education students who are particularly keen to live as those in rural Africa do, teacher training schools can be found in the northwest and Caprivi regions (namely the Caprivi College of Education in Katima Mulilo, the Rundu College of Education, and the Ongwediva College of Education).
Independent study abroad programs in Namibia may also have headquarters in smaller cities, such as Swakopmund or Luderitz, where students will not necessarily attend traditional university classes. Students who decide to study in Namibia would be wise to plan on making Windhoek their home base for exploring the far-flung corners of Namibia.
Studying Abroad in Namibia
While studying in Namibia, students should capitalize on the unique opportunity to deepen their understandings of historic civil rights advancements and the stronghold that civil rights have on contemporary society. Students will have ample exposure to development work and international humanitarian projects, and students are encouraged to seek out courses revolving around similar themes. African politics and history are also fascinating topics to study in Namibia, which are rarely done justice at universities abroad. Economics students will rejoice at the opportunity to further study a society teetering on inequality (fact drop: the wealthiest one percent consume more than the poorest half of the population combined). Other popular courses of study in Namibia include environmental studies, cross-cultural studies, history, political science, religion, and women’s studies.
Students should not feel alarmed by the language barrier that may be present in interactions with locals or in their coursework, since most Namibians can speak basic English and all courses will be taught in English. However, students are encouraged to study at least one (of the 11!) official languages recognized by the Namibian government during their study abroad program in Namibia.
The structure of classes will largely depend on the type of program that you sign up for. Some students will choose to study abroad in Namibia by directly enrolling in a Namibian university; thus, courses will follow the schedule and outline of local university students. Other students will find that they’d prefer to study abroad in Namibia through a program that is designed to model U.S. American-style courses, with block scheduling and multiple field trips. Ultimately, ask your program provider about your academic options and expectations before choosing a study abroad program in Namibia. Also, keep in mind, the school year in Namibia runs from early August to early December and again from early January to mid-June, but the seasons will be swapped!
Scholarships & Costs
Very few scholarships exist to specifically help finance study abroad in Namibia; however, there are many organizations that sponsor more generic study abroad scholarship opportunities for students. You can check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory to find a financial aid option that fits with your program and financial needs.
Overall, Namibia is an extremely affordable place to study abroad. While your plane ticket will cost you more than your friend’s ticket to Mexico, you will more than make up for that upfront cost in the lower costs of daily living. Approximately $1 is equal to more than 12 Namibian dollars. Even if you consider the low cost of living, you should still budget a few extra dollars to finance a few trips to the local craft market or an extra Magnum ice cream bar from the corner store (you may need these simple comforts or splurges occasionally).
Accommodation & Visas
Those who decide to study in Namibia will not have the option to live in a traditional campus dormitory at any of the local universities. Students can, however, find relatively affordable housing in the neighborhoods surrounding most university campuses. Most accommodations will be arranged by each program provider.
For students wanting to break away from the feels-more-or-less-like-home crowd, it is best to seek out a study abroad program in Namibia that organizes homestays for students. This will allow you to experience a more urban living situation in Windhoek’s Katutura township or head to the sticks for a rural stay in a dung hut. Sound hard? It is, but the rewards will be great.
A study permit and visa is required for all international students who want to study abroad in Namibia. The application will put you back $72, it is recommended that students organize their visa three to six months before the start of their program. Students should also talk with their program advisor to ensure they apply for and receive the necessary documents needed to have a smooth transition into life in Namibia.
Benefits & Challenges
Dun dun dun, the challenges. It isn’t likely that anyone would describe their experience studying in Africa as a piece of cake or a walk in the park. But, that being said, experiencing the trials and tribulations of life in Namibia as more than a tourist will benefit students greatly. Students will be able to take time to assess, reflect, and process their surroundings. They will be exposed to not only the epic beauty of Africa, but also the dark sides, the ugly sides, and everything in between while studying in Namibia.
Challenge your stereotypes. There’s so much more to Namibia than meets the eye. While studying abroad on the continent where humans first walked, students can observe the confluence of old and new Africa every day. Never before have international students had such a remarkable opportunity to witness an African nation standing strong on its own two feet, let alone the chance to experience life in a beautiful, albeit desolate, desert wonderland.