Climbing to New Heights in South Africa Past Review

By (Middle Childhood Education, Marietta College) for

AIFS: Stellenbosch - Study Abroad or Service Learning at Stellenbosch University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was incredible worthwhile. I learned so much about myself and this beautiful, diverse nation. I came back to the US changed for the better, and desiring more travel and international experiences in the future. I am now looking into working abroad or domestically with international populations. I don't know exactly what the future holds for me, but my study abroad experience has shaped my worldview, dreams, and expectations for my life!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Of my 3 courses, one was poor, one was very good, and one was outstanding. The grading system was tougher than what we have at home, but with grade conversions I think that the grades are fair. Teaching methods for the courses were varied. I had the most positive experiences with professors who interacted with us the most.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Hestea was our program director in Stellenbosch, and she was amazing. She was very good with email correspondence, so we were always in the loop with relevant information and updates. She was a wonderful resources that was always available to me, though I did not need her to help me above and beyond regular program needs very often. Our program size was good, though for some reason the people in our program never melded very well. My expectations for service were definitely met. I had some inaccurate assumptions about my experience that were not met, but this was mostly due to me not knowing much about Stellenbosch prior to arrival.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a very nice apartment complex. I had a nice apartment with one roommate and lived on a floor with people from 5 different countries, which was a great experience. I appreciated that the program arranged my housing for me, and provided bedding, cooking utensils, etc. One thing I wish, however, is that I could have lived with South Africans. I felt as if the international students were segregated into our own buildings, so it was more difficult to get to know the South African students living there.

* Food:

I had a self-catering apartment.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I really enjoyed the trips to Cape Point, the Boulder Beach penguins, the Garden Route, and Cedarberg Mountains. I did not enjoy the trip to Robben Island very much. The concert in Kirstenbosch was nice as well. I think I would have enjoyed everything a bit more if my group has been more friendly and open with one another. However, I know that this is not the fault of the program.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt fairly safe in Stellenbosch, especially on campus. I avoided going anywhere alone at night, and was very aware of my surroundings. People can largely avoid unsafe situations by making good decisions and staying with a group. Stellenbosch is safe, though surrounding areas are far less so. The only safety-related incident happened on the train in Cape Town and involved a man begging for money who would not leave us alone. I had to get used to people asking for money everywhere that I went, but this was not necessarily a safety issue. I did not have any health issues while abroad. Prior to a trip to Namibia, I went through the student health center to get malaria prophylaxis. The service there was very good.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

I was not forced to acquire the language to get around day by day. It was more of a fun course, not a necessity, to learn Afrikaans. I spoke it in class and occasionally with classmates outside of our regular meeting time. I cannot think of a time in Stellenbosch when someone was not able to speak with me in English.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This is an excellent program for students that want a study abroad destination that is off the beaten path, for students that don't want to struggle with language acquisition, for students that want to volunteer, and for students who love natural wonders. If you are considering this program because you want the "authentic African experience," this may not be for you. The lions and elephants are only found in preserves, and you will find instead that Stellenbosch looks and feels very much like a European or American city. However, it is very possible to have a diverse experience in South Africa if you are willing to put yourself out there a bit. South Africa with AIFS is the way to go!!!!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement (LSCE)

Course Department:
Instructor: Grant Demas
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was challenging academically and emotionally, and was also a significant time commitment. However, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I loved having class on-location at Lynedoch Primary School, which is also where we did our service. The field trips were very enlightening and added a lot to my knowledge of the students' home lives. Grant was one of the most talented, gregarious, academically and emotionally intelligent people that I've ever met, and was a terrific professor. The course was designed around participation and discussion, so I participated more than I would have at home. Living in Stellenbosch was a wonderful experience, but it would have been very easy to live among the comfort and wealth of the city experiencing the reality for most of the poorer South Africans. The LSCE course opened my eyes to this reality and gave me a more complete, accurate picture of South Africa. LSCE was challenging in so many ways but was without doubt the highlight of my study abroad experience.
Credit Transfer Issues: My institution didn't understand what I did. They could not count it as service learning, which is what some of the publications and predeparture paperwork called it. They gave me credit for an Environmental Science course, so I had to talk to records and the dean of our leadership department to get the course the leadership designation that it needed.
Course Name/Rating:

Jewelry Design and Metalwork

Course Department:
Instructor: She never did tell us her name. =/
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was a disappointment. It had come highly recommended to me, but I did not enjoy it much. The work was very meticulous and involved very little creativity. I learned the skills for jewelry creation and metalwork, but did not learn much about design. It was a 3-hour night class, and always seemed to drag on forever.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Afrikaans for Beginners

Course Department:
Instructor: Amanda DeVillers
Instruction Language: Afrikaans and English
Comments: I really enjoyed this course. Amanda, or "Wanda" as we called her, made it a lot of fun. The learning was more authentic than other language courses I have taken. I enjoyed learning Afrikaans through soap operas, music, going out to eat, creating alter egos, etc. We had a sense of family among the students in our course, which made it a safe and open learning environment. And I loved out "partytjies"!
Credit Transfer Issues:



Zach6 September 19, 2011

Oh Zach haha we meet again! I am in a study abroad reflection class and am giving presentations on SA/Lynedoch left and right. I never realized how much South Africa would matter, how much it would mean to me, and how much this changes things. Glad I got to share that amazing experience with you!

Anna 1 September 19, 2011