Life on the Flip-Side Past Review

By (Accounting and Related Services., University of Illinois - Chicago) - abroad from 07/08/2012 to 11/14/2012 with

IES Abroad: Cape Town - University of Cape Town

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
In certain aspects I learned more in one semester abroad than I did in the other seven at my home learning university. Thanks to their culture I came home with a new appreciation for the life I am so privileged to live and even desire to change my career path to a more community-oriented profession. I can't emphasize how many resources IES provided us with, how many friendships were formed, and how incredibly happy the people of South Africa are. Worthwhile? I can't imagine where I'd be without it!

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Cape Town - University of Cape Town Photo IES Abroad: Cape Town - University of Cape Town Photo IES Abroad: Cape Town - University of Cape Town Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The University of Cape Town is known to be one of the best institutions of higher learning on the African continent. The courses were challenging and instructors were among the best I've encountered.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff did a fantastic job of ensuring our safety and did everything possible to set us up for success in the classroom and – arguably more importantly – in the greater Cape Town area. IES equipped us with top-notch resources and truly did their best in allocating available scholarship funds to those in financial need. The field trips covered just about every experience of your typical ‘Top 5 Things to do in South Africa’ in addition to providing hands-on service learning within the community.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The location could not have been better, but the apartment structure itself could have used some work. Never fear, they have since learned from this mistake and provided much nicer accommodations!

* Food:

Cape Town is a melting pot - something you'll quickly discover from their food alone! There's a wide range of local delicacies, familiar tastes from home, and everything in between.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The people of Cape Town are incredibly happy, optimistic, and hopeful despite the extreme circumstances of poverty and injustice remaining post-Apartheid. Whether you're in the heart of downtown, climbing a mountain with locals, or lending a hand in the informal settlements, the people were all so welcoming of outsiders and ecstatic to see the recent increase in the appeal of Cape Town to the rest of the world.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

How many people can say that their best friend in the program had their dominant hand paralyzed for three months and still had the time of their life in their time abroad? Though understaffed, the local medical facilities are world class.

* Safety:

Petty theft here and there, but be aware of your surroundings, travel with the company of others, and you'll be fine. This should come as common sense to those traveling to unfamiliar destinations, yet there always seems to be one in every crowd.

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)

The conversion rate from USD to South African Rand is extremely favorable. The somewhat higher cost of things like clothing and toiletries evens out with cheaper food, beverages, and the majority of activities.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $65
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Stock up on groceries with your roommates or fellow program participants. Just as it makes a difference at your home campus, packing lunches and cooking dinners for yourself during the week leads to an extremely workable budget on the weekends and semester breaks.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

I enrolled in an introductory Xhosa course - one of eleven native languages. Xhosa is an African clicking language and thus unlike anything I had ever been exposed to. This course was offered to both national and international students. The instructor was aware of varying backgrounds and simply excited for others to acquire a working knowledge of the fairly common native language.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 3
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The majority of South Africans speak English very well. Learning a language in order to communicate with locals is entirely unnecessary but you will obviously gain respect for your efforts should you choose to take the initiative.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Structure
  • Independence
  • Field Trips
* What could be improved?
  • Housing
  • Communication
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How truly difficult it is to stay in touch with your friends and family at home. The pre-departure literature warned us but it was certainly rough with limited internet and expensive pay-as-you-go phone packages.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.