A new perspective on health and the world Past Review

By (Health:Science, Society and Policy, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/24/2014 to 05/08/2014 with

SIT Study Abroad: South Africa - Community Health and Social Policy

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much about another culture, but mostly I learned about myself. My views on health, wealth and the world were challenged this semester, and I am a more thoughtful and understanding person because of that. I learned about the realities facing South Africans, like the AIDS epidemic and Apartheid, and people's resilience in overcoming these struggles. Academically, I learned how to conduct my own research and gained an understanding of community health in South Africa. This semester was definitely worthwhile-- I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The most valuable learning was done outside the classroom. Our teachers were not only great instructors, but helpful, passionate people who were accessible at all times.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The academic director was a pro at handling any and all issues that came up. It was apparent that this program required a ton of coordination, and our AD made it seem effortless.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My home stay families were excellent! So warm and accommodating-- living with them was the highlight of my experience for sure.

* Food:

Be prepared to try things you've never had before...can you say, "fresh goat"? The food wasn't gourmet, but then again that isn't the point. It was awesome to experience authentic food for the whole semester.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

A strength of this program is the cultural immersion. For my independent study project I lived with a host family in a rural community for 3 weeks. There was only one other American there-- a student living a mile away. You can't get more integrated than that.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got sick during the program, and a program staff member drove me to the doctor and the pharmacy. Because I went to a private doctor, the healthcare quality was excellent, similar to home. Malaria pills are a good precaution for this program.

* Safety:

Just be smart, don't display your valuables and be aware of your surroundings. Same safety concerns as an American city.

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 food stipend that is provided is very helpful and keeps out-of-pocket spending to a minimum. Food and other items are very affordable in South Africa compared to the US

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? less than $50


* 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

We were encouraged to use basic isiZulu greetings in our homestays, but not required. For the rural homestays, knowing isiZulu was very helpful.

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? Intermediate Spanish
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? Practice speaking with your homestay family. They will be happy you're making the effort!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • cultural immersion
  • rural excursions
  • amazing people- both local and other students on the program
* What could be improved?
  • longer homestays and less time spent in Durban
  • More historical context would have been helpful
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew to bring more skirts! And a variety of clothing, as the weather will go from sweltering hot in January to cold in May. Otherwise, I think having an open mind and few expectations prior to the program actually helped me make the most of the experience.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'