Home stay, your peers, and ISP/internship make the experience Past Review

By (Bucknell University) - abroad from 01/22/2018 to 05/06/2018 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 a lot about my spiritual and mental health because of my ISP. My class also talked about "whose reality counts." Taking in others' perspectives and others' truth is a huge takeaway

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.

Clive Bruzas is an incredible professor. His lectures opened many of my friends' and my eyes to new definitions of research. Experiential learning was a huge part of the program because of homestays, being involved in the community, becoming friends with our neighbors, and our weekend excursions. I really appreciated our daily synthesis sessions in which we debriefed guest lecturers' talks, experiences we'd had recently outside of the classroom, and the readings.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Zed was really helpful in stressful or dangerous situations for the most part. However, the program seemed really disorganized quite often. I think this was partly because Hlobi (an angel of a woman) was on maternity leave for most of my stay, so her responsibilities were spread amongst the other three administrators who were already busy.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The homestay makes the trip. My one regret is not living with them for my ISP. My family is wonderful, and I miss them so much already. The first week was a hard transition, but after that, you grow accustomed to the oil and curry, soap operas, and greetings. Everyone loved their families, but they were able to move people around if needed. Even if you don't go on this program, I'd highly recommend doing a home stay. The Windemere apartment flats were a good living arrangement because they're right on the beach/Golden Mile! Tons of restaurants and fast food places, beautiful surfing weather, and an amazing view from each apartment's balcony. Here, you get your own single bed (or some people share a queen sized bed), and there are 4 people to each apartment. Usually the staff picked our roommates (which was good because they knew us well and it created the least amount of drama). You also have your own kitchen (with a stove, oven, fridge/freezer, and cabinets stocked with a pot and pan), and there's a grocery store within a mile from the apartments that's very safe to walk to/from in the light.

* Food:

My vegetarian friends were able to find food which was good! Fill the form out honestly before you go, and they'll place you with a family that can accomodate vegetarianism. Most people gave up veganism for the trip and stuck with being vegetarian. You eat well when you're at Cowey Park (the classroom complex) because there are grocery stores (Woolworth's and Food Lover's), cafes, and restaurants. The food in your Cato Manor (the main place) home stay is typically kind of plain; usually, I had chicken, frozen veggies, and rice/puthu/samp/pap with curry powder almost every night for dinner. Also!! You get a stipend for food not provided which is INCREDIBLE. It lowers the stress of paying for food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

In Cato Manor, I was felt part of the community. My neighbors were friendly. You could walk into any home of a friend, and they would be really welcoming. You typically greet people on the street. To make the most of your experience, force yourself to stay off your phone (you have limited data anyway) and go out to have conversations with your neighbors!! I felt less connected when staying in Windemere because it was more of a white-dominated space and I began to feel like/be treated as more of a tourist.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

There were doctors and therapists available if needed. I had to pay a little less than $50 (USD) for a doctor's appointment for a stomach issue. The bedside manner of the doctor in Cowey Park isn't great, but you have access to a pharmacy (or a chemist as South Africans say), and you can get reimbursed for your visit if you save your receipt!

* Safety:

South Africa is not the safest of countries. This really shocked me during my first week when our academic director explained some of the dangers that we might face. The program is really good about responding to any dangerous situations, and they constantly reminded us about safety tips (walking in groups, Ubering everywhere- even short distances, keeping phones away, spreading out phones/IDs/credit cards across your person, walking fast and checking for followers in store window reflections). You're in a city, so be cautious, especially because tourists are big targets for crime anywhere you go.

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

The people made this program for me, and I feel like it attracts a certain type of empathetic, curious person to go somewhere other than Europe. It solidified my interest in pursuing medicine (although many other people are on public health/nursing/emergency management tracks). My Independent Study Project (ISP- a 4 week final project in which you do qualitative research about a personal, chosen topic) literally transformed my mental and spiritual health. It was incredible.My home stay was such a huge part of this change as well.


* 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)

I spent less than $600 (USD) which included 1 shark diving excursion (not part of the program). Most of the money was spent on EXTRA food beyond what the stipend could pay for (typically R70-120 depending on the meal/place-- R12 is $1 (USD)).

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$600 over ~14 weeks is around $43 (this was mostly towards the end of the program)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't go crazy on data. You can get past without social media!!! Also, buy some foods to make your lunches instead of eating out every meal. Your body will thank you.


* 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 learned isiZulu which is a difficult language to learn. It's on you to practice with your home stay family and neighbors. Also! Use it in Ubers. Uber drivers love to practice with you.

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? I took Latin in high school and French I in college, but no isiZulu.
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? Talk to your host family! They will help you. It's a chill class, so it's on you to actually practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* 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?
  • The people- peers, home stay
  • ISP process and Clive's help
  • Vulnerability of topics and people to help us all learn more
* What could be improved?
  • Organization of program
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You do have the ability to talk to people on the phone, but definitely underestimate how much time you'll have available when you tell your friends/family this so you have extra time to explore South Africa. :)

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!