A Vehicle for an International Perspective Past Review

By (Keene State College) - abroad from 05/14/2012 to 06/02/2012 with

Study Abroad Programs in South Africa

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that I need to focus more on international affairs. I met a young boy in a township that was more interested in talking to me about Barack Obama than playing futbol - that struck a chord in me and told me I had to learn more about what was going on outside of the US in order to understand myself and my country better.

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.

A particular focus on experiential education in the South African culture and a host of opportunities to interact and embed in the area. Was coupled with institution-led discussions and a final research paper at the culmination.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Every activity and excursion was expertly planned and we never had any issues with transport, meals, admission to events/locations or lectures. Not a perfect score because of one mix-up the last night where the hostel was booked already and we had to be put in a hotel.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The two hostels we stayed at were exceptional. They had comfortable and interesting rooms that were in tune with the diverse and unique characteristics of South Africa itself. Some even put on cultural events throughout our stay such as cooking traditional dinners and garage soirees.

* Food:

There was always consultation with locals for the best fare. We tried to combine eating at restaurants with some local experiences. A trip to a Sunday barbeque party in a township was by far more of an experience than just the meal had to offer. Exotic foods such as springbok, ostrich, ox, pap and crocodile were all received well!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Due to the shorter length of the program I did not feel as immersed. The group of students were consistently together throughout the entire program, and there were not many opportunities to stray on one's own or to separate into smaller groups. However, there were many cultural experiences that were integrative such as playing futbol with schoolchildren, attending a church service and visiting with families in townships.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

There were no health issues on the program.

* Safety:

I felt completely safe at all times. The choice of neighborhoods to stay in and the areas we were taken were not of great danger to visitors. There may have been a couple of instances of being asked for money or food, but these were not escalated.

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)

My program was all-inclusive and so the only costs were for personal expense. However, I did have a problem with my bank clearing my debit card for use and I was never able to retrieve local currency.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50-80
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I traveled to a country where the currency ratio was quite favorable to Americans. However, I would warn that even in these countries with good exchange rates there can be a lot of mark-up on items and sometimes items will be more expensive than initially thought.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?
  • Getting the chance to visit with families and walk around the South African townships. This was the most "real" experience the program offered.
  • Hiking to the top of Table Mountain with just enough time to see the sunset over the ocean.
  • Dancing with locals during a lively church service, followed by the biggest block party in Gugulethu.
* What could be improved?
  • Integrate more breakout experiences for smaller groups.
  • Time between Johannesburg and Cape Town was unbalanced - more time in JoBurg!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I have a deeper appreciation for South Africa because much of our program focused on the scars of apartheid paired with the development initiatives the nation is undertaking now.