Learning about South Africa and seeing the country in ACTION! Past Review

By (Reconciliation Studies, Bethel University) - abroad from 01/10/2011 to 05/06/2011 with

Study Abroad Programs in South Africa

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Getting introduced to South Africa was like being introduced to a part of myself and my own history I didn't know before. Because of the oppressive past and current issues now facing this vibrant country and continent, I was challenged to question certain aspects of the Western worldview as well as aspects of my faith. I didn't know much about South Africa or Africa when I arrived, but now I feel like I have a better understanding of its vast culture and rich traditions.

Review Photos

Study Abroad Programs in South Africa Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The first class I took was the History of South Africa- It was one class taken over the course of three weeks, and involved a lot of great local excursions. It was fun to learn history in the morning, then in the afternoon go out to the places that you just learned about! Once the semester started, it was a different story. The semester is only six weeks long, and I was used to having three months to fit in all that studying-The classes at Cornerstone were much more intense than I was used to. My GPA actually went down while I was there, which was disappointing. I feel like I learned a lot about South Africa and my area of study. I enjoyed my classes, save for one (African Worldview, only because it was a new/temporary teacher and he was AWFUL). Half of the classes were with American students and the other half was integrated with South African students, which I think was so important because it created natural way to make South African friends. The students and staff at Cornerstone are VERY inviting and welcoming. They were great!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I was impressed with the host administration. They were available and accessible to us and very personable as well. They traveled with us on all our excursions and yet gave us space to do our own thing.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed with a local South African family, who took their job as host family very seriously. They went above and beyond call of duty- my host mom was a GREAT cook!

* Food:

The food was... Amaaaazzzzing!!! South African food is very diverse-European, Indian, and traditional African food! My favorite was beans curry.. wow! The only issue I found to be slightly annoying was, weekly, we were given some money for lunch, but it was usually only enough to make a sandwich. By the time I got home in the evenings (emphasis on evenings), I was STARVING, and still would have to wait a couple of hours for dinner to be ready (my host family ate late, which is not uncommon).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I think staying with a host family and taking classes with South Africans were really good ways to be integrated into society. Because I'm brown, I didn't stand out as a foreigner as much as my fellow white students- people didn't even know I was American until I spoke, which I think helped me feel more integrated.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had no health issues, so I can't complain nor compliment.

* Safety:

Like any big city, Cape Town has crime/petty theft. Wherever there is such vastness between poverty and richness, while living across the street from each other, there are going to be injustices. I didn't experience many threatening situations- there were incidents involving guys hollering at me or trying to lure me over. Unfortunately, women have to wary of those situations, just like in any big city in any country! The host institution was very good about informing us about the reality of theft and made sure we understood not to put ourselves in dangerous situations. No one from my group was involved in any safety-related incidents.

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)

I had to spend some extra money on lunch because the weekly stipend wasn't much. If I wanted to do anything extra like go out to eat, or get snacks, that all came out of my own pocket. Any extra travel, like going to the beach, also came out of my pocket .

* 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? $30
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you are receiving the Pell Grant, you qualify for the Gilman scholarship (you can find it on google), which was SO helpful for me. I didn't have to worry about money the whole time I was there.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • I loved taking classes with South African and African students
  • The excursions were both fun and intellectually stimulating!
  • My homestay experience was very good! They invited us into their everyday lives, even though they knew that we would only be there a short amount of time.
* What could be improved?
  • While the excursions were great, a long weekend excursionwas planned in the middle of the semester, which was very stressful
  • The service learning was poorly planned, though this wasn't the programs fault (but of the church we were working with)
  • There was perhaps TOO many things to do (like excursions and service learning) and not enough time to study or spend with South Africans until the very end.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how academically challenging it would be. There are very few resources and internet isn't as easily accessible as it is in the USA.