Pien van der Sanden in South Africa

Field of study in Wageningen: International Development Studies
Study period exchange: 02/01/2018 until 30/06/2018
Country (exchange): South Africa
University (exchange): Stellenbosch University
Faculty (exchange): Art and Social Sciences

2. Motivation for exchange

What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

I have always been interested in Africa and Stellenbosch is the only university that has an exchange programme with Wageningen. South Africa is a beautiful country with a difficult history. A lot of interesting stuff are happening and happened.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

Flying to Cape Town and international office will pick you from the airport the day you arrive.

General tip: Share ubers with other students. Join the international student Facebook group for Stellenbosch university.
Also, be aware of the water crisis in the Western Cape. They ask you to help in saving water. This means short showers of 2 minutes and only flushing the toilet when really necessarily. Some taps are locked and not working in university and in Cape Town. They use hand sanitizer instead. You should try to help in saving water also when you will only be there for half a year.
Please start early with arranging your visa, because this will take a lot of time and effort.

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

I followed sociology courses and I had to write a lot of essays. Level is quite similar to Wageningen or maybe a bit easier. The workload is only a bit more. Lectures in big lecture halls and tutorials in smaller groups, every lecture/tutorial takes 50 minutes. At the end of semester exams, sometimes tests in the middle of the semester.

What is the culture of the university?

The lecturers I had are really easy to approach. Actually it is quite similar to Wageningen. There is an introduction week for international students and you can subscribe for having a buddy. I would recommend doing both. My tutorials were giving by master students/PhD.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

There is a lot to do at Stellenbosch University. As international student you can subscribe for the same societies as other Stellenbosch students. Most student houses have laundry facilities. You can also hire a maties bike if you want, but most students do everything by foot. There is a maties gym including outdoor and indoor swimming pool. A student centre with a lot of coffee shops and some stores for lunch and other stuff. Also a big library with a lot of tables to sit, only sometimes hard to find a computer or plug in place. They offer WIFI but you have to pay for this.


What are the possibilities for housing? 

For private rooms you should be fast. Some private houses with international students are Bosman house, Beach house, Poolhouse, de Jordaan, etc. You can also choose for Academia (a big gated area with complexes, they put the international students together in a complex). Academia is cheaper than the private houses but also different. You have to buy everything yourself such as pots and pans while in the private houses it is already there. I lived in Bosman House and this was a good choice. It is expensive, almost 500 euro per month, but I would do it again. The good thing about this house is that half are international students and the other half South African. There is a nice outdoor area with braai (bbq) place and swimming pool and it is close to campus. I did almost all the travelling etc with my roommates.

What is the culture of the country like? 

They like meat here, you are going to attend a lot of braais during summer time. The distinction between white and black people is visible and Stellenbosch is a former white Afrikaans university what means that the demographics of Stellenbosch is not similar to the demographics of South Africa. A lot of things are still in Afrikaans (not a big issue for Dutch students) but almost everything is also in English now. You will definitely feel the tension between the different population groups in South Africa and the inequality. Also they speak in race terms as black, coloured and white. The apartheid structures are still visible. At Stellenbosch university study a lot of privileged white kids that live in their own bubble. There is not a lot of mixing between students from different backgrounds. However, you are going to love this place. There are a lot of friendly people who create a good atmosphere. South Africans are friendly and will always help you. Stellenbosch is safe compared to other places in South Africa (SA), however you should be aware of robbery and other kinds of criminality. Rich and poor live literally next to each other here. Do not walk around looking on your phone but put it away. During day time you can walk freely on campus ground and surroundings; the mall etc., but in the evenings they recommend to go by Uber or walk in big groups. Almost all restaurants and other food places I have visited have really nice food. They have the same food as in Europe and going out for dinner is quite cheap. Their currency is RAND.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

Academia around 300 euro a month (I guess). Private houses 400-500 euro a month. Also, you have to buy electricity in the supermarket and electricity for hot water. In Academia this is already included, in Bosman house not. It works the same as prepaid on your phone.

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure? 

University by foot or bike. In the evenings Uber (cheapest is 21 rand a ride, just install the Uber app on your phone and connect it to your creditcard (they prefer this over cash)). Renting a car for visiting for example Cape Town is sometimes cheaper than going everywhere by Uber (depends if you share an Uber, etc.).

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area?

There is a lot to do in South Africa. Of course you are going to visit Cape Town and surroundings. Stellenbosch is a wine area so you won’t leave here without having visited a lot of wine farms. The wine tastings are cheap. Travelling mostly happens by car or Uber. A lot of international students rent a car if they go somewhere for a day or few days. Otherwise you can go everywhere by Uber. Inside Stellenbosch you can walk or bike. Most international students go on the Garden Route, to Cederberge, Cape Town, etc. and after the semester they travel to Namibia and Botswana or other Southern African countries. Besides, I would definitely recommend Lesotho (a little country inside the borders of South Africa) during summer times. It is really easy to find people to travel with.

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?

Visit a concert of the Stellenbosch University choir, this is magical! They are one of world’s best university choirs. If you are here first semester (from January to June) you should definitely visit the varsity rugby games and support the maties team (buy a season ticket). There are a lot of nice hikes in the surroundings of Stellenbosch. The Panorama hike in Jonkershoek gives you beautiful views. Also go on the wine tram in Franschhoek for a day. Join the surfing society for surf lessons at Strand.