I would highly recommend any student looking into an exchange to consider South Africa and Stellenbosch University. I part took in a six month, semester one exchange in January 2015. Stellenbosch is a University town, with students living on campus in either a residence, generally first and second year students or a digs, third and fourth year students living in a house with a few friends. Semester 1, January is the start of a new university year, orientation week involves getting to know the other international students as well as integration into university life. These include rugby games, student night, and getting to know the local area, which is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards.
Walking, bikes or skateboards are the main mode of transport. Unfortunately there is no public transport, however we did rely on ubers and eventually hired a car to allow more freedom to adventure beyond Stellenbosch.
My exchange experience was different from others by befriending a girl, who had migrated to Australia at the age of 5 and was returning to South Africa to spend time with family, friends and to study. We were able to borrow an uncles car to drive to and from Cape Town most weekends and stay with her cousins. Cape Town is an amazing city, driving in most weekends with the sun setting over table mountain and lions head is unforgettable.
It has a great nightlife with a lot of restaurants and bars, all very affordable with the great exchange rate!.
Events like first Thursday with galleries and bars open, people flood the streets, drinking, eating and viewing gallery’s. We loved to go out in Cape Town, being 22 we were slightly older than the 18/19 year old student crowd in Stellenbosch and over large clubs so CT provided a lot of smaller pubs and bars.
Stellenbosch is traditionally an Afrikaans university, therefore some classes are taught in Afrikaans. However to accommodate for international students and a vast majority of English South Africans, lectures are taught twice a week, each in their respective language. With South Africa having eleven official languages, everyone spoke English and I never found there to be a language barrier.
In terms of travelling and holidays, there is a week break in April. I hired a house with friends in Camps bay, a beach suburb in Cape Town. Other students hired cars and drove the garden route, which is best in the summer months with a lot of great beaches and hiking opportunities. Post exams in May, the weather had turned to winter so I travelled to Mauritius for a week as well as spending time in Cape Town and time exploring the surrounding wine yards and areas of Stellenbosch. Game drives or safari’s are the obvious choice in Africa, however I had previous been on a few in 2013. I would recommend looking into tour companies such as nomad who offer affordable packages for trips of all type. Namibian deserts, Zanzibar beaches or victoria falls.
Overall I loved my time at Stellenbosch, its an exchange experience different to all others. Stellenbosch provides a safe environment in what is often thought of as a very dangerous country. It’s a combination of the surrounding mountains, the vineyards, the white Dutch architecture, the students who have grown up in such a diverse country, making them inclusive and accepting, the charm of a developing country where thing never really work as efficiently at home but it gives you time to appreciate how people are still so proud of their county and hopeful about the future. Cant wait to return!