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zweiBierebitte
Topic Author
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:21 am

Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:23 am

Hey y’all,

So to get to the point, I’m thinking seriously about studying abroad in fall 2010 in South Africa, specifically, at the University of Cape Town. My reasons to study there are numerous- I’m fascinated by South African history, I want to study a language wherever I end up studying abroad (So Afrikaans or Zulu perhaps?), and I’ve heard great things about Cape Town. My family who have been there have remarked at its beauty and in general, it sounds to me like a very nice, relaxed place to live. Yet in light of all of these reasons to study there, I do have some concerns (And when I say me, I mean my parents haha).

1. Safety, obviously. My mom basically said that she wants me to come back home from studying abroad alive and in one piece, and she’s absolutely petrified about stories she’s heard of South African crime. Just like anyone else who’s an avid traveler, I’ve heard countless reports on the terribleness of South African crime. So in CT, (Specifically the areas around UCT), how bad is the crime? I’m a city boy by birth so I know how to use my common sense in big cities, and I attend college in Washington, DC- not exactly the safest city in America at times!

2. Kind of a tangent off of safety, but how much is there to do? Another worry my parents have of studying abroad in SA is that they think I’ll just be holed up in some electric-fenced, guarded compound and that I won’t leave it except to go to classes because it’s too unsafe outside of the razor-wired walls. To what extent is this true?

So anyway, if I could get some of your opinions and advice, that would be great! I’m probably going to be in South Africa anyway next summer (Going to be in Jo’burg for the World Cup!), so it’d be nice to not fly home that summer and just stay in South Africa until the Northern winter!

Thanks a lot and take care. I’m looking forward to your responses!
 
airxliban
Posts: 4307
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2003 12:14 pm

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 6:06 am

Well...all I can say is that Cape Town is one of my favourite cities on the planet. I am sure some of our South Africans will be able to provide more detail than I can.

I've just visited once, and I was blown away... the city itself is lovely, the architecture is classic, the people are incredible, the natural beauty of the cape area is breathtaking...the beaches are awesome (each one is different). Great food and wine, entertainment and nightlife as well. If all of that wasn't enough, it's also a very affordable city by western standards. You sure as hell won't get bored. There is too much to do, too much to experience, too much to enjoy.

Crime - I met people who told me horror stories of not being able to leave their building on foot. If you're from Washington DC I doubt you'll have any problem coming back in one piece. Obviously you have to be vigilant, and the chance of getting mugged is higher than in Oslo, but I think overall it's worthwhile. I walked around the V&A waterfront area quite late at night (alone) a couple of nights in a row and didn't feel unsafe...for what that is worth. But I know that UCT isn't there.

From what I was told by locals, most of the violent crime homicides and the like and centred around the townships and are typically colour on colour. And Cape Town isn't as bad as Johannesburg.

Alright, I think I've said enough for someone who has only spent 10 days in South Africa. If you have an opportunity to go, absolutely do it! I am sure you won't regret it.

Quoting ZweiBierebitte (Thread starter):
Kind of a tangent off of safety, but how much is there to do? Another worry my parents have of studying abroad in SA is that they think I’ll just be holed up in some electric-fenced, guarded compound and that I won’t leave it except to go to classes because it’s too unsafe outside of the razor-wired walls

South Africa is too beautiful to do that...I am sure that that is not how most South Africans experience their country. It sounds more like what you would do if you live in Riyadh.

Definitely go and have a great time!
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.
 
Springbok747
Posts: 3993
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 9:13 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 6:22 am

UCT is a great university to study. I did a semester (6 months) there in 2003, the location is beautiful and there are lots of things to do around Cape Town.

As far as the crime goes..just be vigilant as you'd be in any big city..some people just exaggerate their own experiences (I know a few people who said they'd been mugged at gunpoint when really the guy just asked them for money on the beach). Considering you are from DC you will do just fine in SA. Just use common sense..don't venture out alone at night, don't display cash/jewelry etc etc...you know the deal. It is perfectly safe to walk everywhere on campus (or if you need to go around at night, just call the university security they'll give you a lift).
I've got loads of info on UCT..PM me if you want more details  Smile
אני תומך בישראל
 
andz
Posts: 7685
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2004 7:49 pm

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:48 am

I think your parents need to spend less time watching TV news and get there to see for themselves. We also read and see plenty of horror stories about other countries.
After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
 
sw733
Posts: 5881
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 6:19 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:34 pm



Quoting ZweiBierebitte (Thread starter):
Zulu perhaps?

Not much Zulu spoken in the Western Cape..Afrikaans and Xhosa are the big ones there. If you want to study Zulu, I would head further east to KwaZulu-Natal (Durban area) or even Johannesburg...Durban is great, Johannesburg is not, so pick your battles. I would stay in Cape Town and either do Afrikaans or Xhosa, which is a cool click language.

Quoting ZweiBierebitte (Thread starter):
Safety, obviously. My mom basically said that she wants me to come back home from studying abroad alive and in one piece, and she’s absolutely petrified about stories she’s heard of South African crime.

No offense mate, but your mom needs to learn some current events. Even Johannesburg, once one of the most dangerous places on earth (made Bogota look safe) is safer now...note it's not great, but it's much much much better. Cape Town is as safe as can be, as is most of South Africa (and most of the continent). Don't be stupid and don't do stuff you would not do in DC, NY, Chicago, LA, etc. and you will be fine whether you are in Cape Town City Centre or the plains of Free State of Northern Cape. As Andz said, DC is not shed in the best light in South Africa, but most people know that if they are smart they will be safe. I think it was Anthony Bourdain who said something along the lines of "If I saw Paris Hilton in a dark alley with lots of jewelry, I'd rob the bitch"

Quoting ZweiBierebitte (Thread starter):
but how much is there to do?

Swimming, sailing, fishing, hiking, wine drinking, golf, safari's, visiting beautiful neighbors like Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and (of course) Namibia, the list goes on and on. Within a few hours of Cape Town you can do anything from sitting on a beach or swimming in (two) oceans to hiking and visiting vineyards...it's about as close to heaven as one can get.

Can you tell I love Cape Town?
 
Euclid
Posts: 324
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2005 3:42 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:45 pm

I cannot add anything that hasn't been said already, except to just say go for it. You will not be disappointed.

Also, if you ever get the chance to go inland, be sure to visit the Lowveld area and the Kruger National Park.

South Africa is great. You will never run out of things to do.
 
whappeh
Posts: 1058
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 4:47 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:47 pm

I just spent a month in Cape Town, and would move there tomorrow if I could. Same problems any other city has. Also went inland to Kruger and Johannesburg. Can't recommend South Africa enough, though I think it'll be a bit crazy next year.
-Travel now, journey infinitely.
 
zweiBierebitte
Topic Author
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:21 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:49 am



Quoting Andz (Reply 3):
I think your parents need to spend less time watching TV news and get there to see for themselves. We also read and see plenty of horror stories about other countries.

I know  Sad. It's really too bad that SA gets so much negative press over here for its crime, but that's just how things work.. I don't think I've read a positive article about SA in American newspapers at all... one day it's a new report on AIDS, the next it's statistics about the South African wealth divide, and then of course there's the numerous coverage of the crime. Bad news sells, and it's truly a shame that the American media loves to put negative stories about SA. I'm still waiting to see a headline like "SA Crime Declines" in an American newspaper, but I'll have a better chance of winning the lottery than seeing that story...

Quoting SW733 (Reply 4):
Not much Zulu spoken in the Western Cape..Afrikaans and Xhosa are the big ones there. If you want to study Zulu, I would head further east to KwaZulu-Natal (Durban area) or even Johannesburg...Durban is great, Johannesburg is not, so pick your battles. I would stay in Cape Town and either do Afrikaans or Xhosa, which is a cool click language.

No offense mate, but your mom needs to learn some current events. Even Johannesburg, once one of the most dangerous places on earth (made Bogota look safe) is safer now...note it's not great, but it's much much much better.

Awesome, thanks! I was just using Zulu as an example, still need to read up more on SA languages haha. But Xhosa sounds cool to me!

Once again, South Africa gets mostly negative coverage in the U.S media, so please don't shoot the messenger! It really is a shame, but that's where you guys come in, right? Need to let me know the truth! Big grin

Thanks for all the other comments! You guys echo what I've heard about Cape Town, and I can definitely say that I'm definitely becoming set on studying there!
 
corocks
Posts: 1127
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 8:57 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:10 pm

I think it is important to determine what you want your career to be when you get out of school. Picking a school just because it is in a cool place is usually not the best move. Getting a degree in Zulu and SA history is not going to help you much in the states unless you get a job working for the government or in international business. Just make sure you are going there for the right reasons.
 
sw733
Posts: 5881
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 6:19 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:16 pm



Quoting COrocks (Reply 8):
I think it is important to determine what you want your career to be when you get out of school.

I disagree. At a young age, there is absolutely nothing wrong not knowing what you want to do for a career. I think it's out-of-date to expect 18 year olds to know what they want to do for the next 50 or 60 years...if you plan to be a doctor or lawyer, then MAYBE it's necessary, but even then you can go back. I know a guy who got a BA in German but then decided he wanted to be a doctor and went back to school for a BS in Biology and an MD...I know a lawyer who got a degree in aero engineering with me and then decided after 3 1/2 years that he would rather be a lawyer and went to law school...

However, these days you more or less need a degree, at least an Associate's, to get by well. That being said, doing something you enjoy (and thus will do good at), and then going to grad school for something more specialized is just fine...for our generation (I am 25) a Master's degree is almost a necessity.

Quoting COrocks (Reply 8):
Getting a degree in Zulu and SA history is not going to help you much in the states unless you get a job working for the government or in international business

I don't think he necessarily said he was going to get a degree in that stuff, just study it. It's not a 4/5-year program he's looking at, from my understanding, it's just study abroad.

Quoting ZweiBierebitte (Reply 7):
so please don't shoot the messenger!

Oh I know. Trust me, there is still some bitterness between SA and Namibia, and I live in the USA now so I hear all of the anti-SA stuff. I also always call people's bluff on the whole "Africa is dangerous" thing. Hell, one of my best friends, a white-as-white-can-be Christian is living in Niger and hasn't had a scratch put on her, and actually has decided to stay there longer. According to many people I know, she should have been raped and murdered by now "because it's Africa" or "because it's Muslim Africa"...I am super proud of my continent and super proud of being an African (albeit a white one), so I defend my continent quite quickly.
 
zweiBierebitte
Topic Author
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:21 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:08 pm



Quoting COrocks (Reply 8):
Getting a degree in Zulu and SA history is not going to help you much in the states unless you get a job working for the government or in international business. Just make sure you are going there for the right reasons.

Well, that's why I would be going there! My major is international relations, and I'm thinking about my region focus to be Africa with a functional field focus of international economic relations or international development. I'm nearly fluent in French, so adding another language spoken in Africa to my resumé probably wouldn't hurt job prospects for the future... at which right now I'm thinking about going into the State Department, Foreign Service (Crossing my fingers- definitely going to take the FSO test when I graduate just to see if I pass), or a business with international interests. So yes, studying abroad in SA would help me with my career aspirations  Smile

Quoting SW733 (Reply 9):
I don't think he necessarily said he was going to get a degree in that stuff, just study it. It's not a 4/5-year program he's looking at, from my understanding, it's just study abroad.

Exactly- I just want to get out of the States for a semester for a different experience. And even so, even my parents have told me that what I study doesn't matter- looking at them, both of their degress (Both undergrad and even grad to some extent) have become useless in their current careers- so I'm not too worried about studying the wrong thing lol

And regarding negative perceptions of Africa in the U.S, that's why I'm looking forward to studying there! I try and live my life by the idea that you only know something once you've tried it, so the only way I'll actually get to disprove American perceptions of SA will be to live there for a bit.
 
eric
Posts: 324
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2003 9:37 am

RE: Thinking About Studying In South Africa- Thoughts?

Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:06 am

If any tip, when you do go there seeing you want to work with IR related fields - travel. Any employer will ask you when you are done whether you did travelling - try to go out of the way to countries which are "exotic" such as many as the neighbouring countries. SA, although very exciting, is also in many ways like any modern city in the world.

I'd go there in a heartbeat. I've been considering doing my MBA there but sadly it does not have enough focus on developing markets economics, which is one of the things appealing to me. I went there last year, going back this winter - the place is probably one of the best places I've ever been to. As already said, everything about it is great.

One of my friends did her MSc at the University of Stellenbosch, some of her class mates (IR-related course) moved to CT in the last term and they really love the place. She is considering moving there for at least the next year when she graduates in a few weeks.

Trust me, from someone who did not do it at university (too tired of moving around at that point), an exchange program is looked very favourably upon by employers.
n

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