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Studying Abroad in South Africa: Karel

Karel has dual nationality in South Africa and Switzerland, but spent most of his upbringing at international schools in Switzerland and returned to South Africa for his university studies. Read about his experiences studying at Stellenbosch University.

Feb 6, 2024
  • Student Stories
  • Study Abroad in South Africa
Studying Abroad in South Africa

''Do the research diligently and equip yourself with the information necessary to build your own unique study abroad experience.''

- Karel from Switzerland/South Africa

Why did you choose to study in South Africa?

My study abroad experience stems from my eagerness to experience the country of my birth as an older version of myself. Having grown up in Switzerland I did not identify with South Africa in certain areas such as education. My educational background revolved around an international character that I developed at school.  As such, my opportunity and eventual conclusion to go and study in South Africa turned out to be a unique experience revolving around a desire to explore in both a geographic and personal sense. An emphasis on new experiences was what ultimately drove my desire to go abroad.  

What were the best parts of being an international student in South Africa?

Strictly speaking I was not classified as an international student in South Africa since I held a South African passport. Nevertheless, I familiarized myself with South Africa through the lens of other international students at the University as well as my own international upbringing. I had made friends with several people from an international background and it was fantastic to be a true tourist in my home country and to reacquaint myself with my South African roots.

Stellenbosch University is arguably the most picturesque university campus anywhere in the world. The scenic mountain landscape and general proximity to both the Indian and Atlantic oceans means that there are endless opportunities for students like myself who love outdoor activities.    

What was the student life like at your university?

If I had to describe the student life at Stellenbosch University in one word it would have to be “busy.” There is always a cultural event, get together, sports game, social activity or academic related program to get involved with which ensures that there is never a dull moment. Much of this bustling student life boils down to the fact that the weather often plays along.

Many of the events are frequently run by students for students which makes Stellenbosch University an excellent place for socializing and meeting new people on a weekly basis. This combined with a very welcoming and friendly student population means that adapting to your new surroundings is a comfortable process.

What made your university special?

Stellenbosch University is essentially a university town which changes the dynamics around campus during the academic year. Unlike a university situated in a big city, Stellenbosch town and the university quickly delivers a certain feeling of familiarity that made me feel less overwhelmed.     

Do you have any advice for students who may study abroad in South Africa?

With regards to South Africa as a study abroad destination the best advice I could give is to be yourself and bring your previous experiences to your time abroad. In South Africa, as in many places around the world, sharing in stories, experiences and development is important - so be sure to get involved.

Some general advice I would share is to also choose a destination that has meaning to you and not necessarily based on what you have been told by others. Do the research diligently and equip yourself with the information necessary to build your own unique study abroad experience.

Try to break the mold of your previous educational background and embrace challenges. It goes without saying that your study abroad experience will be meaningful but for it to be truly life-changing it pays huge dividends to engage in both personal and academic development whilst studying abroad. It is important that you can thank yourself at the end of your time studying abroad, for the experience that you've had.