Skip to main content

Putting the “study” in study abroad

Karolina Kielbania, Public Health and Development  in South Africa, Spring 2014


Greetings from Stellenbosch!

This past week and a half has been absolutely incredible. South Africa has definitely managed to exceed my expectations and capture my heart in just this short timespan. Our first week here sort of felt like a second spring break; we got to walk the streets of Stellenbosch (which reminds me of a European town), eat amazing food, tour beautiful and historic places, etc. I have included some pictures with some of the highlights which include views of Stellenbosch mountain, as well as the view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain.

But, I want to focus this post on one of the aspects of study abroad that usually gets forgotten: the academics! Don’t get me wrong, the touring, the eating, the socializing, and the cultural immersion are all absolutely wonderful pluses of studying abroad. However, the academic aspect really allows us to put what we are seeing into perspective, as well as giving us the necessary background information. We just started classes this week, and I already feel like I have learned so much. Just to give some background, we are taking four Northwestern classes here at Stellenbosch University which include the following:

Development- We will all be working at various NGOs in the surrounding areas once a week, and the types of projects that students do will depend on the NGO that they are working at. I haven’t received my assigned area yet but I am super excited to find out where I’ll be working!

Public Health- This class consists of many excursions. The professor doesn’t believe in straight lectures, which I think is obviously great. So, throughout the quarter, we will be visiting various health areas such as clinics, hospitals, etc. We actually went on our first excursion this week which consisted of the community care clinic in Macassar (a free clinic), a private hospital (Mediclinic), and a district hospital. This experience was extremely eye opening and allowed us to see just how wide the disparities are within healthcare. Although there was a lot of information acquired throughout the day, one of the key takeaways for me was the fact that the private hospital only serves about 7% of the population. This was the most high tech, clean, and well staffed hospital out of the three; it reminded me of a typical hospital seen in the States (it may have even been better quality than some). The other percentage of the population is served through the public hospital, which was extremely crowded, understaffed, and noisy.

Politics- This course serves as a way for us to get familiar with the apartheid past and the transition to democracy in South Africa. From the first lecture, I can already tell that this course will be very information heavy, but extremely interesting.

Language, Culture, and Identity-  From my perception of this course so far, I can already tell that this one will be the most easy going out of the four. Our first lecture consisted of learning about the origins of the official languages in South Africa (there are 11), and then learning some phrases in Afrikaans and isiXhosa (which is actually the language that Mr. Mandela spoke) through a song.

So, with that in mind, I shall say “Lekker dag” and will update with more in the coming weeks!



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *