Fanny Martinsson, Nursing programme, University of the Free State, South Africa.
My name is Fanny Martinsson and I am a nursing student at Jönköping University. I just finished my 5th semester, which I spent in South Africa (July 2018-December 2018). Lots of people wonder why I decided to go all the way to South Africa for my exchange. The reasons are many! I wanted to go somewhere as far away as possible because it makes the adventure even more exciting, but the main reason is that I wanted to see something different from home. A different culture and climate, different people, different health care...
I traveled to South Africa together with four classmates and we had a great time from the start to the end. The campus of the university is huge and feels like a little own town with a supermarket, pool, tennis courses, gyms, restaurants, and a lot of residences. There are approximately 38,000 students (compared to 11,000 at JU) and it takes 30 minutes to walk from one side to the other. I stayed in a double room with my classmate Caroline. The people we met were genuinely kind and welcoming from the very beginning and they helped us with everything.
During our semester we studied Psychology and Psychiatric Nursing, and the psychiatry was built upon one theoretic and one practical part. I did not experience school too hard compared to in Sweden. Our teachers were proficient, helpful and kind to us. The theoretic courses were built upon three small tests spread over the semester and one final exam in the end. Due to our practical course, we had six weeks of practical work on three different places; one private psychiatric hospital, one day-care for intellectual children and adults, and one public psychiatric complex.
In addition to this, we also got to go to a small town called Trompsburg for a week, in where we worked together with doctors and occupational therapists. The aim was to help people who do not have enough money for health care. Among other things, we screened children on primary schools for an early detection of mental and physical illness, did home visits, and educated adults with diabetes mellitus. It was a huge eye-opener for me to see how the health care works in South Africa and I once again feel very thankful for the health care system we have in Sweden. However, we did not get to do any of the nursing tasks and we felt that we did not learn so much from that point of view.
Besides the school work, we had time to do some traveling as well. Since the city of Bloemfontein is not very exciting, I recommend to rent a car and explore other cities even during the semester. There are a lot to see in South Africa, and Bloemfontein is a good base to travel from since it is in the middle of the country.
If you are thinking of going on an exchange, do it! If you are thinking of going to South Africa, do it! You will experience things that Sweden cannot offer. You will take part of the amazing nature and the very different culture, you will get to know many different kinds of people, and you will create memories that you will never forget.