Ludwig Simmeborn, Nursing Programme, University of the Free State, South Africa
I’m Ludwig, and at this moment I am studying my fifth term (third year) of the nursing program in Jonkoping University. Or at least I would have if I didn’t go on exchange to South Africa for 4,5 months. I studied at the University of the Free State and finished a little bit earlier than my friends back home since the dates for the term are different. I did however miss out on half my summer-break since we started studying the 23rd of July.
I have a great passion for traveling and experiencing different cultures than what I’m used to, therefore an exchange term was no doubt for me. I did choose between Netherlands and South Africa but ended up selecting South Africa since my perception was that the culture down there differed a lot from ours back home. The educational part was slightly different than in Jonkoping since we in South Africa read 3 courses at a time (Psychology, Theoretical Psychiatry and Practical Psychiatry) which lasted the whole term. The two theoretical courses consisted of 3 tests each, some hand in papers and a main exam in the end of the year. Whilst the practical consisted of practical work (duh….) at three different places, a day care for disabled children, a psychiatric hospital and a psychiatric criminal institution.
Something that we soon learned about South Africa after arriving was that organization wasn’t their strongest side. The two theoretical courses worked out just fine while the practical was a little bit worse where some of us had to complete almost twice as much practical work as the other half. Otherwise we mainly observed in the practical work except for the daycare where we really got to integrate with the children. Even though it was a little bit uneven it was still really interesting to see how they worked there and I learned a lot.
Despite being a bit unorganized, we got all the information we needed, and the international coordinator was very helpful and quick in responding to emails. Once arrived some question marks did however appear where we didn’t really know where our lecturers were and where we got the student literature. This did sort itself out in time and we managed fine in the end.
The housing situation worked out fine…for most of us, except me. All the Swedes got placed in one end of campus which had rather high standard housing while I got placed in the other end of campus, in the lower standard housing. Of course I paid less than what they did but I would still question their decision in splitting us up. I did however share my room with a German guy which also got separated from his friends but we both was more than keen to move. And luckily we did, after sending loads of emails to the international coordinator and the head of housing. Once I moved to the other Swedes the housing was way better than expected, clean, fresh, new and the best thing was that cleaning and bed-making was included.
Pricewise the country was in general cheaper than Sweden where you could get a student meal for 20kr or a nicer restaurant meal for 60kr. The thing that differed the least from the Swedish prices was the clothing and especially the shoes which was basically the same price as home. The accommodation was also cheaper where we paid roughly 2200kr per month for one of the nicest residents on campus.
During my exchange term I’ve developed through language, academically, and I’ve also become more independent. I would definitely recommend to go on an exchange in South Africa, you learn a lot and everything from the culture to the mindset is so different from back home. One of the negative things we experienced was that the criminality rate was rather high which stops you from going out when it’s dark outside, you could however stay within the campus area after dark. None of us got into any trouble and a good advice would be to be careful and not stupid. Something positive is that the city doesn’t really get much people from overseas which makes everyone so nice, friendly and interested when they find out that you are.
One of the best things with South Africa is that it’s so much to see and experience so don’t be afraid to try new things. Something that was really handy was that the study phase was rather slow down there and the teachers really helped us to get as much time off as possible to allow us to travel around and experience stuff which was wonderful.
I did not write any blog when I was away but I, together with the other Swedes have an Instagram if you are interested in seeing some pictures: thisissouthafrica_
I have also worked on some really basic travel videos mainly for my own sake which you are very welcome to check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpSC_LBqHDY