If there’s one phrase we constantly hear from the great and wise, it’s that we must do all we can to get out and “see the world”.
Travel as far and as often as you can. Do it when you’re young. Open yourself up to unique opportunities and experiences, things that may never be within such easy grasp once you start climbing the career ladder or have a mortgage to pay. Learn from people from as many walks of life as possible.
If the above sounds exactly what you dream your university years to be, you need head no further than Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
Located in the oak-lined university town of Stellenbosch on the Western Cape, this university is known for many things. It’s among the country’s leading tertiary institutions based on research output, student success and rated scientists. It boasts the highest weighted research output per full-time academic staff member of all South African universities, and the second-highest number of scientists in South Africa to be rated by the National Research Foundation (NRF).
Times Higher Education World University Rankings names it as one of the top 300 universities in the world, also placing it among the BRICS top 20. But academic excellence aside, the school’s vibrant student life is also one of the best.
This century-old institution holds a truly global campus. Internationalisation is a big part of the school board’s agenda, be it in its core research activities, learning and teaching, or within relationships fostered on-campus.
This is a laudable approach. In an age where many countries are looking inwards and closing off their borders, universities are the last bastion of globalisation. Stellenbosch has no plans to overlook the advantages of bringing people and cultures together.
A 2017 report by UniversitiesUK International (UUKi) found a correlation between outward mobility and improved academic/employment outcomes. An impact study of Erasmus, the European Union’s longstanding learning abroad program, also found that studying abroad reduced long-term
unemployment by half, and increased the likelihood of ascending to managerial positions 10-years after graduation.
But domestic students benefit too – a significant majority (78 percent; close to four out of five) of undergraduate students in the UK believe that studying alongside international peers prepares them for work in a global environment.
Consider the international student population at Stellenbosch, which harbours around 4,000 foreign students from 100 countries. If there’s one place to test the veracity of the above research (which is pretty solid and evidence-based), this would be it.
Canadian Morgan Wall describes enrolling at Stellenbosch as a dream fulfilled:
“I would encourage other Canadians to study at Stellenbosch University because the environment, facilities, multitude of cultures, and incredible people simply cannot be replicated back in Canada! It is an experience that is so hard to put into words. Studying here has left me with memories that I will never forget, and I have changed so much as a person because of the incredible experiences I have had here.”
Five campuses, one college town, no compromise on safety
The identity of Stellenbosch town revolves around the more than 30,000 students who call it home. Nestled among the picturesque mountains in the heart of the Cape Winelands, the town buzzes with young energy and comes alive with the different cultures and activities taking place.
“There’s a lot going on at Stellenbosch – the culture, entertainment and the university. And definitely, by far, the thing I love most about Stellenbosch is the community that the campus has,” says Chris Walker from the US, now a BCom Economics student at Stellenbosch.
The university’s five campuses – Main campus, Tygerberg (Bellville), Bellville Park, Saldanha, Ukwanda Rural Clinical School(Worcester) – line this town’s oak-shaded streets, enlivened with cafes, boutiques and modern art galleries.
The university emphasises all matters of student health and security. Health care facilities are available both on campus and off-campus through the network of medical and dental practitioners in the town’s provincial and private hospitals.
As for security, the Stellenbosch University Protection Services (USBD) have trained guards on 24/7 patrol to create a safe and orderly environment for the university community and assist in the case of emergencies.
The world is your oyster
From Hong Kong to Germany, Stellenbosch students have a plethora of study abroad opportunities to take on.
The Semester Exchange program lets students experience exchange at more than 100 institutions abroad, from SciencePo to Leipzig, West Virginia to Nagoya University.
The Tübingen – South Africa Program, is a chance for South African students to gain exposure to German culture and language. There are also summer schools – at independent or partner schools – in which students spend one to six weeks in a tertiary education institution outside of South Africa.
Katleho spent five months at the University of Antwerp in Belgium as part of her student exchange, finding the experience to be a challenging yet rewarding.
“I was rather apprehensive about those modules with numerous presentations each week, but I took it as a chance to step outside of my comfort zone and really develop my presentation skills,” she explains.
Above all, her biggest take-away was the “genuine connections” she made with the people who were different to her.
“The memories of awkward and often hilarious language miscommunications and having shared so many firsts…All the stories you tell and pictures you show don’t seem to do justice to the experience.”