February 29th 2024

Greetings from South Africa

Master's student Eva-Maria Franke spends her semester abroad at the University of Pretoria and shares her experiences

Why did you choose this particular partner university?

South Africa as a country has interested me for a long time. It is not only the incredible size and vastness, but above all the diversity of the country's landscape, culture, wildlife, and adventures that appeals to me. Through my master's degree, I am becoming more and more aware of how beautiful and important diversity is for my personal and professional self. The semester abroad enables me to broaden my professional horizons and increases my experience.

One reason why I chose the University of Pretoria is its excellent reputation for teaching and research in the social sciences. The university offers me a wide range of study options, especially the opportunity to participate in seminars and workshops with leading experts and academics. This gives me the chance to broaden my knowledge in the social field of politics, labor, and management from a global perspective. The University of Pretoria in South Africa is also located in a very historically rich country and I wanted to learn more about intersectional issues from a non-Eurocentric perspective and broaden my horizons.

The different languages, people and cultures within South Africa make the country dazzling and exciting and you learn new perspectives with every conversation. Living with everyday problems such as load shedding (the deliberate shutdown of electric power) or security restrictions are also challenges that allow you to surpass yourself. Even though the position of exchange students is very privileged, these are conditions that have also opened up new perspectives for me.

How do you like the university city? How do you experience the culture of the host country?

Pretoria as a city offers advantages and disadvantages, as the safety restrictions are very clear and the load shedding is extremely present. However, the student bubble and the proximity of the accommodation to the campus is ideal. The location is also perfect for trips, as the proximity to Johannesburg, the national parks and many other highlights of the country is ideal.

The helpful, friendly people form many communities and are always happy to meet new faces. Everyone is extremely nice and they take good care of each other, which is the first time I've experienced this, and which is wonderful.

Nature is definitely one of the most beautiful aspects of South Africa for me. In November, the flowers of the jacaranda trees turn purple all over Pretoria and Johannesburg, and you can find purple speckled ground everywhere. On safaris, I have seen elephants, zebras, and even cheetahs five meters away from our car. And you can enjoy the beautiful sunsets in the diverse landscapes - at the canyons, the mountain landscapes, and the sandy beaches of South Africa.

Where do you see the biggest differences between your host university and the MCI?

The biggest difference for me was both the teaching format and the size of the campus university. Student life in Pretoria mainly takes place on campus. As our chosen courses were in block format, we had - to our advantage, I think - a lot of freedom to organize our studies. This allowed us to travel a lot and to enjoy our study environment and deal intensively with the topics of the courses.

What has been the biggest challenge so far during your semester abroad?

The biggest challenges were the "bureaucratic jungle" in South Africa as well as the aforementioned security situation and load shedding. From my point of view, it is advisable to start planning early and not to get confused if something takes longer; it is better to ask more questions and be patient. As far as the security situation and load shedding are concerned, I think it's important to know what you're getting into so that you can deal with it well. With good friends, these circumstances are easy to overcome and bring people closer together.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

I was particularly impressed by the local students: they all study with great dedication and resilience, which inspired me a lot. The best memories from my time abroad are the countless encounters with South Africa's wildlife and the wonderful trips, where I learned to appreciate the country and the people around me very much. In general, I can say that South Africa is a wonderful country for a semester abroad and I would recommend this experience to anyone.