Caroline Brändström, Nursing programme, University of the Free State, South Africa

My name is Caroline Brändström and I’m 24 years old. During my fifth semester at the nursing programme, (July-November, 2018), I did an exchange semester in Bloemfontein, South Africa, at the University of the Free State. I went with four other students from our class back home in Sweden.

One reason why I decided to apply for an exchange semester in South Africa was because I wanted to explore and experience something different, another culture, compared to what we are used to back home in Sweden. Another reason was also to get the chance to travel combine with my studies and meet new people. I remember when I got the acceptance letter from the university in South Africa how excited I was, but also how many months it still was until it was time to leave. BUT the time goes fast and there were a lot of paper work to do, so start early and don’t give up. In the end it’s worth it!! To apply for the VISA we needed to go to the embassy in Stockholm. The communication with the University of the Free State worked out well, but you should remember that everything takes longer in South Africa.

When we arrived to the airport in Bloemfontein the University had organized a shuttle to take us to campus. Before I knew that campus was huge, but I wasn’t prepared how huge it was. Me and Fanny shared a double room at a girl residence called Harmony. The boys stayed at Kovsie Inn and had single rooms. At Harmony you live in a corridor and share bathroom and kitchen. The building is one of the newest at campus and in well condition. We enjoyed our stay there and everyone was very helpful and polite at Harmony. It’s a safe place to stay at. The University placed us at Harmony and solved everything out with the accommodation before we arrived, so we didn’t need to think of where to stay by yourself. As a total I paid around +- 10000kr for the accommodation.

The school system is different compared to JU. As a total we had two courses at the same time during the semester, Psychiatry (theory and practical) and Psychology. We read the Psychiatry course with the 4th years nursing students and the Psychology course was a mix of students from other programs. We had three smaller test during the semester in each course, and a final exam in November. In the Psychiatry course we also had 6 weeks of practical + 1 week in Trompsburg. We spent two weeks at a day care for intellectual disabled children and adults, two weeks at a private psychiatric ward and two weeks at a psychiatric ward owned by the government. At the practical placements you will see and learn a lot, and also be creative since there is a lack of resources in the community. You will also be grateful in the end how fantastic the health care in Sweden is. The week in Trompsburg you are going to help out with health screenings in primary and secondary schools, and do some home visits at diabetes patients in poverty areas. The teachers we had during our lectures and those lecturers who worked at the nursing school were so helpful and easygoing with us.

I’m so grateful I decided to do an exchange semester in a country like South Africa. I have learned more than I could imagine before leaving Sweden. I have improved my language skills, I have learned a lot of the South African culture and how it is to live there, I have of course learned different academical skills from the courses, and the most important thing, I have grown as an individual. One fantastic thing with South Africa was that everyone was so kind, helpful and friendly. Everyone we met took grate care of us and invited us to do different things like a South African barbecues called braai, trips and parties. Before I arrived to South Africa I was worried about the criminality but If you are aware of it and avoid certain areas for example, especially in the nights, then it’s fine. Since we had some time over from school during the weekends we did some smaller trips to explore more. During the October break we decided to fly to Zanzibar for one relaxing week before the final exams in school. Zanzibar was beautiful and the white beaches Zanzibar offered was incredible. After the final exams we travelled for one month and spent 3400 km in a car to discover most parts of the country. We visit the fantastic Kruger national park in north and then drove along the east coast down to the southernmost city Cape town. Since everything is more affordable in South Africa compare to Sweden we could travel, eat and live with good standard.

After this five month abroad I will have memories for life, and I’m so glad I took the chance to go here. I will never forget all the wonderful people I have met and all the beautiful places I have visit. One advice to future students is to travel as much as you can since South Africa has an amazing nature and wildlife. You will also meet wonderful people that takes good care of you since South African citizens are the most openhearted and friendly persons I have met! If you have any questions or wonder how it is to study in South Africa, you can reach me at All the five Swedish students had an Instagram account you can visit if you want to see more; thisissouthafrica_