Louise Evenholm, Social work programme, University of the Free State, South Africa

Hi! My name is Louise and I studied my forth semester of the social work programme at The University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in South Africa. I was there from January until July 2018. The reason I chose to go abroad for one semester was that I saw it as an opportunity to live and study in another country and also as a good challenge for myself. I decided to go to South Africa because I thought it was an interesting country and different in many ways compared to Sweden. I wanted to experience a country with another culture, life style and language than what I was used to. Of course, it was a big and a bit scary decision to go away for such a long time, and also so far away from home. I thought about it a lot before I decided to go, but since then, I have never regretted it.

A big difference for me going from The School of Health and Welfare to The University of the Free State was that there I had to study four courses at the same time instead of one at a time like I was used to back home. This was a bit of a mission sometimes as it was easy to mix them all up. It was also a lot of assignments and tests going on at the same time in all the courses. But after a while you get used to that as well and you learn how to become structured and figure a way out how to study and separate the courses.

The courses I had were “social work with individuals”, “case work intervention models”, “social work with groups” and “introduction to social service professions”. You get a lot of information in your study guides regarding what is expected from you in every course and when the tests and assignments are. My opinion is that it was a lot of work to study four theoretical courses at the same time, so if it’s possible I would suggest trying to replace one with a practical course instead, if it’s possible.

Before I came to Bloemfontein I got a lot of good information from the host university and also a good help when applying for the visa, but still, it was a lot to do for the application to get a visa for South Africa, so I would recommend to start with that as early as possible. It’s a lot of papers to fill in and complete, but don’t panic, it will work out even though it’s going to take some time, but it’s totally worth it. During my stay in Bloemfontein I was living at a girl hostel on campus. The host university was helping out with that and I enjoyed it a lot. I shared room with a Swedish girl and that worked out really well. It was around 150 girls living at that hostel. Six of us were international girls and the rest were South Africans. The hostel was close to where we had our lectures so during longer breaks we had time to go home to our room.

After my semester in South Africa I think I have developed a lot, both when it comes to adapting to another school system but also as a person and to the insight that I can accomplish more than I think. My English has also improved during this time since I have been forced to speak English all the time, read books in English and listen to lectures in English. This was one of my fears before I came to South Africa. Will my English be good enough? Will I have a hard time understanding people and the courses? Will I struggle writing exams in English? I was questioning this a lot. But honestly, the language is not going to be the biggest problem. You get used to it quite fast and after a while you don’t even reflect that you are speaking English. Of course it can be hard sometimes when you feel like you can’t express yourself fully, but what is worse than using your google translate app then?

During my time in Bloemfontein I studied a lot, because it was a lot of work at the university, but at the same time I traveled a lot as well during weekends and between assignments and tests. Me and the Swedish girl that I was living with maximized our semester because we wanted to experience as much as possible. We both new that we were there for studying so by going away and travel was a big plus for us. If you decide to go to South Africa I have a lot of nice places to suggest where you should go to. It is a really beautiful country with a lot to see and experience. Also the South African people are really kind and caring. They all want you to enjoy their country and they have a lot to teach you about their culture and their history.

So, advice that I want to give you if you are going for an exchange semester to South Africa:

-Be open minded for all the people that you are going to meet

-Spend time with the locals, not only with the international students

-Explore the country as much as you can, want and have time for

-Don’t let stories about how dangerous the country can be stop you from going, it’s an amazing country with amazing people

-Get some knowledge about the country’s history before going, it has affected the country and the people a lot

-Don’t be comfortable and stay in Sweden for the reason that it’s easier and less work, an exchange semester is a great experience

-Don’t doubt if you are going to make it, YOU ARE!

If you have questions or want to know more about my semester in South Africa and my experience, please contact me:

Regards Louise Evenholm