Summary

June 26, 2008

The monotony of the previous posts may not excite a prospective Stellenbosch student, in fact, they bore me… so here are a few of the most important things I have learned:

Health:

– You do not need the yellow fever vaccination. It is only necessary for the visa if you are entering to the north and if you decide to travel north, they will give you the vaccination in Stellenbosch.

-DO NOT get the malaria pills. They are EXTREMELY expensive and completely unnecessary. Again, if you are traveling north, Stellenbosch will assist in their procurement.

-You DO need a TB test for your visa. It is also advised that you get your shots updated for good measure and typhoid is recommended because it is inexpensive and precautionary. You may also consider the flu vaccine, but only because being stuck in bed would be miserable.

-Travel advisers or health care providers here know nothing about South Africa. They base their work on assumptions about Africa just like 98% of the wider population. Contact the Consulate General or a trusted person in the country to which you are traveling. If I had followed OSU’s advice, I would have spent $1,200 on useless pills, amongst other things.

Finances:

-Assume that everyone you speak to is clueless.  When speaking with financial aid or your loan company, record the time and date of the call and the person with whom you spoke.  This is VERY important because you will, on more than one occassion, hear one thing from one person and a completely different thing from another.  That is more terrifying than annoying when you’re dealing with the possibility of a canceled trip.  I have numerous examples of this complete incompetence, especially from the loan company.  If you’re verifying that they have all of your materials and are processing your application, call again immediately after you get your answer to check that the first person was correct.  It’s worth it.

-Insist that financial aid helps you.  The timeline for study abroad is absurd, especially if you are on quarters.  The release date for federal funds will not make sense.  The way they process your money will not make sense.  Make it extremely clear that you need to speak to someone who will understand your situation and who will take necessary steps to ensure that your case is considered in a timely fashion.  I made a friend in financial aid and she was indispensable.

Visa:

-You need a police background check if you are using the consulate in Chicago.  (It isn’t required elsewhere so call and check.)  Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for this because it takes more than a week to process.  This wasn’t on the list of requirements from AIFS but it was on the list from the Consulate General.

-Pay the extra money to overnight your visa package with tracking information and require a signature.  Also, include an overnight return envelope (or a money order for that amount and instructions to do so) for them to ship it back.  If someone wanted to steal your identity, all they would need to do is steal that envelope and they are completely set.

Other:

-Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your plans.  My friends are FANTASTIC and listened to me talk, whine, complain about this process for months.  I don’t know if I could have done it so gracefully in their place.  You will be completely annoying, it’s impossible not to be… the excitement and anxiety and pressure do you in… people who can deal with that are amazing.  And thus, they shall be getting sweet African gifts for Christmas!

-Ask me to forward you the emails from the advisor in Stellenbosch.  They are FULL of extremely useful information it would have been cool to know a few months ago, such as details about accomodation, the town and the school, and answers to common questions about the wine, electric converters and transportation.  We’ve been getting a new one every week and I love reading them.

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One Response to “Summary”

  1. Josh Walden Says:

    jess! this blog is amazing, even though im not studying in africa, the information is really well organized and well written. ill be sure to follow this during your stay there! take care, be safe, and ill try to do the same. .

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