Nanine och Noxolo – exchange students from Stellenbosch in South Africa
Nanine Potgieter and Noxolo Fihla are two masters students from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. They have studied theology and religion at the University of Gothenburg for one semester as part of an exchange program. Just before returning home, they talked about their experience of everything from teaching methods, the city of Gothenburg and frozen toes during winter.
How was your experience as a student at the University of Gothenburg?
– It has been different. In Stellenbosch we study more independently under the guidance of the teachers and end each module with an oral examination. At the University of Gothenburg, I have had teacher-led lessons interspersed with assignments.
– It took some time for me to adapt but I liked the classes and the set-up. My courses included a lot of critical thinking and personal reflections. Overall, it has been a great experience.
Have you learned things that you probably wouldn't have learned if you hadn't gone on exchange studies?
– Definitely. In my masters in Stellenbosch I’m on the Charismatic Movement of Churches. When I chose subjects to study here at the University of Gothenburg, I wanted to study something that could be useful in my writing and a complement to my studies in Stellenbosch. I took classes in Textual Criticism, Creation and Ecology, New Religious Movements and Historical Methods in Religious Studies.
– I learned a lot from the teaching method. My courses emphasised more in-depth analysis and a critical approach. It was a bit daunting at first, but it is an important part of the learning process and very useful.
How did you experience your time in Gothenburg and Sweden?
– It took me a couple of weeks to learn the new culture. Swedes can be a bit reserved and like to speak their own language first, even if they know English. One positive thing has been feeling safe in the city, being able to take a walk alone and breathe fresh air.
– I came here at the end of the summer and saw the sun go down at 10 pm, it was fantastic. I made video calls to all my friends back home and asked them to guess what time it was.
– It has really been a lovely experience, both with the safety of Gothenburg but also that people have been so helpful and nice. It's the first time I've been away from home during a long time, it's been evolving to discover that I can manage on my own. The only negative has been that you lose the feeling in your toes during the winter, especially when it's snowing. The winter darkness wasn't as bad as we expected but we were surprised by the time zone change in October.
Do you have any advice to give to Swedish students who may be considering going on exchange to Stellenbosch?
– Stellenbosch is a nice town, but if you want to experience more of South Africa I recommend you to also go outside of Stellenbosch. Get to know someone locally who can take you to various sights. There is no public transport so use Über and Bolt to get around. Remember to be careful about going out alone at night.
– First, be prepared for a different climate: December-February is the hottest period. Be sure to attend festivals such as the Whale Festival and enjoy some wine tasting from the area. The area is called the Winelands and is famous for its good wine. Going to the sea is also an experience. It's best to go early in the morning when it's less windy and less crowded.
Do you have any advice to give to South African students who may be considering going on exchange to Gothenburg?
– When I went to Sweden I was mentally prepared for winter so I had packed a lot of warm clothes and almost no summer clothes. When I arrived in August it was still summer weather; the cooler weather came in October. So don’t forget to pack some summer clothes. Also make sure to go to the islands of the Gothenburg archipelago in summertime--it’s beautiful.
– Begin with the VISA process as soon as you can, it takes time and it’s a bit complicated. Make sure to keep your papers, certificates, and passport in order.
Do you have anything to add?
– I’m happy to be able to give hope and inspiration to other people at home, to give them the mindset that “If she can go, maybe I can as well”.
Text: Hanna Erlingson