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They came from afar - from countries like the Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, Nigeria, Canada and Mexico. Drawn to Stellenbosch University (SU) by academics, culture and beautiful surroundings SU will be their new ‘home’ in South Africa for the next few months and years.
It has been a week of change and adjustment for about 350 international students who are starting the year as Matie students. The group, composed of short-term and full-degree students, were introduced to life at SU at a Welcome and Orientation event hosted by Stellenbosch University International (SU International). They were welcomed to the university by Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation and staff from SU International.
Highlighting SU’s academic achievements, Prof Klopper told international students they are at one of Africa’s top universities. She mentioned SU’s long history of internationalisation informing them that they are part of more than 4000 international students of campus. Prof Klopper also pointed out that SU has the oldest international office in the country which celebrates 25 years of internationalisation this year. She expressed plans to increase the number of international students on campus and said they will likely make up 18% of the total student population in the next five years.
Robert Kotzé, Senior Director of SU International, advised international students to make the most of their time at SU. “Engage with people around you. Live your life here and make a difference in the classroom and in the community” he encouraged.
Settling into life in Stellenbosch, new friends Leah Bontreger and Gisela Mora, says their first week at SU has been full of excitement. Gisela, a fourth-year international relations student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the US, says she wants to learn more about South African culture and diversity. “A lot of students from the US who came to Stellenbosch loved it and that is why I chose to come here.” Gisela and Lea, a fellow US student from Hanover College Indiana, are both on exchange for six months. Lea, a third-year chemistry student says she is excited to attend classes in Polymer Science, a course not presented at her university.
Alyssa Cuffie is another US student on exchange at SU. It is the first time the second-year marketing student at Loyola University Chicago has set foot on the African continent. “As an African American, I am disconnected from African culture and I am really looking forward to connect with my roots. I like SU’s proximity to Cape Town and so there is a lot to do.”
Bastien Dratwa, a master’s degree student at the University of Hamburg in Germany, is at the university as part of a partnership agreement between his institution and SU. The criminology student says South Africa is an interesting country for social sciences students. “I want to get in contact with some of the local students and talk about race and social inequality.” Aster de Vroe, a student from partner institution KU Leuven, hopes to learn more about local agricultural practices. “I am looking forward to learn about the differences between agriculture in Belgium and here. In Belgium its quiet theoretical and here it is more practical.”
His first time in Stellenbosch, Abdulrahaman Lawal Suleiman enrolled for PhD studies in mathematics. The Nigerian student says he is thrilled to be at a top university. “I consider it as one of the best universities in the world.” For French student Ugo Chane You Kae, SU is ideal because of its surroundings. Ugo Chane, an engineering master’s student at École Pour l'Informatique et les Techniques Avancées (EPITA), says the town is “quite amazing and attractive”.
Picture: Prof Hester Klopper welcomes international students to Stellenbosch University
Photo: Hennie Rudman