Inshiya at the University of Bayreuth


I heard about the concept of a summer school during International Week, from one of the many info booths propped up around campus. I simply walked up to one and spoke to a student who had been on a similar exchange programme, and the idea was born, an idea which strongly appealed to me. I eagerly began researching as to available opportunities and settled on a couple of programmes which I believed were most suitable. After completing my application there was nothing left to do beside wait and hope. Personally the video component was quite a daunting experience, particularly due to the fact there are no restrictions as to the number of retakes you are allowed, and before you know it you’ve spent hours in front of your webcam and haven’t yet managed to get through 8 minutes without making a mistake. But as this was something I truly wished for, I pushed through this obstacle.

I regard myself extremely fortunate for being chosen. The PGIO was very helpful throughout every stage of the process and I would have to say most things quite easily fell into place after getting through the first hurdle of being chosen as a candidate. The travel bursary of R14 000, which we received, around about covered the course fees and flight costs. After persistently searching for a good deal for flights, I was lucky to find a cheap direct return flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt. I decided one week was too short awhile to go half way across the world and therefore decided to extend my trip and stay an extra week in Germany to travel and explore. After flight tickets were booked the next step was to go through the visa process. I booked an interview with the German embassy, but ended up needing to postpone it as I was not able to round up every document I needed in time to take for my appointment. It was not much of a hassle and a couple of weeks later after receiving my visa (as well as a refund for the visa application fees) I was pretty much ready and set to go.

I had made the hard decision of returning to South Africa to pursue post-graduate studies after experiencing, quite simply, the best year of my life travelling and working abroad. It’s quite possibly why I found this study and travel a perfect combination for me at the time. This lucky travel junkie was about to receive the fix she very much desired. My dream of travelling to Europe was about to be realized: Bayreuth University, Germany- Here I come. Just two more small tasks needed to be done and my checklist would be as complete as can be for me to get on that flight and head out. Firstly, pack extra light, and secondly make sure the German soccer team makes it into the World Cup Finals. Check and Check.


I arrived in Germany on the 13th of July 2014. A day which will be remembered fondly in most German’s mind for years to come- the day their national football team won the World Cup Finals. And yes, after realising the possibility, and prophesying to everyone who would listen to me, ‘I will arrive in Germany the day they win the world cup, can’t wait for that party!’ the excitement of it actually happening was quite overwhelming. To say the first night of my stay was unforgettable would be an understatement. After a full day of travelling and getting lost in trains, buses and on foot I finally arrived at my hostel in Bayreuth. It was an hour until the finals kicked-off which explained why there was not a soul in sight. As worn out and ready for a goodnights rest as I was, there was no way I would be missing out on this. I luckily found a phone number of one of the organisers of the programme who came to pick me and take me to where the rest of the summer school students were. A magical black card which provided free food and drinks for the night, new friends, and hundreds of excited German supporters was more than I could have asked for. The joy and enthusiasm I experienced that night created an atmosphere which quite appropriately kick-started me into the incredible next two weeks I was about to experience.

The course I enrolled for was Economic Growth and Development, which was great, as it directly related to my course here at Stellenbosch. It was split into a 3 hour morning session, followed by a 3 hour afternoon one. My class was an ideal size and mix of people which invoked interesting class discussions and diverse perspectives in an attempt to explore some key economic questions. Our lecturers were very interactive, and on top of our full day, they even organised a couple of class outings to local beer gardens- because as they would say, “out-of-class learning is just as important, if not more, than in-class learning.” We wrote a test on the last day of the course which made all the learning quite intensive, actually intensive was perhaps a good description of that week in general. It was one of those jam-packed experiences you can only appreciate and digest after it is over.

In addition to the academic programme, the social programme, I think was really well organised and a lot of fun. With sunset around 10pm, the long summer days meant we were able to be out and about exploring our new University town, while interacting with students from all over the world. This lovely Bavarian town was full of culture and gave out a calm sense of peacefulness. We went out for amazing dinners every night, enjoying a range of Thai, Greek, Turkish and of course local German food. On the last night of the summer school, we ended our night city tour at this Big African Festival; just in case the town thought I was getting homesick. The next day we were taken to Bamburg, a nearby town for our final outing. There was another festival going on, with street performers everywhere and a summer holiday buzz in the air.

It was now time to start my second leg of the journey. Leaving my supportive summer school people and setting out with just a faint idea of what I wanted to do, was nerve-wrecking, yet exciting at the same time. Looking back a little bit of planning would have probably made my journey a little less scary, but spontaneity adds that spark which I love about travelling and therefore just went with the flow. Highlights included reuniting with an old friend in Stuttgurt, Carpooling with a bunch of friendly guys to Munich, Cycling around Berlin, and enjoying a traditional homemade family meal in a small village with a German friend I had made back here at Stellenbosch.


The summer school, as well as my adventurous solo mission travelling around the country went by in a flash. It was time to say goodbye to the awesome people I had met throughout my journey. Goodbyes are sad, but knowing I have yet another home in some faraway land where I will always be welcomed with open arms is always a big comfort. Even If I never get a chance to visit a new friends’ country in person, I believe just by getting to know someone, listening to their views about various issues, and looking through their lenses we get a sense of the different world they come from and that is the best kind of gift an experience such as this will give you. One thing I learnt is that as much as we learn from others, the opposite is true. Therefore one piece of advice I would give is be conscious of the fact that you are an ambassadors for yourself as well as where you come from.

Knowledge is power. If there is one lesson I have learnt from this experience it would be this. Something one of our tour guides in Germany once casually mentioned stuck with me: A prison was getting closed down due to a lack of occupancy. Not enough criminals for a prison, how absurd is that? We could safely say, that’s not something we are likely to read in our local newspaper.

I developed a new found appreciation and interest in history, as I came to realize many preconceived judgements we happen to have about others and where they come from is due to a lack of understanding and knowledge about a problem’s source. Seeing alternative ways of doing things, meeting new people, and learning from them, gave me a thirst for asking and being able to start answering some tough questions as to why certain things are the way they are? And only when we all understand why something is the way it is, we can do our bit in changing it. Travelling is learning, and learning is living. A newfound dream I’ll take out of this experience: To see a prison shut down in South Africa, simply because there is no need for it.