Pre-departure is an exciting time and luckily for me it was a very simple process. If you are in the same lucky boat and have an EU passport too, you will find that skipping the visa application is a major benefit. So a tip would be that if you have access to dual citizenship – as in, if you are directly related to someone who was born in the EU, you should find out if you qualify for an EU passport. The initial hassle is most definitely worth it.
So with my passport, I was lucky enough to just focus on the booking, packing and learning.
With regards to booking and something that I didn’t necessarily consider, is to make sure that you fly to the nearest international airport – and it is not necessarily in the same country. In my case I would have saved quite a bit if I flew into Germany rather than straight to Amsterdam. So that is something to consider.
The summer school that I attended didn’t initially have university accommodation, so I had to book separate accommodation. But something to keep in mind is that plans change – and they change often. Try be sure that any accommodation that you book has a free cancellation policy, because as in my case – the university made accommodation available in one of their residences. Although, it isn’t compulsory to stay there and of course you would still have to pay for it, it is a lot more fun. Most of the other summer school participants stay in the university accommodation, so to make the most out of meeting people I made use of my free cancellation at the hotel and opted to stay with my fellow students.
One thing about majority of Europe, is that the summers there are not that same is the summers we are blessed with in South Africa. Remember to pack warm clothes too, some days the weather in Nijmegen was the same as our winter days back home. I travelled with a travel backpack, which I highly recommend. Although space might be tight, it is much easier to manoeuvre around with both of you hands free, especially in the trains. And with regards to the trains, it is definitely less stressful to book train tickets when you get there. There are so many trains, there will definitely be on to the place that you need to go to at the time that you want to go there, so do not panic.
Last but not least for things to think about before you get there, is that yes, it is expensive. But rather than dipping into all of your savings or spending extra money on bank fees, get yourself a cash passport. This is a debit card, where you put in the money that you would like to spend and it automatically converts it to euros, so no need to pay the South African banks conversion costs, you pay euros in euros…Happy packing!
Experience at the Radboud University:
As I mentioned in my pre-arrival post, I was fortunate enough to stay in the university residence, Talia. Although Radboud is unlike Stellenbosch University where are all the res’s are on campus and everything is within walking distance, the res is very conveniently placed near the city centre and right next to the train station. Distance to campus was very conveniently solved through the distribution of very entertaining and very Dutch bicycles. These bikes are given to the students who arrive early enough to receive them, so try be early. If you aren’t comfortable on the bikes, or you don’t get one, there are buses that are available at a cost.
I stayed in Talia and at the university for the duration of my summer school, which was one week – 6 days. There was class from 9am-5pm for the five weekdays, with a welcoming session on the morning of the first day.
I attended Sustainability Science: A system dynamics perspective. This was hosted by Prof. Vincent de Gooyert as well as numerous guest lecturers. There were approximately 25 people in the class, all from completely different backgrounds and experience levels. Our days consisted of a morning lecture by Vincent where he prepared interactive lectures on system dynamics with the theme being climate change and sustainability. During this time we were introduced to the modelling programme, “Vensim PLE”. It was incredible to experience how much one can learn in a short space of time and how applicable this course could be to almost any line of work.
In the afternoon sessions, we had guest lecturers. We had a very interactive lesson in a model United Nations format, on the first day. We were exposed to the actual ins and outs of how decisions are made between governmental parties at a very serious, mock climate change conference. The actual program that is used at these international conferences was used in this sessions and decisions that were made by the participants influenced the state of climate change in 2100.
On the second afternoon we had a lecture discussing the Port of Rotterdam and how imports and exports occur and the organisation and technological advancements that are involved at the biggest port in the Netherlands.
The third day was an interactive afternoon using Vensim, where the class chose to discuss the factors that influence anti-vaccination activism. This was particularly helpful as it gave real-time insight into the programme that we were learning. From after this lesson, the afternoons were free for us as students to work on our own Vensim models.
Each and every evening included very well organised and incredibly entertaining social events. I highly recommend taking part in at least of the events per day, as this is where I bonded with some of the most incredible people, that I will most definitely keep in contact with – which is a major reason why we go on a summer school, isn’t it?
Returning to Stellenbosch:
Coming back to Stellenbosch I realised that we too live a great university life back here. Although we may not have busses that take us all over town and that we need to walk everywhere, we live a great life here. Our university is very tight-knit and the walking everywhere allows for a day-to-day interaction with strangers that you can’t easily replicate.
I could also appreciate that our university is very much on-par with those around the world. Although Radboud University may lack some – vintage-like charm, the modern living has a few perks too. It was fun to see state of the art technology being showcased around campus, especially in their sporting arena. With very few unhealthy eating options in the food court, healthy living is further promoted through the many exercise options available to the students for free. From a climbing wall, to beach volleyball, to yoga and tennis, they have it all – and right on campus.
Summer school, or any exchange abroad is a fantastic opportunity to extend your network and make friends or future colleagues form around the world. I was fortunate to do just that and the university made it very easy. This experience has solidified my love for travelling and I now have friends that I need to visit again – so I will have to continue my travels.
That being said, we are so incredibly fortunate to live in a country so different in relation to other countries and with people so different from each other. Travelling just shows that because we are all so different back home, we can get along with so many different people abroad. Being exposed to many different cultures while travelling as a young adult, brings tolerance back to our own home, building a brighter future for our university too.