Cape Town Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I arrive before the program start date?
- Students are expected to arrive and depart Cape Town on the designated dates listed on the program website. Transfers to and from the Cape Town airport will be provided by BOSP only on those days. You can arrive before the start of the program, but you will be responsible for your own airport transfer, temporary housing, and meals. Students who do not wish to depart from Cape Town on the designated day must seek prior approval from the program director and pay their own transfer costs. Contact Jennifer McGhee, the Cape Town student and academic affairs administrator, for advice if you are considering arriving and/or departing outside the designated dates.
- Will someone meet me at the airport?
- Yes, you will be met by our designated driver, Will, who will take you to the student residence, where you will be met by the program RA who will make sure that you settle into your accommodation. We'll also give you a detailed orientation the next day, which includes practical information on the program structure, academics, service-learning, local transport, safety tips and advice. We'll also take you on a tour of the neighborhood, the city, and the peninsular, other places of interest!
- Where will I stay?
All students going to Cape Town will be housed in two adjacent houses, The Freeland Lodge and 8 Herschel Road (#6 and #8 Herschel Rd.) in the Observatory neighborhood. The houses are just a short walk (5-10 minutes) from the Stanford Centre, as well as a short walk from the UCT Health Sciences campus (with free shuttles to the other campuses). Students will be sharing double rooms, 3 common kitchens, an outside patio "braai" (BBQ) area, and laundry facilities. Most students find these accommodations to be satisfactory. However, students should also note that the space is small and very public, which makes privacy a challenge at times for some. While the housing provided is far superior and more comfortable than that experienced by most South Africans, it may not resemble Stanford's most comfortable dormitories or the kinds of homes many students are accustomed to in the US or other first world countries. We encourage students to come to Cape Town to experience it as it is, as most South Africans do, and not to continually compare it to "home." An accepting, inquisitive attitude will serve you well and help ensure that you have a fantastic experience.
NOTE: All students will be in a communal living environment, and will be expected to adhere to a housing and behavioral agreement. Students will be asked to sign the agreement at orientation.
- Will I have access to The University of Cape Town?
- Stanford students have 'associate membership' at the University and will receive a UCT student card, which allows access to campus, computer & internet facilities, Library, Jammie shuttle and other facilities on campus. Students coming to Cape Town during Winter Quarter will discover that January and early February are mid-summer holidays for UCT and other students. While the campus will be open, there will be few students around before mid-February, which will make contact and getting involved in student organizations more difficult or at least delayed. BOSP staff can advise you on how and when to contact student groups and access student activities once they commence.
- What about safety?
- In any major city, it's necessary to take sensible safety precautions, and this is true for Cape Town as well. Travelling in groups, using common sense, and making sure that you know where to go (and where not to go) are the best ways to reduce risk. We provide a detailed safety and security orientation upon arrival, where we point out the safest areas and routes, link you with local contacts and make sure that you have our emergency information card, with our local emergency contact details and other useful numbers.
- What is orientation in Cape Town like?
- Orientation in Cape Town consists of a week of orientation activities. The week starts with a full day of program related information, and interactive workshops facilitated by staff. There is also a comprehensive safety & security orientation, a UCT campus orientation, and a public transport orientation within the first week of the program. Orientation is completed with an orientation tour of Cape Town city center and the Cape Peninsula, as well as the Quarter's official welcome dinner.
- Will I have Internet access?
Students will have wireless Internet access at the residence and Stanford Centre. Each student will be allotted (4) 1.33GB internet vouchers, 5.3GB total during the quarter for use at the residences. This means that the amount of data "downloaded" onto your computer will be tracked. A "download" consists of opening a web page, whether or not you actually download the page or material on it to your computer. This is the same for all email, whether you are doing webmail or downloading mail to your computer's mail program.
If you exceed your monthly allowance, you can purchase bandwidth at 20c per megabyte. Students will also have free Internet access at the Stanford Centre during office hours. There are also a number of cafés in the area that provide free wireless Internet for customers.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Internet in South Africa does NOT resemble that found at Stanford. Because there is limited access due to a very small number of cable connections between southern Africa and Europe, the cost of Internet usage in South Africa is far greater than it is in the US and at Stanford. The speed is much lower. For these reasons students should not expect to use the Internet in Cape Town to engage in online coursework, download and watch movies, or conduct other bandwidth-intensive activities, which they may do normally at Stanford. It is critical that students adjust their expectations accordingly before they arrive.
- Will I need a cell phone?
- Cell phones are very popular in SA, but calls are expensive and most South Africans use their cell phones primarily to receive calls or for text messages. However, for security purposes All students will be required to purchase an inexpensive local cell phone that can be used at least for emergency contact. Stanford Staff will advise students as to the best deals on the market. Students can purchase a local cell phone for about US$15 (100R). Phones that are in good condition can be sold back at the end of the quarter for about US$10. To place calls, you need to purchase a recharge voucher, or "airtime", in South African parlance. Airtime can be purchased at any convenience store, 'petrol' (gas) station, or supermarket.
- How can I find Cape Town program and other Stanford alumni?
- Cape Town-based alumni of Stanford are organizing an Alumni Club through the Stanford Alumni Association. Cape Town program staff can put you in touch with alums in the area.
- Do I need a visa?
- This depends on your nationality and if you are visa exempt or not. U.S. citizens (U.S. passport holders) traveling to the Republic of South Africa for 90 days or less for tourism (you will all be classed as tourists) or business purposes do not need visas. U.S. green card holders (non-US passport holders) do require a visa to visit South Africa. Nationals of other countries must check the list of visa exempt countries to see if they need to apply for visas. The citizen who is a holder of a national passport (diplomatic, official or ordinary) of the United States of America, is not required to hold a visa for stay of 90 days or less and when in transit.
- Do I need to know a local language?
- South Africa has 11 official languages. Since English is the language of commerce in South Africa and spoken by most South Africans (though as a second language for most of them), there is no requirement for students to know a local language. Xhosa and Afrikaans are spoken as first language in most of the communities students visit for their service-learning and research. Therefore the Program offers a Xhosa language and culture course and a non-credited Afrikaans seminar for those interested.
- What is there to do?
- An easier question to answer is "what cannot be done in Cape Town?" (such as downhill skiing). Beaches, mountain hikes, ocean views, nightlife, hip music, great food, vineyards and many more – Cape Town is truly one of the world's great cities. For more information about Cape Town, look at our pictures!
- What is the weather like?
- Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and cool, wet winters. Winters are characterized by heavy rain, particularly on the mountain slopes and strong north-westerly winds. In summer the weather in Cape Town is warm and dry, but the sunny weather is often interspersed with strong south easterly winds. Average maximum temperatures range from 27°C (81°F) in summer to 17°C (63°F) in winter. While the winter is quite mild, it gets cold at night. Since Cape Town buildings are typically not centrally heated, it will be necessary to bring a few extra layers, so you can stay warm and comfortable both indoors and outside. Be sure to pack a woollen coat, jacket or overcoat as well as a scarf and gloves. Click here for Cape Town monthly averages.
- Will I need towels and linens?
- Linen and towels are provided at the residence, but should not be removed at any time. It is recommended that you pack a beach towel or buy one locally.
- How much should I budget?
- Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, food, entertainment and local transport you can expect to spend about $250 to $600 per month.
- Do I get a meal allowance?
- Students will have access to a kitchen to prepare their breakfast and lunch daily. Sunday through Thursday, dinners will be provided at the residence. Students will receive a meal allowance for all other meals during the week. There are no refunds for missed dinners during the week, or cash replacement for meals not consumed. Every student will receive an ATM card for Standard Bank, and a four-digit pin code. Meal money allowance will be loaded onto the ATM cards every two weeks automatically. Students can then withdraw the cash as they need it. No advances will be given unless cleared with the program Director.
- What should I pack?
- Packing will depend on what time of the year you are coming to South Africa. Winter quarter students will be in Cape Town during the summer, and should pack summer clothes. But remember, as in the San Francisco Bay Area, even summer nights can be quite cool. Spring quarter students will be in Cape Town during the winter, when it can be cold and wet! We say in Cape Town that we can have four seasons in one day, so remember to pack clothes that you can layer, and waterproofs! The scenery is beautiful, so remember to bring good walking shoes. For electrical items, you will need an adaptor, which can be purchased at the local supermarket. Also remember to pack an adequate supply of any medication that you take regularly.
- What is public transportation like?
Public transport is not as extensive, reliable or as safe as what you are used to in the US. However, it is generally safe & fun to use during the day on designated routes. You are strongly encouraged to use a program-recommended, radio-taxi service for transport around the city, especially if you need a ride home after a night on the town. Preferred transport provider contact information will be provided to you upon your arrival in Cape Town.
Public transportation in Cape Town consists of trains, buses, and 'mini-taxis'. While these modes of transportation are generally safe during the day, students are highly discouraged from using them (especially trains) outside of regular commuter hours (7:30AM to 5:30PM, M-F). In South Africa, 'mini-taxis' are very different from the traditional 'metered' taxis that most of us are used to in the States. They are much cheaper than conventional metered taxis (most fares are under R10), and are heavily used by a Capetonians from poorer townships and outlying areas. Taxi routes and stops can be extremely confusing, and you shouldn't attempt to ride them alone, especially when traveling to the townships and areas at a significant distance from the city. If you choose to take a mini-taxi, travel with at least two other students, and preferably with someone who is very familiar with routes and destinations. You should NOT board a mini-taxi that is empty and you should remove valuables and/or keep money in a secure place before venturing out. All students will participate in a practical public transport orientation with Stanford staff during orientation week.
The UCT Jammie Shuttle transports students to all parts of the UCT Campus and adjacent neighborhoods. There are two stops nearest to the Stanford residences. The route map and schedule can be downloaded at http://www.uct.ac.za/students/services/transport/maps/.
- What happens if I get sick in Cape Town?
- It is important to know that all medical expenses abroad are paid out of pocket by the student. Please consider how you would access funds to pay for such expenses. It is the student's responsibility to know the terms of their insurance policy and understand the claim procedure and reimbursement process. If at any time you need to seek medical care during the program you should contact the program staff. The staff in Cape Town will provide you with information about local medical facilities during the onsite orientation and can refer you to physicians and other professionals upon request.
- What if I need mental health support in Cape Town?
- The program has relationships with various specialist counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists who can assist students who require this service.
- What if I have specific dietary needs?
- South Africans are known for their love of meat! However Cape Town does have a growing number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and additional information can be found at http://www.vegsoc.org.za. The program caters for all students' dietary requirements, and will ask students to provide this information in advance.
Service-Learning Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I choose my own organization to work with?
The Cape town programmne's service-learning is based on a partnership approach, whereby we work consistently with a number of organizations in the greater Cape Town area rather than working with any number of organizations students might be interested in. Through this approach we have built relationships with organizations in a range of sectors e.g. community and public health, youth development, urban agriculture, community drama, urban development, women's empowerment and entrepreneurship, and education, to name some of them. This means that while we try our best to ensure students are working in a sector (and organization) that interests them, we do try and limit it as much as possible to the organizations with which we already have relationships. Thus far on the programme, we have been able to place almost all students where they would like to be. In a couple of cases, students have asked us to contact specific organizations, which we have been willing to do. This has led to us developing a relationship with the organizations ourselves.
The list of organizations as well as the type of projects students have done is on the wbsite. Please spend as much time as possible familiarizing yourself with the projects and organisations so that when we contact you, you already have some ideas. However we must state quite clearly that we cannot promise that you will get involved in your first choice organization. There are many issues to consider when placing students and sometimes, things change beyond our control. Also organizations can only take a limited number of students and so we need to spread the load across our partners. However as far as possible, we will try to place you in a sector that you are interested in. before you come to Cape Town, we will send you a small pre-reading and writing task to complete which will assist us in understanding your service interests.
- Will I know my organization before I arrive in Cape Town?
- Jen van Heerden, the Service-learning Assistant, together with Janice McMillan who teaches the service-learning seminar (required as part of the service-learning experience) will be in touch with you before you arrive to try and establish your interests. In the past we have left the actual placement to when you are here, as for many students, ideas change once they arrive here. However this has also meant that this can delay getting into placements so from 2012, we are going to try and have you n a provisional placement before you arrive. Jen will be in extensive contact with you, and with our partner organizations, to try and set as much of this up as possible. However we understand that ideas might change so there is some flexibility in this process too.
- Can I contact organizations before I arrive in Cape Town?
- At the centre, we usually make the initial contact with the partner organizations to establish whether they are able and willing to have a student, and what projects they might have for you. Once this relationship has been established, it might in some cases be useful to liaise with organizations. However bear in mind that many organizations are incredibly busy and not well resourced; thus they might not have a lot of time to liaise directly with you as they have an already existing relationship with the Centre staff Putting pressure on organizations for contact might discourage them for hosting students. In addition, South Africa's summer and winter are opposite to those in the US. This can therefore result in misunderstanding as rhythms are very different.
- How many hours will I be expected to work at my placement?
- We have scheduled classes in such a way as to leave quite a lot of time for service-learning – at least between 8-10 hours per week. Bear in mind that you need to take a minimum of 12 units, you need to fit your classes around this time. We would strongly encourage students to take fewer rather than more units as many students find the service-learning experience the highlight of their stay in Cape Town.
- How will I get to my placement organization for service-learning?
- Transport will be provided for all BOSP program-sponsored activities - field trips, service-learning, etc. However, we are trying as far as possible to have scheduled trips to organizations on specific days – to reduce costs and our carbon footprint. While transport will be guaranteed for these trips, at this stage, we cannot guarantee transport outside of these times. More information will be available when you arrive in Cape Town.
- How does the service-learning seminar link to my service?
The service-learning seminar is required for students doing service-learning. It provides a critical space to engage with your service experience as well as providing an opportunity to look at some of the contextual and personal factors shaping service-learning e.g. issues of inequality and power relations, debates on development, personal motivations for service, as well as some history of the field in South Africa and US, including at Stanford.
Assessment is continuous and the assignments set are aimed at providing an opportunity for critical engagement with your experience as well as some of the texts we draw on to support your learning. While reading is required as part of the seminar, this is not a reading-intensive seminar: the primary text to be analysed is your own service experience. We also bring in some our partners as co-teachers from time to time, and their contribution to this class is another way in which we work to develop our partnership with them.
For more details on the seminar, please refer to the syllabus on the course website.