Xabier Enríquez
After studying my master’s degree in Tilburg, I had the opportunity to go to North
West University, in Potchefstroom (South Africa), to study an extended master for six
months. I was really excited to experience all the differences Africa has to Europe. I knew
it was going to be one of the best experiences in my life.
As their second semester in South Africa starts in middle July, I went to Potchefstroom
a few days before classes started. I travelled and stayed in South Africa with Tjeerd, with
whom I studied my master’s degree in Tilburg. We shared an apartment on campus. A
girl from South Africa studied with us in the Netherlands, so she helped us with
everything we needed for the first month: she showed us the town, where to buy whatever
we needed, some tips for travelling… We are very grateful for what she did. When we
started with the classes, everyone was very nice to us, professors and students gave us a
warm welcome. That is one of the differences I see between the Netherlands and South
Africa. From what I experience, professors in the Netherlands were only focused on
lecturing, and local students were not very welcoming to foreign students. I felt more at
home in South Africa. During all those six months, local students invited us to meetings
and parties, and I made very good friends in there.
Regarding the studies, I did notice that comparing to the Netherlands, in South Africa
the demands of the university are not that high. However, I do not think they are low, as
when I studied in Spain, the university demands were similar to South Africa. Apart from
that, the studies in South Africa were more practically oriented, while in the Netherlands
the theoretical approach was very strong. In NWU, there was some theory but then we
did some activities in order to apply the concepts we had previously learned.
Nevertheless, there was not a difference in the study process: the lecturing is the same,
the exam types are similar, there are group works… It is true that it was easier than in the
Netherlands, but I learned a lot in class.
It is well known that South Africa is not the safest place on Earth. Every local was
telling me that I should be very careful, as there is a lot of robbery. Luckily, I did not have
any problem during my stay. People tell you that you must not walk alone, especially at
night, as it is very dangerous. Being able to go wherever I want alone without worrying
about my safety was something I missed a lot. In Spain I use to go for a walk alone at
night, so I did not like that freedom deprivation I experienced in South Africa. That lack
of safety did not stopped me from travelling. I travelled with some German friends all
around South Africa and it was amazing. The roads, the landscapes, the people, the
wildlife… Nothing you can compare to in Europe. Everything is very different in there,
and it is beautiful. I tell all my friends to go to South Africa at least once in their lives.
Finally, I would like to mention that I felt very sad when I saw all the poverty there is
in that country. You see that on the streets, you see it in the news… However, it is always
worse to see it in person. I also saw that still white people and black people tend to be
very separate. White people go shopping while black people work on those shops. Even
when the economic level is similar, it is rare to see white and black people going out
together. Our lives in Europe are much better and we should be grateful for that.