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University of Natal (NU)

23 reviews
3.82 / 5 based on 23 reviews
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Graham S
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
Anthropology, Undergraduate, InterStudy
Academic
Course recommendations
I understand that most people are required to choose their courses prior to traveling abroad. UKZN is not as organized as most American universities however, and most of the international students that I went with ended up completely revising their initial schedule. If you have the chance to do so ask local students what courses they enjoyed or what professors they found to be good. Just like at your home university networking is key to having the best experiences, both socially and academically.
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My academic experiences
Quality of courses
Variety of courses
Access to resources
Interaction with teachers
Interaction with international students
Interaction with local students
Personal comments
I had a strange experience academically while in Durban. I took three courses: one in anthropology, one in religious studies, and another on deejaying. The anthropology course was very poor and was pretty much useless except as a good situation for meeting and speaking with local students. The religious studies course was fun and took a distinctly South African perspective on the many religions of the country, including African Traditional Religions, which I had never had the chance to learn about before. Finally, the deejaying course was lekker (Afrikaans for cool or sweet). I now know how to put together deejaying equipment as well as basic deejaying skills. Probably the best part of the class (which is one of only two such courses in the world) is that half of the final requires you to deejay at one of the best and more upscale clubs in Durban. Overall however, I would say that academics at UKZN are not nearly as strenuous as in the US, but they do provide a unique point of view that cannot be found anywhere else.
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My opinion of the university assessment
Exams at end of course
Exams throughout the course
Essays and/or projects at the end of course
Essays and/or projects throughout the course
Overall
Useful  |  0
Graham S
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
Anthropology, Undergraduate, InterStudy
Housing
Type of housing: On campus
Arranged by: Host university
If returning, I would choose: Apartment/House
Why?
While the dorms were an interesting and educational experience, both culturally and personally, I enjoy being immersed in a community rather than cloistered on a campus.
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Personal assessment
Cost
Facilities
Location
Cleanliness
Space
Personal comments
For anyone who is visiting South Africa for the first time I would highly recommend living on campus. There is a large and varied array of people with many different cultures and languages to meet, and living on campus also allows you to speak with and befriend individuals that you may not otherwise come into contact with. The dorms are in good shape with communal bathrooms and kitchens. There are only single occupant rooms (mine had a stunning view of the Indian Ocean and Durban proper), and while they are nicely equipped with a sink and a large closet, there is only one electrical outlet. To those used to extreme connectivity this may seem rather upsetting, but I never heard many complaints from either native students or other exchange students about this lack. If you like animals you'll be happy to occasionally find a cat, a monkey, or an hadeda ibis hanging out in your dorm room. Finally, if you're a vegetarian be prepared to share refrigerator and kitchen space with a lot of meat eaters; Zulus and most other African cultures, who compose the majority of on-campus students, tend to eat a lot of meat. Fortunately, the meat that is produced in South Africa is far better than what is produced in America, mainly because Halal rules about preparation and killing are strongly adhered to.
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It was very enlightening and  the learning experience was so interactive.
Rutendo J
South Africa, Graduate
Sociology
Overall
My time at UKZN was the busiest I have ever been but also the most rewarding. The lecturers were hands on and passionate about their subject matter, they also took time to ensure that I understood the material we were covering. The lecturers in the sociology department were sensitive and yet pushed us to our highest potential. The courses offered were good and far reaching but I think they could add more courses to give more variety to the curriculum. The University in itself is a friendly environment where as peers we were encouraged to interact and share ideas.  After my honours degree I felt like I had learnt so much and I would recommend this university to any one who wants to not only gain a degree but also a positive life experience.
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Pros
It was challenging and mentally stimulating
Cons
They was not enough variety of courses within the curriculum.
Useful  |  0
Graham S
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
Anthropology, Undergraduate, InterStudy
Overall
I wish I had known...
Not really, although some of the things that I have discussed in earlier sections would have been nice to know before going.
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In my opinion:
Everybody loved it, you will too!
Important factors in my choice
(1) Unimportant – (4) Very important
Academic reasons
2
Culture
4
Costs
3
Activities
2
Campus life
3
Party / people
3
Weather / location
3
Personal recommendation
The academics are not as good as in America (from the perspective of a private university student). However, the people, the food, the weather, the attractions, the animals, the languages, and the overall atmosphere of the place more than make up for the academic shortfalls. Put simply, I learned more while in South Africa to advance my personal and academic lives than I ever could have in one semester at my home university.
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During my experience abroad, I ...
(1) Never – (4) A lot
Became familiar with another culture
4
Traveled
4
Improved language skills
4
Met people from other countries
4
Became more independent
4
Partied a lot
4
Experienced a change in life
4
Advanced my studies & career
4
Final comments
South Africa is a dream come true for an anthropologist. There is such a ridiculous array of cultures, foods and ideas that it is often difficult not to lose oneself in the maelstrom that is Durban. Also, for those interested in animals and ecology, South Africa is one of the few places on Earth with a lot of natural, preserved areas. I had many encounters with exotic wildlife both in the city and outside of it. The best way to experience all that the country has to offer is to travel as much as possible. Finally, the best thing to do for yourself when immersed in a new culture is to relax and take cues from others. Africans are generally garrulous and kind people, but you'll have a much easier time of meeting people if you simply be yourself, learn the native customs and pleasantries, and understand what should and should not be said. While Africans are mostly nice people, there are many social taboos that you will not notice at first. Instead of sticking your foot in your mouth, take a while to watch and feel out how social interactions occur among native students. This not only applies to black Africans but also to whites, Muslims, and people of Indian descent. Each culture, no matter how familiar it may seem at first, has distinctive traits that could get you into trouble if you are not cautious about your actions and speech at first. This is meant as a polemic against ethnocentrism as well as a warning about how dangerous South Africa really is. KwaZulu-Natal has extreme poverty, class disparity, and nearly the highest AIDS rate anywhere in the world. South Africa as a nation is one of the most dangerous countries on Earth according to the UN. Therefore, in order to protect yourself it is of the utmost importance to become culturally sensitive towards the new groups that you will be meeting.
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Graham S
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
Anthropology, Undergraduate, InterStudy
Student life
Describe host city:
Students equally interact with the local and student community
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Nightlife: Takes place mostly outside the university/student environment
Travel, Activities: Takes place both within and outside of the university/student environment
Personal social experience
Activities
Nightlife
Travel
Overall
Personal comments
Durban is very different from most American cities because of the extreme crime rates. It is difficult and unadvised to walk around much of the cityby yourself during the day. At night you should only move around by car. This was truly irritating for me since I am an avid cyclist. Fortunately, I was able to become best friends with a South African student who had a car, which made both traveling and hanging out in the city much easier. Taking a taxi is a good alternative as well, but it becomes costly unless you have a lot of passengers. Another answer to the trasnportation problem is to get some money together with other students and by a used car. A few people did this and were able to travel around the country every weekend and vacation. As for places to hang out/visit, I would recommend going to Beanbag Bohemia, which has amazing cuisine, good music, and a laidback atmosphere. If you're looking for something more lively there is the BAT Centre. It is renowned as a local arts and culture center with a yummy restaurant during the day. At night the place becomes a nightclub with different themes every day, the most entertaining and crazy being hip hop night. Not into hip hop? There are many clubs featuring different styles of techno, particularly drum and bass, psy trance, and house. One of the truly annoying problems with Durban that has become a sarcastic truism for many is that there is no good rock/alternative scene. During the day there are a multitude of fantastic sites to visit including the Japanese Gardens, the Durban Art Museum, the beautiful beaches, the aquarium, a water park, Victoria Street Market, shark dissections, and a lot more that I cannot remember at the moment. Finally, for entertainment both day and night you have to visit Gateway, the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. I know this may sound consumerist and rather lame but it is a fantastic place with good shopping, enormous movie theatres, an independent film theatre, performance space, bars and a skate park designed by Tony Hawk.
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Graham S
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States
Anthropology, Undergraduate, InterStudy
Expenses
Main source of funding:
Other
Other sources of funding:
Family<br> Other
Work opportunities:
I worked, but it was illegal/cash in hand work
Personal spending habits
Well, because the exchange rate is six Rand to the dollar is is understandably much cheaper to do most things in South Africa. Britons have an especially easy time in South Africa because of the Pound/Rand ratio. Oddly enough though, cell phones are more costly in South Africa (at least for me, who usually pays about $40/mo. for a phone) because there are very few phone plans. Most companies simply have kiosks where you can purchase minutes and put them on your phone. The minutes are not cheap however, and it is necessary to have at least ten or twenty minutes at all times for safety reasons if you plan on leaving campus.
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Telephone:
was more expensive than at home.
Nightlife, Travel, Overall, Food, Housing:
was less expensive than at home.
Accessibility of student needs
Second-hand text books
Second-hand household items
Computers / Internet
Administrative
Money from home
Personal comments
Books in general are very expensive in South Africa with even the average soft cover costing about R120 ($20). This is due to a lack of publishers throughout most of Africa. The good news is that the texts for most courses are printed by the university and therefore are easy to find. Unfortunately, textbooks are not covered in tuition fees and you may be smacked with about R60 for materials for each class. It's affordable, but it was an unexpected cost for most of the international students. UKZN is well-equipped with computer lounges and has good internet connectivity. It is pretty much impossible to come across WiFi access though, unless you go to a coffee shop. Even then most establishments will make you pay for the privilege. Save yourself the worry and cost by leaving the laptop at home. As for amenities such as banks, phone minutes, or ATMs, UKZN has a few varieties of each on campus tht are accessible twenty-four hours a day. Beware the cost of using banks though; every transaction you talk to a teller for is usually charged to your account. Putting it easily - watch out for the banks and the phone companies. Both are vicious and money-grubbing with many hidden expenses.
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