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Summer in South Africa FAQs

Do I have to be a CSULB student to apply?

No. Graduates, faculty, staff, and community members are welcome to apply.

What does the application process entail?

Complete the brief application form and submit it to lportnoi@csulb.edu. Please do not submit an application unless you truly expect to be able to go on the trip, as we want to try to accommodate everyone who is interested. Eight spaces are available to Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling (ASEC) graduate students or recent graduates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Eight additional spaces are available to other ASEC or other CSULB graduate students, advanced undergraduate students, graduates, faculty, staff, and community members on a first-come, first-serve basis. Faculty references may be checked prior to granting permission to attend the program.

What should I expect in visiting South Africa?

Expect to be open to experiencing a new culture and new surroundings. Expect to be amazed at the beautiful flora and fauna and diverse landscape of South Africa. Expect to meet wonderful people who are welcoming and have interesting life experiences. Also expect to have your worldview challenged, and to reflect on your own position in the world and that of the United States. South Africa has a enormous gap between the wealthy and the poor, and a great deal of the population is unemployed and living in impoverished conditions. These extreme conditions are sometimes difficult to witness. Yet, there is also an amazing sense of hope regarding the possibility for change. South Africa is a young democracy (the first democratic election was held in 1994), with a vibrant array of cultures and languages. There are 11 official languages in all! South Africa also has one of the most progressive constitutions, that includes provisions for same-sex marriage and affirmative action. Often called the “rainbow nation,” South Africa truly encompasses a wealth of diversity in many ways.

Also, given the nature of study abroad programs and the South African scheduling customs, expect for the details of our trip to change regularly. Change can be a good thing! Often, opportunities will arise as we travel and we will want to take advantage of them. Also, expect that the course will not necessarily follow in a sequential progression as it might if we were to offer the course fully in the United States. Flexibility and adaptability will be key!

Is it safe to travel to South Africa?

South Africa is an extremely popular tourist destination, especially for Europeans and Australians. Although one’s safety can never be guaranteed, not even in Long Beach, South African cities are generally considered to be similar to other major metropolitan areas. As in any other large city, you will need to keep your belongings secure and take appropriate precautions.

Why isn’t there a group flight available?

Though group flights can be cost-effective, they require that everyone travel at the same time. Some students may wish to arrive early or stay later, or to take time to stop over in Europe. South African Airways offers direct flights from New York and Washington D.C. to Johannesburg with connections to Cape Town. Many U.S. and European carriers offer flights via London, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, and other cites on the continent.

In addition, students often have great web-searching abilities and may find even better deals on their own. Some travel search engines include international flights, but many do not; therefore, it can be beneficial to check individual carriers’ websites directly. Student travel fares are often available. Discount ticket brokers are also available online, though it is beneficial to check into the company’s legitimacy before booking. Also inquire about change fees, airline mile accrual (you’ll receive nearly 25,000 for flying to SA!), and what occurs with the ticket if there is a cancelation. It will generally take 24-30 hours to get to South Africa, with about 21 hours of flying time. Note that you will likely need to depart from the U.S. on July 22 in order to arrive on July 23. Also note that departure on August 12 is from Johannesburg international airport. Students who would like to depart from Cape Town, should book a flight departing on August 13, or should book a connecting flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town on August 12.

How will we get around while there?

We’ll have a small bus and a driver who will take us on all program excursions, class activities, and site visits to schools, universities, and community centers. We’ll also ride in the bus for our extended trip throughout the Garden Route, Eastern Cape (former Transkei), KwaZulu Natal, and the Johannesburg/Pretoria area. Be prepared for a great deal of driving—the best way to see the South African landscape! Cape Town has limited public transportation options. For the Cape Town portion of the trip, you may also use taxis for evening and other extracurricular activities. During the day, you will also be able to walk to local shopping and restaurants when you have free time.

How will I keep in touch with loved ones back home?

Public telephones, or “call boxes,” are available all over South Africa. You can buy phone cards at many local shops, and the rates are reasonable in off-peak hours. Cell phones are also available for rental upon arrival. In addition, internet cafes are prevalent in the cities, and in many tourist locations.

What will the weather be like while we’re there?

Late July/early August is tail end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The weather will be similar to what we experience in Southern California in February/March. We may have cool temperatures and rain, but we might also be fortunate to have sunny, clear days during the trip. The temperatures can vary a great deal, just as in Southern California. Temperatures average in the low 60s at this time of the year.

What can I expect in terms of food?

South Africa has excellent food. In the cities, you will find many U.S./European style foods, fast food locations, and grocery stores. The selection is more limited than what we have in the U.S., but you will even find some of your favorite brands there. Of course, you’ll also find local specialties as well. South Africa has a large number of people with Indian descent, and the Indian restaurants are especially good. Vegetarians will find plenty of options in both the grocery stores and in restaurants; vegans might need to get a bit more creative, but it is certainly possible to travel to South Africa as a vegan. In Cape Town, and in some of the locations on our extended trip, you will be staying in “self-catering” accommodations, where you are able to make your own food if you wish. Food is relatively inexpensive compared to U.S. prices, so you should be able to eat very well for less than you normally spend at home!

Will I be able to exercise while there?

We understand that exercise is an important part of many people’s daily routines. While in Cape Town, it should be fairly easy to catch some exercise with abundant hiking opportunities and gyms available. During the extended trip, we will also try to build in as many active opportunities as possible, though there will be days when we spend a good portion of our time in the bus. For example, while we are game viewing in the national park, we need to stay in the vehicle at all times!

Do I need to have immunizations or take other precautions in terms of health?

Consult your doctor regarding your standard immunizations as well as any travel vaccinations that he or she would recommend for this short trip. We will be in an area with limited exposure to malaria for about 2.5 days. Overall, the sanitation is comparable to the U.S. in cities and tourist destinations. Most people do not encounter any problems with drinking the water or eating raw vegetables.

What should I pack (or not pack)?

A general rule of thumb, especially for first-time overseas travelers, is to set out everything you would like to take and then cut it in half. Really! Keep in mind that you will need to transport your luggage a very long distance and then in and out of a bus (with shared luggage space) many times. One medium-sized suitcase or duffel bag would be reasonable. Bring mainly casual clothing that you can layer. You may wish to bring one nicer set of clothing for an occasional evening out, and one warm jacket or fleece. An umbrella might be handy too, though you can pick one up there for a very reasonable price.

South Africa has all of the same types of toiletries you would find in California (many of the same brands), so bring only what you need for the first day or two. Contact lens solution and prescription medications are an exception—bring these with you. Unless you have a dual voltage hair dryer, leave it at home (you can purchase one there for about $20-30). South African electricity is 220/230 volts. “American” adapter plugs are readily available in South Africa, so there is no need to buy one prior to departing. 

In addition, it’s best to leave anything that you wouldn’t want to lose or have stolen at home. Keep jewelry and designer clothing and handbags or watches to a minimum. I would also encourage you to leave computers and other technological devices at home. You are welcome to hand write your journal. Of course, a camera is essential!

Why can’t we find out what the final program fee is right now?

The final program fee depends on many factors, some of which are changing on a daily basis—the interest rate, the total number of people who go on the trip, gas prices, etc. Unless there is a major and unexpected jump in prices, we do not anticipate that the program fee will be any more than $2400. If we happen to have extra funds available once we arrive because costs have gone down, we will use them to expand our excursions or add group meals.

What is your experience in South Africa?

I first went to Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 to serve as the Resident Director for a non-profit study abroad organization based in the U.S. I served as the Resident Director for the program for 18 months. During that time, I planned and executed all academic and cultural components of the program, organized home stays, taught courses on research methods, and oversaw students’ research projects. While serving as a resident director, I also completed a Master of Philosophy degree in Education Management, Administration and Policy at the same institution where the study abroad program was housed—the historically Black University of the Western Cape (UWC). Moreover, I was a Visiting Researcher at UWC’s Center for the Study of Higher Education during the same time period. After completing my master’s degree and hiring a local professor to serve as the Resident Director in 2000, I returned to the U.S. to complete my Ph.D. My doctoral studies built upon the work I had done while I was a master’s student and researcher in South Africa, and I continued to study South African higher education while pursuing my Ph.D. I returned to Cape Town for the entire year in 2004 to complete my dissertation research on graduate students and their career trajectories. Between 1999 and 2010, I have also made frequent shorter visits to South Africa, and I was last there in April 2009.

last updated — Feb 19, 2011