Approx. Time Difference
Welcome to your program!
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
“It is cliché to say it but studying abroad in South Africa was the most amazing experience of my life. Students and professors are on a first-name basis and the atmosphere is much less formal. I found this to be a wonderful change and great for my education. The things I did, the places I went, and the people I met will forever remain my favorite memories to date.”
~ Rebecca Silberman, UCLA
Click a heading below to see section content.
Your UCEAP Network
Local UCEAP support, UCEAP online & Study Center abroad
Bookmark your Participants
program page; it contains vital resources and requirements you need to know before you go abroad, including the Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets and Payment Vouchers, and policies.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientation, and academic advising, and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors communicate program information, both academic and operational, to students and campuses, and coordinate and provide academic and administrative support in all aspects of your participation.
Operations Specialists coordinate the logistics of the program including document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, placement and acceptance by the host institution, arrival and on-site orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Specialists advise on academic policies; review and record courses taken abroad for UC credit; process student registrations, petitions, and grades; and document and maintain students’ academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Study Centers Abroad
University of Cape Town
Ms. Gail Solomons, UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer (for academic matters only)
School of Languages and Literatures, Beattie Building
University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch, 7700
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 650-2613
Phone (calling from Cape Town): 021-650-2613
Ms. Lisa Essex, Coordinator, International Academic Programmes Office
University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch, 7701
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 650-2822
Ms. Ida Cooper, Housing and Student Support
Ida Cooper Associates
Cape Town International Student Support Programme
International Visitors’ Programmes
26 Wheelan Street
Newlands, Cape Town 7700
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 683-4648
Phone/Fax: (011-27-21) 683-9169
Cell phone (for emergencies only): (011-27-82) 494-7773
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code: 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
South Africa country code: 27
Cape Town city code: 21
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University-specific academic information, internships &
- Minimum of 22 UC quarter/14.7 UC semester units each semester, three or four courses.
- Submission of a MyEAP Registration Study List.
- At least two courses in the school related to your major; for example, a biology major must take two courses from the School of Science; an engineering major must take two courses from the School of Engineering; and an economics major must take two courses from the School of Commerce.
After arrival, you will meet with the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer, a faculty member who provides academic advising and assists with registration procedures.
During the application period (before departure), you will indicate preferences for specific courses (modules) on the University of Cape Town (UCT) application. UCT will review the preferences and let you know if you have been preapproved to take the courses.
All courses are open to you if you meet the prerequisites, but space is limited in some courses. To take fourth-year courses, take evidence of preparation in the particular subject area, such as transcripts and syllabi, and plan to meet with the department head or course instructor for permission to take the courses.
You will complete your final course registration during the first week of the term.
Registration procedures are different from UC. Please be patient and understanding of registration and other university procedures.
Handbooks (catalogs) for each school with course descriptions are available on the UCT Handbooks page
- Commerce (includes economics, management, and information systems)
- Engineering & the Built Environment
- Health Sciences
- Humanities (includes Fine Arts and Social Sciences)
- Law (primarily year-long courses)
- Science (many courses include lab work or practical work in the field and have high units)
Most courses are offered during only one semester each year and some courses are not offered every year. Year-long courses are only available to students participating in a full year program. The departments of Law, Fine Art, Music, and Dance generally offer year-long courses only, so they are not open to semester participants. The School of Humanities is impacted by international students so course registration is limited. No more than 50% of any class can be filled by international students.
Fall courses have an S suffix; for spring look for the F suffix.
The UC division is based on the level of the course at Cape Town:
- 1000 level - lower division
- 2000 level - usually upper division; occasionally lower division
- 3000 level - upper-division (recommended)
- 4000 level - upper-division honors courses; may require the permission of the course instructor
- 5000- and 6000-level are graduate-level; undergraduate UC students must be of senior-standing and must complete a General Petition for approval to take these courses
UC quarter units are based on the University of Cape Town HEQF units listed in the handbooks:
- 18 HEQF Cape Town units equal 6 UC quarter/4 UC semester units
- 24 HEQF equal 8 UC quarter/5.3 UC semester units
- 36 HEQF equal 12 UC quarter/8.0 UC semester units. These are often the honors courses or science courses with lab and fieldwork components.
Science students may apply to participate in one of the Faculty of Science’s intensive scientific fieldwork courses. UCT instructors make final selection and only admit a few students who meet stringent prerequisites. These courses will be in the UCT Sciences Handbook if they are being offered. You register for the fieldwork class along with your other courses. Selection is competitive and there is no guarantee that you will be accepted into a fieldwork course.
Non-academic service-learning and volunteer opportunities are arranged by UCT’s Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organization (SHAWCO
). The opportunity to offer service to the disadvantaged communities of Cape Town is a highlight of many students' study abroad experience.
- You must take all exams at the host university.
- The exam schedule is not flexible.
- Final exams are in designated locations—not in the rooms where classes are held.
The university sets the exam schedule and the faculty offices publish individual schedules of when and where the exams will take place. Review the schedule of exams carefully. There are no make-up exams. Exam dates cannot be changed to accommodate travel plans. Do not make travel plans until you know the date of your last exam. Arrangements for early exams are not allowed.
Considerable emphasis is on the final written exams. Permission to take the final exam may require a certain percentage of class attendance and level of achievement on assignments and classroom performance. This is called a Duly Performed Requirement (DPR). If you do not meet the requirement and are not allowed to take the exam, if you choose not to take the exam, or if you miss the final exam, you will receive an F or an NP (if you take the course on the P/NP grading option) for your UC grade.
In humanities and social science courses, final exams are usually three-hours in which you receive a set of essay questions and respond to three or four of them. Some courses use multiple-choice questions for part of the exam. Final exams typically count for 60 to 75 percent of the final grade for the course; assignments and tests during the semester make up the remaining 25 to 40 percent. In some courses, continuous assessment conducted throughout the semester takes the place of final exams.
See the UCT website
for additional information on exams.
Grading systems used in South Africa differ from UC. Assignments and exams are given a percentage grade that, in most cases, is much lower than what would be expected according to the usual UC scale for comparable work. For example, 75 percent is an A at UCT. It is normal for average work to be marked 60–65; marks in the 60s are considered indicative of good, solid work.
South African universities have extensive, established procedures for quality control of courses and for protecting the rights of students by ensuring that grading practices are fair and consistent. Additional information on this procedure is on the UCT website.
The numerical grades are converted into UC letter grades by the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer before they are reported to UCEAP and to your UC campus registrar.
Fall grades are usually available in early January; spring grades are usually available in early July.
For more information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
It is important to attend all classes. Absences are noticed, considered when assigning final grades, and may be taken as a sign of disrespect.
The academic program is rigorous and expectations are high, particularly at the upper levels. Instruction takes an independent approach and academic expectations are less defined than at UC. Assigned readings and other class requirements may appear deceptively light. Lectures may be less structured and normally do not repeat or review the reading material. Most departments issue or post syllabi, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments. You are expected to master the subject matter, set your own pace, and incorporate readings and lectures into your schedule.
The undergraduate degrees are three-year degrees. Local students are specialized in their fields by the time they enter second- or third-year courses. Professors expect that you will have completed the basic prerequisites and taken some upper-division courses in your major. Be familiar with the methodology of your major if you expect to enroll in upper-division courses in that discipline. Science courses include practical lab requirements and advanced research skills.
Professors expect papers to demonstrate strong writing skills, critical interpretation of oral and written sources, and the clear and cogent expression of your understanding of the subject matter. Top grades require evidence of independent learning, original insights, familiarity with additional reading, and exceptional formulation and expression of ideas. UCEAP alumni report that some classes require more homework and considerably more reading than UC courses.
Overly assertive or casual behavior during class may offend faculty and local students. Given the British background of higher education in South Africa, the relationship between students and instructors is typically more formal than at UC. While some instructors appreciate American student contributions for lively class discussions, not all instructors care for outspokenness. You are encouraged to introduce yourself to your instructors and get a sense of what might be welcome in your interactions. Faculty members are generally available after class and sometimes during office hours.
Local students can offer insight on the requirements and the teaching styles of your classes. For example, fourth-year courses (“honours” courses) are taught at a substantially higher level than second- and third-year courses; consequently, the quality of student work is expected to be much higher and you are expected to have mastered academic research and writing skills.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extension information, forms & deadlines
Plan Ahead to Extend
You are encouraged to extend your time abroad with UCEAP at any time. Discuss the option of extension with the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer. Steps to follow if you are considering extension:
- Submit a Request for Final Approval (RFA) form to the Academic Liaison Officer to activate the extension request.
- Extend your visa within South Africa at least six weeks prior to your original visa expiration date.
- Alternatively, submit a Petition to Extend form, which requires campus and department approval and can take one to six weeks to process.
Once your extension is approved, UCEAP will notify your UC campus registrar and Financial Aid Office. For information about the steps you need to take in regards to finances, see the Extension of Participation
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
South Africa is a country with different cultures in the midst of social transformation. Norms followed in the U.S. are not always understood or accepted by locals abroad. Be prepared to adapt to your new environment, and keep in mind that not everything that is different or uncomfortable is wrong. Patience and cultural sensitivity are key to a positive experience in South Africa.
Get acquainted with your new host city and South African culture before you go. Travel guides and travel-related websites, such as Lonely Planet
, are excellent resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals such as the Mail & Guardian
“Attempting to understand the many different kinds of accents and slang in South Africa—there are 11 official languages— is no easy feat, and nothing makes you feel more like a ‘fresher’ (first year) than trying to decipher academic lingo. Quick lesson: ‘convener’ means professor, ‘prac’ means lab, ‘tut’ means section, meridian means lunch break, and ‘Jammie’ can be loosely translated to the 16 Laurel bus route."
~ Anonymous Student
Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states. Most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas, but it helps to be prepared and research your destination before you go.
South Africa has one of the most liberal legal frameworks regarding gay rights and protections. Because of this, South Africa has become a land of exile for many African gays persecuted in their home countries. But even here, challenges remain as anti-gay attacks still happen.
In South Africa, not only is homosexuality allowed, but lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders (LGBT) also have had the right to marry and adopt children for years. To this day, it is still the only country in Africa to allow such freedoms. But everything is not perfect in the rainbow nation. In fact, attacks against LGBT still happen on a regular basis.
Arrival & Orientation
Travel documents, packing tips, travel to and from
your host country
Prior to departure, view the first hour of Disc 1 of the May 2008 South Africa Orientation DVD at the Campus EAP Office. You are encouraged to view the remainder of the DVDs.
Your program begins with orientations provided by IAPO (International Academic Programmes Office) and the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer covering:
- your new location, the host university, and the local culture;
- safety issues and health concerns such as HIV/AIDS and how to obtain medical help;
- banking, shopping, and travel;
- transportation and local laws;
- UCEAP and host university course registration procedures, including MyEAP course registration;
- academic culture and expectations;
- volunteer and service learning opportunities; and
- campus tours and excursions.
Attendance at all orientation sessions is mandatory (per the UCEAP Student Agreement). If you miss an orientation, you may be dismissed from the program.
You will obtain a study permit from the South African Consulate General in Los Angeles prior to departure. The entire process takes about six weeks (it can take longer for non-U.S. citizens). The UCEAP online Predeparture Checklist
provides information on the visa process for U.S. citizens. Non-U.S. citizens should contact the consulate directly. The South African consulate has the authority to deny issuing visas to applicants. UCEAP is not able to intervene on your behalf should this occur. Direct any questions about visas to the South African consulate or embassy.
Travel Before the Program
Travel after the UC term ends and before the official UCEAP program start date is not recommended. Due to the visa application processing time, you may not receive your visa in time to travel as planned. UCEAP is not able to accelerate the process for issuing acceptance letters and visas.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Take updated academic transcripts that include your most recent UC semester or quarter grades; these can be helpful in gaining admission into certain host university classes.
When traveling, always personally carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage. UCEAP provides health and personal property insurance for all participants.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Driver’s license for identification
- Combination locks or padlocks (two to three)
- Rain jacket or windbreaker
- Laptop (see Voltage in this chapter) and adaptor
- Photos of family and friends
- USB flash drive
- Small, lightweight gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (examples: T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; baseball caps; California postcards, maps, posters, or scenic calendars; or books, since they can be expensive in South Africa)
If you take a laptop that does not already have a built-in converter, take the necessary transformer (240V) and an adaptor for local plug sockets.
South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the seasons are reversed. It will be cold and rainy in July. In February, it will be warm.
The climate in South Africa overall is similar to the climate in coastal California. Cape Town’s climate is like that of the Central California Coast. The temperature generally ranges from 60° to 80°F during the summer and 45° to 65°F in the winter.
Travel to South Africa
You are responsible for reserving and purchasing your airline tickets—even if you are on financial aid. Purchase a changeable airline ticket. Standby tickets are not appropriate for this program. Arrival information is provided in the UCEAP online Predeparture Checklist. If you fail to arrive on the official UCEAP arrival date, you are subject to dismissal from the program.
When you arrive in South Africa on the official UCEAP arrival date, you will be met at the airport by host university staff and will use prearranged transportation to get to your lodgings. Book your flight directly to Cape Town International Airport. If you arrive at the incorrect airport or arrive on days other than the official arrival date, you will not be met at the airport and your accommodations may not be ready.
The start date of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for travel arrangements. In order to be kept informed of program changes, check your e-mail regularly. You must provide your flight itinerary—including any subsequent changes—to UCEAP using the Flight Itinerary Form provided in the UCEAP online Predeparture Checklist
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Student Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare amount in the budget is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to South Africa. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the program budget, notify your campus financial aid counselor. Neither UCEAP nor the campus Financial Aid Office can guarantee the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
Travel options & travel sign-out
You can use the UCT shuttle service or walk in groups on campus and to/from housing. The Jammie Shuttle, a university bus service, is a safe mode of transport to and from most areas populated by students. In addition, UCT offers a campus escort service through the Student Protection Service. It is available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. for on-campus escorts. If walking, use the buddy system (see “Safety
” section below).
Walking alone anywhere, on or off campus, is not advised.
Review the “Safety
” section of this guide for more information on safe and unsafe local transportation options.
During school holidays and after the program ends, students often travel throughout South Africa and even venture to other parts of Africa, time permitting. UCEAP participants have gone up the east coast to St. Lucia, Swaziland, and Kruger National Park. Private tours of Namibia and Botswana are available. Carefully research the companies providing the tours and the political situation of the countries you would like to visit. IAPO can provide useful suggestions.
It is imperative that you let Ida Cooper Associates know when you are going to be out of town, even if it is only for a weekend or post-program travel. Unfortunately, some students have been robbed or involved in accidents during their travels. Parents often call UCEAP to inquire about the safety of their students; it is best that you play it safe and inform both UCEAP and your parents about your travel plans. Use the “Travel Signout” tool in your MyEAP account to indicate your travel plans.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
MyEAP student account, UCEAP student budget & handling
Handling Money Abroad
Budget carefully; living expenses are on the rise. The contrast between rich and poor in South Africa is stark—behave with sensitivity and caution regarding this economic reality.
Most hotels, shops, restaurants, and airlines accept major credit cards such as MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Club.
The official currency unit in South Africa is the rand (abbreviated R or ZAR). There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency allowed into the country as long as it is declared on arrival.
Before leaving the U.S., consider obtaining foreign currency (about R1,000) as it may not be possible to access a bank immediately upon arrival. Besides providing an opportunity to become familiar with the currency, the funds will be needed for food, local transportation, tips, and unexpected purchases. You should be able to purchase the currency at your U.S. bank or any international airport.
It is possible to exchange money and travelers checks at most banks and other authorized institutions in South Africa. You will also be able to open a non-residential bank account at one of the many banks located near the host university. Many banks operate nationwide ATM networks, and you can find ATMs on campus. You can select a bank of your choice and apply for an ATM card free of charge.
Past participants have successfully conducted all their financial transactions in South Africa by using an ATM card connected to an account in the U.S. Investigate this option with your home bank before departure.
UCEAP students often open an account at Absa Bank near campus. They are used to working with international students to open local bank accounts.
Cape Town has a modern financial infrastructure and efficient electronic technology for processing international financial transactions.
ATM Theft Advisory
Be cautious! Theft in South Africa is common. Remember that you are vulnerable when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Groups of thieves operate together to steal bank cards and trick card owners into revealing their PINs. Keep the following recommendations in mind when using ATMs:
- Use ATMs that are located in busy areas (shopping centers, busy garages, or where there is a visible security guard present).
- If anyone approaches you for any reason while you are using an ATM, cancel your transaction immediately.
- Do not talk to anyone until the transaction is completed or canceled.
- All ATMs have emergency call buttons. Use this to report a crime.
- Know your bank’s procedure to cancel your card, regardless of the time of day (especially important if you use your card to draw funds from an international account). If lost or stolen, cancel your card immediately—the bank may not cover theft that occurs before the cancelation is complete.
- Keep a low daily withdrawal limit on your ATM card. It is common in South Africa to have a daily withdrawal limit of R1,000. Check your established limit and set it to a reasonable level of rand per day. Depending on your needs, this could range from the rand equivalent of $20 to $100 per day.
Mail, local and international calls & computer access
Avoid shipping anything to South Africa. Shipping is slow, items are subject to tax, and theft is common. Even a large manila envelope can take two months to reach its destination and often requires payment of exorbitant customs duty (100 to 200 percent). You cannot ship things to South Africa before the program begins. There is no storage. Carry everything you want to take.
Carefully scrutinize what you plan to take and decide if the items are really necessary. Remember that you will have to make similar arrangements to ship items home at the end of the program. It may be less expensive to pay the excess baggage fee with the airline than to ship goods abroad and pay a customs duty, but be sure to research and weigh the costs before making a decision.
You can buy a new or used cell phone after arrival. Past participants report that used cell phones are available at pawn shops and a shop called Games. You can sell your phone when you leave the country.
Many students use a pay-as-you-go calling plan with an “incoming call” package. You can also pay separately for outgoing calls. The cost of calls within South Africa is reasonable. For use outside the country, it is recommended that you purchase a phone card (widely available) to make calls.
Approximate time difference: 10 hours
E-mail and Skype
You will be able to get a local e-mail account at UCT after arrival. You are required to update your e-mail information in MyEAP and to monitor your e-mail regularly for messages from both UC and your host university.
UCEAP will use the e-mail you specify in MyEAP as a primary means of contact.
Many students use Skype
or similar applications to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet.
Computer Access and Use
UCT’s Information Technology Services has a large computer room accessible only with a swipe card. Printing is available for a nominal charge. Student consultants are on duty to help with the software. Internet access is available for academic purposes only. There are also a few computers in the IAPO for exchange students to use.
Housing & Meals
Program housing options, supplies needed & meals
Where Will I Live?
Housing is not available until the official arrival date. Do not arrive before the official arrival dates.
Pay close attention to local peers, staff, and host university faculty regarding safety issues for both housing and areas around the campus.
You will be placed in a shared apartment or house in a safe neighborhood. Ida Cooper Associates
and the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) will arrange housing before your departure based on the housing preference questionnaire you will complete in the Predeparture Checklist. UCEAP students may not live in campus dorms due to limited housing.
The lodging and amenities will vary by each housing option, but you can easily buy things that meet your needs in Cape Town. You may want to take a towel and linens for a single bed, but you can also purchase them once abroad. Most kitchens are equipped for conventional cooking (no microwaves). Houses are not centrally heated, and you may want to purchase a heater for the winter months or a fan for the warmer months.
Rent and Fees
Unless otherwise instructed, you will make your housing payments directly to the dorm or apartment in local currency, even if you are on financial aid. In some cases, credit card payments may be accepted.
Before leaving South Africa, you must pay the balance of any outstanding rent, library, gym, and other charges in full. Check with the host university before departing South Africa in case you are assessed fees of which you are unaware. If you leave unpaid fees behind, your grades will not be released to UC and you will be responsible for paying these fees directly to the host university even after returning to the U.S.
If you withdraw early, you cannot expect to receive a refund, and UCEAP is not in a position to negotiate on your behalf. Like UC and most other universities, housing deposit refunds depend on the landlord’s ability to fill the vacated apartment if a student leaves earlier than the date outlined in the contract.
You will find any kind of food you can possibly imagine in South Africa. Neighborhood restaurants and local eateries are popular.
Vegetarians and vegans can get along without a problem. Many fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, pastas, and breads can be found in stores throughout the country. When shopping for groceries, weigh your produce before you get to the check-out stand.
The water supply at UCT is safe, but take bottled water with you into townships and informal settlements, or when working on community service projects.
Social activities, excursions & working in your host
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while abroad is an excellent way to meet people and integrate into the community. Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
At the University of Cape Town, many students become involved in extramural outreach activities such as joining SHAWCO
(Student Health and Welfare Caring Organization), working with children, health care, and environmental issues. During orientation, IAPO introduces you to outreach opportunities and addresses the new culture of South Africa. Past events organized by IAPO include a drumming circle, township tours, train rides along the coast, and hikes up Table Mountain.
Physical health, medications, counseling & student
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your health clearance to UCEAP, you must immediately notify your UCEAP program specialist.
The most common health problems have been minor, such as colds, diarrhea, skin infections, headaches, sinus infections, dental problems, minor injuries, adjustment disorders, and emotional problems. These problems may be compounded by living in another culture. Practice preventive healthcare and take responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact either the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer, International Office, or Ida Cooper immediately. They can recommend a clinic, provide the links to necessary UCEAP medical insurance claim forms to complete, and assist if arrangements need to be made with your professors due to extended absence from class. You can also call the 24/7 UCEAP travel/medical assistance providers, Europ Assistance. Call international collect at 1+202-828-5896 or e-mail them at email@example.com
. They can refer you to a local doctor, arrange for direct payment to the providers if you call them ahead of time, and monitor your care.
Carefully follow the advice received during the required online UCEAP travel health education certification course and the in-person consultation with a travel health specialist to learn about vaccine-preventable diseases. While on your campus and before UCEAP participation, consult UC SHIP benefits as many travel vaccinations are now covered for SHIP-eligible students.
Watch the 5-minute U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast “Tips for a Healthy and Safe Trip to South Africa.”
Educate yourself. Many illnesses are preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever.
You can call collect the UCEAP emergency assistance center, Europ Assistance, for assistance, including medical referrals and direct payment to medical providers, especially during an emergency. Call the University of California dedicated line collect at 1+ (202) 828-5896 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
. Identify yourself as a UCEAP student.
The required UCEAP Insurance Plan is paid by the University of California for students traveling on UC-sponsored activities. The UCEAP insurance plan includes medical and non-medical benefits. For more information and coverage details access the UCEAP Insurance Policy Brochure
The sun intensity is strong in South Africa; use sunblock and sunglasses throughout the year.
Many diseases, like malaria and dengue, are spread through insect bites. Follow precautions to prevent insect bites.
To prevent serious parasitic infections, avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water such as lakes, ponds, canals, streams, or rivers.
Rabies is prevalent throughout the country. Talk to a travel clinic specialist before departure from the U.S. Do not pet animals while in South Africa.
Drink recognized brands of sealed bottled water or canned or bottled drinks.
Drinking water in cities and towns is mostly safe, but raw sewage, industrial waste, and pesticides contribute to water contamination in rural and remote areas.
Malaria is hyper endemic and present in some of the areas. The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) recommends discussing with your doctor the best ways to prevent malaria. Purchase your antimalarial medication before travel. The UCEAP insurance covers antimalarial medication if filled and paid for within 14 days before the official start date of the program. Drugs purchased abroad may not be manufactured according to U.S. standards and may not be effective. They may also be dangerous, contain counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are unsafe to use. Halofantrine (marketed as Halfan) is widely used abroad to treat malaria. The CDC recommends that you do not use halofantrine because of serious heart-related side effects, including death. Avoid using antimalarial drugs that are not recommended unless you have been diagnosed with life threatening malaria and no other options are immediately available.
Malaria Risk Areas in South Africa
HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa in general, remains one of the most affected regions in the world.
In South Africa, many people may be infected yet unaware of their status; potentially infected persons or those whose HIV infection status is unknown pose risks.
Unprotected sex remains the epidemic’s driving force in sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike some infectious diseases, transmission of HIV is mediated directly by human behavior. Changing behaviors that enable HIV transmission is the ultimate goal or outcome required for HIV prevention. Other than abstinence, the latex condom is the most efficient and available tool to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
AIDS represents the late clinical stage of infection with HIV. The four ways you can contract HIV are through direct contact with the blood, breast milk, semen, and/or vaginal fluid of persons infected with HIV. This includes unprotected sexual contact. The blood supply might not be adequately screened. The South African government precautions to safeguard the blood supply are increasing, but at this time the blood supply is not considered to be reliably safe. Discuss nonblood alternatives with your physician before departure during the UCEAP Health Clearance appointment. Exercise caution at all times to avoid serious accidents or injuries that could require a blood transfusion.
South Africa has the largest antiretroviral therapy program in the world, but also has the world’s largest epidemic, so access to treatment is limited.
You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow student, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs.
What to do if you suspect HIV infection:
If you have been exposed to HIV (or even suspect exposure), seek immediate medical assistance. Do not delay, as the first 72 hours are critical. Even though no vaccine is available to prevent infection with HIV, all South African universities and hospitals have thorough protocol (including emergency antiretrovirals) for handling possible HIV exposure or infection.
Do not be surprised to think “It’s not what I expected.” Americans are largely uninformed about South Africa, so expect the unexpected and be sensitive to romanticized preconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Ask for insight from locals and acknowledge that this is a valuable learning experience.
Culture shock and homesick feelings are a normal developmental stage. It is important to recognize culture shock since the symptoms can mimic more severe psychological disorders, such as depression. It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the different environment. To counter this, eat well, drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, share any concerns with the International Office or Ida Cooper, and try to be open and accepting of the differences you encounter. It may make your stay more enjoyable as you adapt to your new environment. If you feel the need for confidential counseling services, ask Ida Cooper or the International Office for a referral.
Take a supply of any required medications to last the duration of your stay. Make sure your medications are legal and available in South Africa. Do not mail medications to South Africa. Call the UCEAP Assistance Provider, Europ Assistance, before departure so you can verify whether you can come into the country with your medication. Europ Assistance contact information if dialing from the U.S.: 1+ 866-451-7606, e-mail: email@example.com
Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and store them in the original, labeled containers. Upon arrival, customs officials may ask for a copy of the prescription or letter from a physician on letterhead with a detailed explanation including the purpose, generic name of the medication, and prescribed dosage.
Refer to “Medication & Supplies” in the Health
section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad for more information.
Pharmacy Availability in South Africa
Private pharmacies (known as “chemists”) carry most international medications; many are open 24 hours a day.
Theft, intolerance, fire safety & emergency contacts
Your Role in Safety Preparedness
South Africa’s crime problem is among the worst in the world. Petty thefts and burglaries are common, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur. You can protect your personal security by exercising caution and common sense and being aware of your surroundings at all times. The campus and its surroundings are not immune to crime. There are steps that you can take to reduce your vulnerability to crime. A good first step is to review the following safety guidelines.
- Be vigilant at all times and never venture out alone.
- Know the environment and choose safe routes and times for travel.
- Use the buddy system; walk in groups (refer to Buddy System section in this chapter for details).
- Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
- Avoid isolated locations, such as beaches, look-outs, and picnic areas.
- Divide your valuables up (different pockets/places), and try to never carry all of them with you at one time.
- Carry a “decoy” wallet and use an under-garments security pouch or waist wallet.
- Crime is significantly higher after dark in the centers of major cities and in township areas.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
In all areas of South Africa, be cautious if you are out after dark and do not go out alone. Streets, even in urban areas, are not brightly lit at night. There may be times when you cannot avoid being out after dark. In those cases, travel with a friend or in a group, and remain alert and aware of your surroundings, avoid dark or deserted areas, and use well-lit, well traveled routes.
Walking alone anywhere, on or off campus, is not advised. If you feel in any way at risk, proceed to a location (e.g., police station, shopping center, or service station) where help is available.
As in other countries, a thief can spot a non-local immediately. So be careful and hold onto your belongings at all times while sightseeing or walking around. There are many incidents of tourist theft in Cape Town.
By listening closely to the advice provided by UCEAP and host university staff, you should have a secure environment in which to live and learn.
Along with personal safety measures, consider having easily accessible a good quality, loud, rescue whistle. The loud sound of a self-defense whistle or alarm may cause temporary disorientation in an attacker and it can also signal for help, giving you time to get away.
Safety and Residential Life
UCEAP returnees report incidents of theft from apartments and houses. Although UC students have not specifically been targeted, international students may be more visible. Take responsibility for your personal safety and for protecting your property. No room or building is completely safe from theft, but you can make it more difficult for a thief to steal your equipment or property. The following are a few tips for avoiding theft in your house or apartment:
- Keep your room door and all outside doors and windows LOCKED whether you are in or not.
- Do not lend your keys, student ID, or security entry card to anyone.
- Do not open a door for a stranger.
- Lock your room door and windows when you leave, even if only for a minute, and take your keys and/or entry card with you.
- Keep valuable items out of sight in a closed drawer or locked in a safe.
- Be alert about suspicious individuals who appear to be “hanging around.”
- Do not leave coats, books, cell phones, or other valuable items unattended in communal areas. Keep them in your room.
- If you hear or see something suspicious, call the police immediately.
- If a robbery occurs, notify the landlord or building supervisor and Ida Cooper Associates immediately for assistance.
On-Campus Escort Protection
UCT offers a campus escort service through the Student Protection Service. It is available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. for on-campus escorts. The Jammie Shuttle, a university bus service, is a safe mode of transport to and from most areas populated by students. Regular security issues are handled 24 hours per day through the UCT Campus Control.
The Buddy System
The buddy system is a safety system in which two people, buddies, operate as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other.
Improved safety is the main benefit of the buddy system as it ensures that quick assistance can be provided in the event of an emergency. For personal safety to be most effective, shared involvement between you and the local administration is essential. Pay attention to their safety advice and think about your personal safety, even when visiting what might be considered a relatively safe area. Use common sense, and think before you act.
If you go to a nightclub, never leave your drink unattended and never stray from a group or leave a friend alone. The buddy system is a critical protective measure on campus and throughout the city.
Credit Card and ATM Fraud
Financial and identity theft crimes are also prevalent throughout South Africa and include credit card and ATM scams. Do not give personal or financial account information details to anyone. There are international fraud rings operating in South Africa, and credit card fraud is routinely reported. Protect credit cards, credit card numbers, and personal identification numbers associated with credit and ATM cards. Leave copies of your credit card account numbers and phone numbers with a parent or trusted friend in the U.S. so that you can retrieve this information in case your cards are lost or stolen. Regularly monitor your bank transaction records for discrepancies or signs of unusual activity. Do not allow your credit cards to be taken to a “back room” for processing; most businesses have portable credit card machines that they will bring to payers.
ATM fraud is prevalent throughout the country and can include the placement of a skimmer device on the ATM itself, or a “helpful citizen” who offers to assist you. The U.S. Embassy advises that individuals always thoroughly inspect any ATM for suspicious attachments or devices and use a machine in a controlled area such as a mall. Also, never allow anyone to provide assistance and never give out PIN codes.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Deaths from road accidents are roughly twice as high in South Africa as they are globally. According to published reports, the high incidence of mortality in these collisions is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Road conditions are generally good in South Africa. However, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in a high and increasing number of traffic fatalities.
Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left. Take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways. Pedestrian deaths occur regularly, including three cases in 2008-09 involving American victims. Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right of way even in marked crosswalks.
Travel by public transportation in South Africa, except for sedan taxis, is generally unsafe. Exercise common sense at all times, especially if you are unfamiliar with the local crime situation. Do not use public transportation in rural areas or mini-bus taxis while traveling, as drivers are known for irresponsible and dangerous driving.
Public transport is often a hub for robberies. Newly arrived travelers make easy targets because they are often distracted, disoriented, in a hurry, and may be carrying a number of items. Do not travel at night or alone. Always travel with someone you trust. Trains, buses, and bus stations are crowded and harbor thieves, pickpockets and purse snatchers. Keep loose items such as cameras, maps, snacks, and purses within a larger securable bag in front of—never behind—you.
There is a very high rate of rape and sexual assault in South Africa. Adult women travelers are targeted as it is believed that they are disease-free. Female travelers should never travel in groups smaller than three and never travel at night. Avoid sitting or standing next to men in public, especially on public transportation. Do not sit in the front seat of taxis. If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust, and second, contact the UCEAP Liaison Officer.
UCEAP Travel Advisories
Any time that you travel, sign out through MyEAP and notify Ida Cooper Associates. If you wish to travel within South Africa, seek sound advice from the International Academic Programs Office at UCT and arrange for travel through a reputable agency that they recommend.
Driving is strongly discouraged as UCEAP students have been involved in serious car accidents in the past.
UCEAP strongly cautions against travel to Zimbabwe. You must follow the UCEAP Travel Policy
. There are a number of issues, such as limited medical facilities, restricted travel access within the country, political instability, and a high crime rate resulting from poor economic conditions, that may interfere with your ability to access services normally provided by the UCEAP student insurance, including medical evacuation.
Department of State Travel Information
is published by the U.S. Department of State and provides an overview of the conditions related to traveling to a particular country. The website includes information about political disturbances, currency and visa regulations, crime and security, health and safety conditions, and locations of the U.S. embassy and consulates.
What is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.:
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact the Operations Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone number at (805) 893-4762
If you are abroad:
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times.
Safety Resources Abroad:
U.S. Consulate General:
U.S. Citizen Services Website" href="http://southafrica.usembassy.gov/service.html" target="_blank">U.S. Citizen Services website
2 Reddam Ave.
Phone: (27-21) 702-7300
Fax: (021) 702-7493
Hours: M–Thu, 8:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
After-hours emergency assistance: (021) 702-7300
If you have a health, travel, or safety emergency and do not have access to local or UCEAP representative emergency information, contact the UCEAP travel assistance provider, Europ Assistance, available 24/7:
- Call international collect through an international collect operator: 1+202-828-5896
- Call within the U.S.: 1+866-451-7606
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.