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Africa is an incredibly unique place for study abroad students. As the most underdeveloped continent, the country faces quite a few issues including poverty, government corruption, disease, education shortcomings, racial tension, and malnutrition. Despite its problems, the continent is still rich with culture, greenery, ani mals, and natural beauty (be sure to visit Victoria Falls!)
Many study abroad programs involve interesting field work and close interaction with local communities. That being said, Africa can be a great study abroad destination for lots of different majors and interests: international development, anthropology, sociology, politics and public policy, environmental studies, biology or zoology (lions, elephants, and giraffes, oh my!), and many more!
Cost of living varies throughout Africa. In countries soaked in oil, like Angola and Nigeria, costs are very high. Zimbabwe is also quite expensive. South Africa is relatively cheap for Americans, with goods costing about 75% what they cost in the U.S. Most of the other African countries are cheaper to live in. Prices in Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Ethiopia range from 50% to 30% of U.S. prices, respectively.
If you are planning on traveling while in Africa, you should know that currency generally changes as you cross borders, so make sure to change your money as necessary! Also, take note! Some currency exchangers only accept recent money for fear of forgery so make sure your U.S. bill's date is after 2005 to be totally safe.
Check out this super cool chart from Global Property Guide to see an expense comparison of African countries.
Because of the number of indigenous tribes, it is estimated that over 1,000 languages are spoken in Africa! Some researches even put that number closer to 2,000. Colonization also brought languages non-African originating languages to the continent. The major languages include English, French, Dutch, Arabic, Swahili (in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda), and Afrikaans (in South Africa).
For all you anthropology buffs, Africa is the birthplace of the human race! That being said, there is far from one culture on the continent. There are thousands of cultural and ethnic groups throughout the continent, and their cultures can be quite different from one another. Because of its colonial past, Africa also has an interesting cultural blend of the indigenous cultures and of the colonial cultures--particularly European and Arabic. While many African peoples still hold onto their cultural roots, South Africa in particular is becoming more Westernized.
Throughout the various cultures, one thing remains: importance of family! Elders are highly respected for their wisdom. Schedules are not as strict in Africa, which is likely a result of the uncertainty of day to day life in many African countries. Crafting, beading, music, dance, and storytelling are also also large parts of African culture. Because of colonialism, sports like cricket, soccer, and rugby are quite popular.
Like language, popular grub changes depending on what area of Africa you're in. Starches and root vegetables are pretty popular throughout the areas. Eastern Africa has Indian and Arabic influences (think curries, lentils, spices, cinnamon), while Northern Africa has a mediterranean flair. Ethiopian food uses this really cool spongy sourdough bread called injera in place of utensils to pick up the various stews characteristic of the cuisine. Barbeque (called "braai" by the locals) is very popular in South Africa, along with fruit and seafood.
The University of Cape Town, Johannesburg's University of Witwatersrand, and Stellenbosch University in Matieland all rank on Times Higher Education World University Rankings. All three schools offer lots of opportunities in lots of disciplines.
Though South African universities tend to dominate international rankings, other African countries definitely have some awesome opportunities for study abroad. Egypt's Cairo University has high quality medical and engineering programs, while American University in Cairo is modeled after liberal arts schools in the U.S. Other notable universities include University of Botswana, University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, and University of Ghana, which was founded as a sister institution of the University of London.
With all of its diversity, Africa truly has something to offer all students. Since different areas of the continent can vary, you should definitely ask yourself some questions before settling on a specific study abroad location: How large of a country would I like to live in? What languages are spoken? Do I want to live in a rural area or a city? Which countries have the best schools and field work opportunities for me? What kind of accommodations would I like -- homestay, apartment, dormitory?
Many of the programs you find will provide you with opportunities beyond your wildest dreams to get up close and personal to a new culture and get hands-on experience in a new community.
Though Africa is generally an inexpensive place to study abroad, it never hurts to have a little extra cash in your pocket. Try asking your school and the program you select if they offer any scholarships. Here are some other scholarships for you to check out:
Emma is a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Cognitive Science. Since she studied abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, she has been itching to travel more. When she isn't in school or working at Go Overseas, she loves to dance and browse Pinterest.
Do you think there is something missing in our guide to studying in Africa? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.