Ready to Go to South Africa
Know Before You Go
There are many things you will need to think about before you depart for South Africa. This section covers some of the basics. Please feel free to contact your program manager at any time as you prepare for your experience abroad!
In This Section:
Travel Documents for U.S. and non-U.S. Citizens
You will need a passport to travel to South Africa. Please visit the U.S. State Department travel pages for the most up-to-date information regarding passport application and fees.
Passports are valid for ten years unless you applied for one before age 18, in which case it is valid for only five years. If you already have a passport, it must remain valid for the full length of your stay abroad. Immigration officials may deny your entry to South Africa, or airline staff may refuse to let you board, if your passport will expire before the end of your program. It is not possible to renew an expired passport while overseas; therefore, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. You will not be allowed to leave the U.S. with a passport that will expire before your program end date.
Allow plenty of time to apply for your passport, particularly in the busy summer months. Processing can take as long as six weeks. We recommend you apply as early as possible so that you're not caught at the last minute. More information is available here.
Visas and Certification of Student Status
You will need a visa to study in South Africa. You will have to apply for a visa before your arrival in South Africa. Please visit our visa page for more information.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, it is your responsibility to obtain visas and / or special entry papers or documentation required. Please contact your Program Manager immediately for assistance with this process.
Health and Safety
It is important to get all necessary vaccinations before traveling to South Africa.
Recommended additional immunizations:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
It is NOT recommended that you purchase Malaria pills for your time in South Africa (unless you plan to travel to the Kruger National Park.)
The U.S. Department of State recommends that you check your health records to make sure your measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis immunizations are up to date. We strongly recommend meningitis inoculations, although they are not mandatory. For complete and up to date information, we strongly recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health website.
Health and Accident Insurance
Special Medical Needs
If you have any medical or psychological condition that may require attention overseas from a physician or psychiatrist, please tell us about it. Because some conditions may be exacerbated or reactivated by the experience of living in a new country, you may want to report earlier conditions for which you have been treated successfully. If you have any doubt about these matters, check with your physician/psychiatrist.
Be sure to have your physician/psychiatrist prepare an adequate summary of the details of your condition so you can be properly treated by a physician/psychiatrist overseas.
List all medications you regularly use, and be sure to have adequate supplies of special items. Brand names and dosages differ, and you may have difficulty tracking down the specific medication you want. Be sure all prescriptions you take with you are labeled with your name, the name of your physician and the generic name of the medication. We want you to provide us with any information that would help us assist you in an emergency.
This information will be treated confidentially and remain in our files only until you complete your Arcadia University program. We encourage students with a medical condition which might affect emergency treatment to wear a MedicAlert bracelet or pendant.
Physical and Learning Disabilities and Other Special Needs
At Arcadia University we encourage students with disabilities to consider study abroad and we are committed to working with each student to find a program that suits his or her individual needs. Please keep us informed of any special needs, including dietary restrictions/preferences, physical concerns or learning disabilities, allergies and strict religious observances. Providing this information will not jeopardize your place in the program. It is much easier for us to help you if we know about your special needs ahead of time. Please visit the health and safety section of our website for further information and resources.
Health and Safety in Flight
For safety and comfort, wear loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing during flight. Do not wear snug-fitting or heeled footwear! It is helpful to do seat exercises or to walk in the aisles in order to maintain good circulation.
It is always advisable to sleep during long flights (a flight attendant will provide you with a pillow and blanket). You should avoid alcoholic beverages in flight because they cause dehydration. The recycled air in a plane also has a drying effect, so you should drink non-alcoholic beverages regularly. If you require a special diet, notify the airline at least 24 hours before departure. If you suffer from the effects of jet lag, inquire about methods to combat this problem.
We list the following guidelines as precautionary measures, rather than to alarm you. All of the destinations we offer are located in areas that are, statistically, less crime-prone than the average American urban area.
Still, it is important to protect yourself and use common sense. Americans are easy targets. We dress differently, speak loudly, carry backpacks and have a distinct accent. Thus, the people you meet may see you with stereotypical eyes and an occasion may arise where someone may want to become friends with you in order to obtain in one form or another your money or your passport. This has happened in the past and is a serious problem.
- Don't stand out as a group or individual. Try to blend with your surroundings.
- Do not participate in political activities, angry groups, or demonstrations.
- Do not give out information carelessly about students or events. Do not share your address with strangers.
- Always be in contact with your site director and contact our in-country or Glenside office for help anytime. Keep emergency numbers handy.
- Know basic help phrases in the native language.
- Be careful of persons wanting to make your acquaintance very quickly, as they may have an ulterior motive.
- Meet people in public places during the day, preferably with a friend or two of yours.
- Avoid travel to any sensitive political areas.
- Remain alert and never leave your bags unattended.
Special Considerations for Women
A woman traveling on her own may encounter more difficulties than a man by himself. Some of the best ways to avoid hassle are to fit in and try to understand the roles of the sexes in the culture in which you are traveling. Flexibility means observing how the host country's women dress and behave, and following their example. What may be appropriate or friendly behavior in the U.S. may bring you unwanted, even dangerous, attention in another culture.
Try not to take offense at whistles and other gestures of appreciation, regardless of whether they are compliments, invitations or insults. Realize that, in many countries, these gestures are as much as part of the culture as is the food, history and language.
But if a situation is dangerous – if you are made to feel uncomfortable – then act as if it is. Be extra careful when giving your trust. This applies generally, but is especially important when traveling alone. Avoid being out alone at night in unfamiliar territory – on the street, in parks, on trams, on trains. If, for example, at night you suddenly find yourself alone in a train car, move to another one where other people are sitting.
AIDS, Safe Sex and Relationships
If you are sexually active, take care of yourself and practice safe sex. Be aware that any type of relationship, whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, entails the risk of a sexually-transmitted disease. Entering into a relationship overseas should, therefore, be approached with the same precautions you would use at home. The charm of a once-in-a-lifetime romance in another country may be tempting, but consider any relationship carefully and remember that you are only in your host country for a short time. There are different cultural values regarding dating and relationships.
When traveling abroad, be aware that some countries may require HIV antibody tests. Travelers should also know that some countries may not have the resources to screen blood adequately or provide sterile needles or medical facilities. We recommend that you take normal, everyday precautions to avoid putting yourself at risk. Do not use intravenous drugs. Practice safe sex. Think carefully about administration of CPR if you are trained to do so. Do not share personal care items, such as razors, with others.
Taking Care of Things at Home
Home Campus Arrangements
You should notify your study abroad advisor that you are planning to take part in an Arcadia University program and be sure to take care of any necessary paperwork before you leave campus. Remember to cancel housing and meal contracts for the time you'll be away and make arrangements to reactivate them when you return.
If registration for next year's courses on your home campus will take place while you are abroad, ensure that the appropriate arrangements are made with your registrar or study abroad advisor so that you will receive your registration materials in a timely fashion.
Some students enrolled on semester programs decide when they are overseas to stay for the full year. This is possible. While home college approval for continued study can be obtained when you are abroad, it will be much easier to make the necessary arrangements and receive preliminary approval before you leave the U.S.
If you have been accepted to a semester program but want to leave yourself the possibility of staying for the full year, consult your study abroad advisor about what you must do now to facilitate continuing your stay for a full year should you decide to do this.
Voting by Absentee Ballot
You won't want to miss the opportunity to vote if you are overseas during the fall term. Before you leave home, check with the Board of Elections at your County Court House about procedures for voting by absentee ballot. You may want to arrange for a member of your family to pick up the ballot and mail it to you. Some election boards have been known to mail ballots overseas by surface mail, which can take up to six weeks to arrive! Check the following website for more information: www.fec.gov.
LGBT Life in South Africa
For information on study abroad support for LGBT students and to identify in-country resources, see LGBT Resource Guide, the website for NAFSA: Association of International Educators Rainbow Special Interest Group. The site includes important considerations for LGBT students as well as a bibliography of books and websites.
Cell Phones and Communication
There are several options you may wish to consider for keeping in touch with friends and family back home. Former students have often found a combination of the below options provided them with the best opportunities overseas.
Host-country mobile—Arcadia provides South African cell phones to all participants in its South Africa programs for their safety and for good program communication. The phones receive calls and text messages at no cost to the recipient from the U.S. as well as South Africa. Students can buy phone time at a reasonable cost on a pay-as-you-go basis and will find using these phones considerably less expensive for local calls and texts than using their U.S. phones. It is important to keep in mind that while these phones should help you connect with others in-country, they may not be the most cost efficient option for long conversations back to the United States.
International cell phone—many U.S. cellular phone companies provide international phoning options, so an existing cell phone can work any where in the world. This allows you to keep your same number and contact your friends and family just as if you were home.
One thing to remember when deciding whether to bring an international cell phone is any calls to your number from new friends in-country will be made back to the United States and not local.
Skype or VOiP—phoning home over the internet is an inexpensive way to keep in touch with others. Students and their family can sign-up online prior to departing and plan ahead about when to connect.
It is important to remember that internet access, reliability, and strength may be vastly different to what you are familiar with at home. Often times, students describe this difference as one of the most significant of their time abroad. Be sure to review your program's housing information to learn if internet is provided or available.
International calling card—often the most inexpensive and manageable way to call home, International calling cards can be purchased either before departing or in-country. Calling cards allow for a specific allotment of call credit to be available for your conversations.
Telephones may not always be provided in your accommodations, so it is important to check your program's housing information.
You'll need to make a note of the time change so you don't call home in the middle of the night. Cape Town, South Africa is seven hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time. There is no daylight savings time in South Africa.
You should take a look at the many excellent travel books available in campus or local bookstores. Returning students tell us they couldn't have gotten by without Lonely Planet South Africa. Another pair of popular budget travelers guides is the Rough Guides and Berkeley Guides. You can use the costs listed in these guides to help you budget for vacation travel expenses.