The RUG gets around
Name: Joëlle Blankestijn
Age: 20
Where are you studying?
Bloemfontein, South Africa
Third-year student of International Relations

Bloemfontein, South Africa

Braai and brandy-cola

Every year, many RUG students decide to do an internship or temporary study abroad. Do they get any work done in sunny Granada? Can they find their way around the giant city of Moscow? And what is it like to dance the tango in Buenos Aires? Part 10: Bloemfontein, South Africa.
By Nanette Vellekoop / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

A real South African culture thing is ‘braai’: it basically means barbecue, which they do every single night. South Africans love their meat. I’m a vegetarian myself and they don’t really have any meat substitutes here, so it’s not really my thing.

A beer at the pub is approximately 1.20. But all they drink here is brandy-cola, which they love.

Why South Africa?

‘Every day, people ask me why I came to South Africa. For the people here, Europe is the ultimate dream. But my family has loved South Africa for years, and my great-grandfather lived here.

We came here on holiday one time and just fell in love straight away. South Africa has everything: every kind of landscape imaginable, you can go on safari, there are mountains and the ocean, and the weather is great. I think Afrikaans is an intriguing language, I’ve always been interested in it. It’s really started to feel like a second home.’

What is the difference between being a tourist and being a student in South Africa, according to you?

‘It’s really different. Now that I live here, I can hear how many different languages are spoken here. Officially, South Africa has eleven different languages. And as a student I’ve become much more familiar with youth culture here. But what has mainly struck me is the class difference. Apartheid was abolished less than thirty years ago, and there are still traces of it everywhere. On every form I fill out, I have to state that I’m white.

Some of the houses here on campus used to be segregated. Now, the rule is that they have to be mixed. But there are very few mixed groups and in class, black people sit with black people and white with white. But young people aren’t afraid to talk about it. I live in a residence with 180 girls and my hall has only black girls. If I want to talk about race with them, it’s no problem.’

What’s living on campus like?

‘It’s really easy for international students to meet people, because everybody loves the fact that I’m from a different country. They don’t have that many exchange students here anyway, there are only eighteen at the moment.

I feel safe here. All over campus you can find these red buttons you can hit if you’re being mugged or raped. They also have campus services, who you can call to accompany you across campus. I’ve never used them myself, but others have. The security here is really tight, too. I have to scan my card three times before I can enter my room and there are bars on my windows.

There’s a real student club culture here, it’s almost like hazing sometimes. One house chases guys up a tree and then shoots at them with BB guns. They’re really hard on first-years in the beginning. They’re not allowed to drink and the dorms lock at ten p.m. Studying is really expensive to most people so they don’t fritter away their first year. Fortunately, I’m not considered a first-year student.’

What is the education like in Bloemfontein?

‘The students clearly have much less knowledge. When a lecturer asks when the Cold War ended, a third-year history student will have trouble answering that.

But the courses here are really interesting. Right now I’m learning about African history, for example. In this course, we talk about pan-Africanism a lot. The lecturers will emphasise that people should be proud to be African.’

Previous episodes

Georgia Tuhoy – Madrid, Spain
Moniek Smit – Cairo, Egypt
Gabby Rialland – Bogota, Colombia
Marleen Kas – Uppsala, Sweden 
Anton Jongeling – Barcelona, Spain 
Desiree Niezen – Kiel, Germany 
Anton Wuis – Busan, South-Korea 
Juliëtte Eijkelkamp – Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
Iris Groenendijk – Cheltenham, England



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