Though a study abroad program at the University of Cape Town in South Africa is run through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and is included on the Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) program options list, OCS recommended that students study abroad elsewhere for the fall 2017 semester. While OCS did not officially bar students from going, students said that the office’s strong words discouraged them from signing up.
During the past two fall semesters, the University of Cape Town has been rocked by student protests against the proposed national rise in tuition costs. The protests disrupted classes and delayed exams for weeks. In some cases, universities were shut down entirely, including the University of Cape Town. Such shutdowns pose serious issues for foreign students.
“[It] is an issue of jeopardizing credit transfer and making sure students can graduate on time and have an academic experience that does involve some academic content,” said Director of Off-Campus Study and International Programs Christine Wintersteen.
Although Bowdoin students have attended the program over the past two years, they have encountered complications, which led OCS to recommend students avoid the program this fall.
“There’s something about having that experience sprung on you when you’re already there and working really hard to make sure that credit isn’t jeopardized, and that the student can complete the semester and stay on track for graduation. And there’s another thing knowing that the possibility is there pretty routinely and going into it knowingly,” said Wintersteen. “That feels a little bit more that the onus is on us to be responsible.”
Wintersteen said that if no strikes occur this coming fall, which is the end of the academic year in South Africa, then her office will likely support student participation in the program again.
Marina Henke ’19 saw the program on the OCS options list and was very interested in studying at the University of Cape Town next fall. After meeting with OCS she decided to go to Amsterdam instead.
“OCS made it very clear to me that there is a very high probability that if I were to go in the fall, which is the only semester that I was looking at, that classes would be disrupted and final exams may get a little bit hairy. I really wanted to avoid that, so I chose not to go,” Henke said.
Henke said that she wished that the OCS office had been more clear about the availability of the program, but found them to be very helpful in helping her find an alternative program that fit her goals for the semester.
Wintersteen said that students are still encouraged to consider the University of Cape Town program for the 2018 spring semester.