A record number of 650 international students gathered to start the semester as Matie students during a welcome and orientation event hosted by Stellenbosch University International (SUI) on Monday (6 February 2023).
The 2023 cohort represents countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and the USA. The group consists of full-degree and short-term mobility students such as Freemovers, exchange students, students from the American Institute for Foreign Study and students from the SKEMA Business School in France.
Senior director Robert Kotze, said it is a phenomenal experience to celebrate 30 years of internationalization with their biggest group yet.
“I'm very happy to see this big group. My first group was in 1994 with 14 students, mostly from the Netherlands. It is good to see how much we have grown over the years."
He urged the group to contribute to SUI's internationalization efforts by making an effort to engage with local university students and the broader community.
“My challenge to you is to really participate in the community programmes so that you can also experience the broader community of Stellenbosch. But, more importantly, make an effort to interact with the local students so that they can also be exposed to internationalization in the classroom. So be present in the moment and open yourself up to new experiences."
Tim Walter, a Business Administration student from Münster University in Germany, said he chose to come to SU to experience a different way of life – the weather, the natural beauty and the diverse population of Cape Town. He also plans on having some fun.
Maj Zemljic hails from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. He said he is looking forward to continuing with his business administration studies at SU.
“I heard that Stellenbosch offers a different way of teaching than in Slovenia. I believe that students are challenged to question more, encouraged to think for themselves and to do research on their own. So I am excited about that."
Stefan ten Voorde, a first-year Food Science student at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, said he is looking forward to experiencing the South African culture.
“Stellenbosch is a very nice and privileged town in all respects but I would also like to explore the wider culture in Cape Town, and perhaps get to compare it to the life we live in Europe. I can already see a difference in how helpful people are here and how much they care for each other compared to back home."
He said he would like to learn more about the South African agricultural system. “Just to see what stage they are in compared to the German agricultural system and what their problems are and, perhaps, how I can be of assistance."
As is the norm, SU will once again make use of the Matie Buddy system which connects international students with a local student to help ease them into life at the university.
Nare Ngwepe, a third-year student studying Agricultural Economics and Business Management, has, for the second year in a row, volunteered to be a Matie Buddy.
He volunteered in order to learn from and experience people from different cultures and countries and to improve his intercultural competence.
“I hope by interacting with them I will be able to prepare myself for the work environment where I will be expected to interact with people from different races, backgrounds and cultures. I hope to spare myself a culture shock," he said.
He said his duties as a Maties Buddy include conducting campus tours and going with students on sightseeing trips.