I have had to write this post about studying in South Africa. How did I find myself here at the University of Pretoria? A lot of my friends have been asking me questions hoping I can also help them with admission, travel and scholarships. I will do a quick story that covers my trip here and this would help anyone interested in such a decision. Please drop your questions as a comment here after reading as i might not respond to private queries, I am not an expert in travel or visa or scholarships. I am just a student who followed his passion.
In 2013, I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University as one of the top students in my class. I had a 4.15/5.00 CGPA and awards in Property Management and Property Valuation courses. I thought I would either get a job immediately or at least start my Masters in the same school. This didn’t work out. While serving as a Youth Corps Member in Anambra State, I had begun to consider my options.
At a point I thought I would stay back in Awka and work with the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women Affairs. I did a lot of research work for and with the permanent secretary who was studying for her Doctorate Degree at the Nnamdi Azikwe University. This experience pushed me to a conclusion that my strength was in research and training.
I knew what I needed to do. I returned home and started to apply for jobs and at the same time I worked with an Estate Firm in Osogbo as a contract staff. The owner of the Estate firm – ESV Segun Fasiku – helped me a lot.
I finally got a job with another Estate Firm and shipped off to Delta State. All the while, I was nursing my desire for a Master’s Degree. I had no funds and no sponsor so I knew I either had to save some money or look for scholarships. I got admission to several Universities in the United Kingdom; University of Sheffield, Birmingham, Westminster and a host of others. However the costs of running these programs were way above what I could handle.
I eventually decided to look for an alternative that would be within Africa but also at the level of research exposure I expected from those European Universities. In real estate we have an international body called the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The RICS has a list of accredited University in and outside Africa. As at the time when I was searching, the University of Pretoria was my closest and best option. UP ranked top in Africa with regards to Real Estate and Construction Economics and this motivated my decision to enrol. I decided that if I was going to an African university other than OAU where I graduated then it had to be one of the best.
By the time I started to apply for admission at the University of Pretoria, I had done a few months of work in Delta and Oyo state. I worked as a Junior Estate Officer at Sam Akanbi and Co, Estate Surveyors and Valuers. Due to not too conducive working conditions and my desire for growth, I left the Estate Firm and returned to Osogbo to continue as a pupil.
I reconnected with ESV Segun Fasiku and started my own Estate Management office. In the time I spent working on my own, I saved enough funds to apply for my Masters at OAU and also at the University of Pretoria. The application for the University of Pretoria was mostly online. I had help from a family friend who fortunately schools also at the university.
I had to submit a few documents like my application for a SAQA Evaluation by post. The SAQA Evaluation can now be done totally online from anywhere. My research proposal was also submitted online. Some of the other things I sent by post were:
- Certified true copies of my transcript.
- Certified true copies of my certificates.
- My student Contract.
The above listed items were however not needed until the last stage of registration after my admission. My application was all done online. The contact I had in Pretoria simply helped me to confirm responses from the department with regards finding a supervisor for my research.
I finally got my admission letter to the University of Pretoria sometime in January 2017. I had started attending classes at OAU for the same Master’s Degree. There was a choice to make. To either keep travelling between Osogbo and Ife, sleeping in my Dad’s car on campus or putting all my resources into pursuing the Pretoria Studies. I had also been made class rep for the Masters Class in OAU; this meant that I always had to be around to fix classes and assignments. This would cost me a lot financially and alternatively I could just go to Pretoria. I chose Pretoria.
As you remember I told you I had a CGPA of 4.15, qualifying me for an automatic postgraduate bursary at UP. During the admission process online, applicants are requested to also fill in a form if they want to be considered for this Tuition bursary. There was no separate application for the tuition bursary. Also the bursary does not cover all of your tuition.
The amount the bursary covers is based on your grade in your undergraduates. Mine covered about 70% of my tuition cause I had a Second Class Upper Degree of about that amount.
This was a huge relief. I knew then that all I would need as funding for Accommodation. My tuition is about R13,000 (Rands) a year and the University covers 70% of that. My accommodation is about 4 times of that amount, say R48,000 per year. Living cost is usually way more than the cost of tuition. Food and clothing are not much of an expense for me because obviously I don’t eat too much and my fashion needs are quite limited.
However, in a month I could spend about 2,000 Rands on food and clothing. This means in a year a minimum of R 24,000 goes to food and clothing. I had just the tuition bursary but had no idea how I was going to fund the other costs.
Now I had to apply for a study visa and also pay for a flight ticket obviously. I applied through the VFS centre in Lagos. In that time, I stayed a bit with friend and also lodged at cheap hotels all over Lagos. It was a tough but eventful experience. The consulate rejected my first visa application. I believe the rejection was mostly because of my accommodation and funding documents.
I used my account for the funding because I was earning some money on my own as a freelance writer and felt that should be enough. Eventually I had to find a business funding. With a letter proving my relationship with the person funding and their promise to fund me, I reapplied.
Also in this period I contacted the school about my lack of student residence placement. I had applied early as instructed while applying for my admission but was not placed. This aspect could prove very challenging because you need a proof of accommodation for a minimum of a year. The options available would include renting a student residence online without knowing if you are paying for a fraudulent apartment or booking an hotel room for a year which could be a fortune.
Alternatively, you could have a citizen host you because other foreigners on student permit or even resident permit might not have enough authorization to host you. I called the school and emailed several offices including the International Student centre. Most of the emails and numbers are available on the university site. I copied my supervisor and department in these queries. I explained my challenge with securing accommodation and how it had affected my visa application.
Eventually, on the last day before I submitted my second visa application, I got an email confirming I had been allocated student residence. I appended this to my second visa application.
This went on to another month of waiting and checking with the consulate office. It was difficult getting responses from the office about my visa status. What helped me was that I continued to call the consulate’s helpline and also checked at their office till I finally got my visa. At this point, I would advise you don’t consider paying bogus amounts to travel agents. They have little or no influence when it comes to South Africa’s application process.
Another major difficulty I faced was that each application required me to get new sets of documents: medical, police reports, x-rays and health insurance. The only easy and verified health insurance for international students is Momentum Health’s INGWE option. You can check with VFS to confirm if this has changed.
The health insurance cost is also quite much. It’s now about R400 a month. Which is about R4,800 a year and you have to pay for a minimum of 12 months before applying for a visa. I got a loan from one of my uncles to pay for the health insurance. This process could require you to have a dollar card and account.
I would recommend you pay using someone’s dollar account or if you can get your own dollar account before starting your applications, then do so. It’s also easier to pay for these things using a South African account so another option is that you send your money to a Nigerian staying in South Africa inclusive of bank charges of course. They could trade your naira for rands and pay on your behalf.
Leaving Home and Life Here
I am here now and it’s been close to a year. One of the first challenges I had was that I arrived in winter. From the little I have heard since I got here, most people arrive in winter. It’s important to not underestimate the cold. Also if you have secured your accommodation before travel, try to arrive midweek. I arrived in South Africa on a Friday and this meant that I had to find a hotel room to stay till Monday when I could get access to my room.
Remember to keep calling the resident placement, to let them know when you will arrive. Emails are also great. The school responds well to email enquiries.
Finally, getting a job here might not be an easy thing. Don’t place your hopes on that. Funding for me came in form of writing jobs I do online, a lot of sleepless nights working on websites that needed content, donations and support from my friends. Also, my supervisor referred me to try applying again for an African Real Estate Society (AFRES/IREBS) funding.
I applied using my research proposal and got some funding that helped with my accommodation fees. You can also search for professional bodies in your area of study to apply for funding. There are a lot of funding opportunities and work here in South Africa but most of them place preference on South African citizens.
It’s been challenging, fun and sometimes scary but I don’t regret choosing Pretoria. Kindly note that everything stated above is my personal experience. NONE of the information here represents professional advice.
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