Doublecheck to be sure those classes are still offered!


During her study abroad semester in Capetown, South Africa, Hannah Middleswart met Christo Brand, who was the prison warder for Nelson Mandela when Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Imagine arriving in South Africa for a semester of study abroad, only to discover that the classes you planned to take for your major were no longer offered!

That happened to Hannah Middleswart ’17 of Chemical Engineering this past fall when she participated in the IES Abroad program at the University of Cape Town.

Engineering students don’t have that much wriggle room in their schedule to begin with; to lose a whole semester would be a major setback. But Hannah found a solution.

elephant”I made arrangements with the chemical engineering department at UCT to study thermodynamics on my own and take a final exam for a grade,” Hannah explained. “It was a lot of work and very stressful, but in the end, I was able to take two classes for my major (a core class and a technical elective) and one cluster class.”

Hannah says her study abroad experience helped her gain  “a lot of patience and adaptability -- adapting to cultural differences, being patient with the slower pace of things, and being flexible with the situation involving my courses. I feel like I realized how much I am capable of, as I had to correspond with UCT, UR, and IES to figure out a way for me to stay on track to graduate.”

She not only accomplished that, but enjoyed many memorable experiences.  For example, she met Christo Brand, who was the prison warder for Nelson Mandela when Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island. “We also got to go to Robben Island and see Mandela’s prison cell and learn about political prisoners and apartheid.”

 She also witnessed a massive student protest that shut down the UCT campus and delayed final exams in response to increased college fees and the college’s outsourcing of labor. “It was inspiring to see that the students had such passion to change the things they saw as unjust, and to see the progress from the movement,” Hannah said.

 She does have some hard-earned advice for other Hajim students planning to study abroad: “Check directly with the university you are studying at to make sure your courses are available. Use the course catalog to choose your courses, then check to make sure they are still available.”

 shark cage

Hannah and her friends engage in shark cage diving at Gansbaai, just outside of Cape Town.