Life at Rhodes
Rhodes University is a prestigious institution with a rich student life both on campus and in Grahamstown!
The Rhodes Clocktower is a major landmark in Grahamstown
Rhodes University has a Strong Sense of Student Community on Campus
Due to its small size and the nature of Grahamstown, most students at Rhodes will spend at least one year in one of our Residences. All of these Residences are on campus and within walking distance from most lecture venues. This ensures that the Rhodes community is tight-knit and that most students here make long-lasting friendships. Rhodes has a distinctive student atmosphere that is friendly, easy-going and intellectually engaging. Being on exchange at Rhodes means living in a student community where all your study and social resources are not further than a 5 minute walk!
This page is here to help get to know the fascilities and resources which shape student life at Rhodes.
For information about life at Rhodes, please browse through the Student Handbook, or take a look at the general student information that is available to all Rhodes students on StudentZone.
Please also visit the Admissions Gateway for a detailed rundown of student life at Rhodes.
Support for International students
The staff at Rhodes are easily accessible. Because of the low student-to-lecturer ratio, you can speak to your lecturers about any academic issues that you may encounter. You will also be assigned a student tutor for every course that you take. These students are also available for any queries you may have about the course content. If you need academic support, don't hesitate to speak to either you lecturer or your tutor. For issues and problems that relate to more than just your course content, the following people are here to help you:
Office Tel: +27 (0)46 603 8181
- The Dean of your faculty
- Amirah Kolia, your SRC International Councillor
Amirah and the rest of the SRC can be contacted via email: email@example.com.
Amirah's Cell: 076 895 0044
Please see the SRC website.
- Your warden or sub-warden
- The staff at the International Office
Our office is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:00am to 12:45pm and 14:00pm to 16:30pm for any queries.
We are located in the Eden Grove Building.
Tel: (+27) (0)46 603 8217
Rhodes University has a beautiful campus which occupies one corner of Grahamstown. The main campus was built in 1904 when the university was founded. Some of the buildings date back to the 1810s when Grahamstown was a British fort in the Frontier Wars. Both the Linguistics and the Mathematics departments occupy old barracks, and the Botany Department is situated in a stately old war hospital. The Administration Building, with it's distinctive clocktower, mimics the fort-like shape of the buildings that date from that time.
There are also very modern buildings which blend in with the stately older architecture. These buildings are designed to be easy on the eye, with spacious interiors and modern fascilities. The International Office and Student Bureau are located in one such building: Eden Grove.
The grounds are otherwise very green, with large open lawns and intriguing plant collections. Adjacent to the university are the sprawling Botanical Gardens which showcase the best parts of the Eastern Cape environment. Students often spend afternoons and weekends enjoying the sunlight in the Botanical Gardens.
Rhodes also has excellent athletics tracks, soccer and rugby fields, tennis courts, an astroturf and an olympic-sized swimming pool, all open to students needing to unwind after a long day of work.
Life in a Rhodes Residence
As a student at Rhodes, you will probably spend your first year in an on-campus residence. Most students refer to their 'res' instead of residence. Just over half of all Rhodes students live in res. Most residences are either for men or ladies only, with the exception of Celeste House. Almost all students in res have their own room. Residences are divided into A-grade and B-grade residence. A-grade residences are slightly more comfortable and slightly more expensive, but the overall quality of the accommodation provided at Rhodes is much higher than the South African university standard.
There are 49 residences on campus divided among 12 dining hall. Some of these residences are as old as the university itself, others have been built in the last 5 years. Older residences tend to be more central than the new ones. Both groups have a vibrant student atmosphere. Rhodes residences are generally small, with between 20 and 200 inhabitants. Students in res are encouraged to take part in group activities, such as inter-res sports and dining hall formals. However, residences also make accommodation for those students who prefer to be quiet and less social.
Rhodes residences provide a wonderful support system through the House Wardens and Sub-Wardens. These people are always present to ensure that your stay in a Rhodes res is a pleasant one.
If you want to find out more about the different dining hall at Rhodes, please visit this site.
Rhodes University student societies are student-run organisations. We have many different societies here, each centred around its own unique interest. Some societies are leisure or art orientated, such as the Anime Society and the BUA Poetry Society; others, such as Habitat 4 Humanity and Inkwenkwezi, are orientated towards community engagement. You are welcome to join any of (and any number of) these societies. They are great ways to make friends and explore various fascets of life at Rhodes.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) Office is responsible for the running of the societies. It is located in the Bantu Stephen Biko Building, and you will be able to get further information about RU societies there. If you are here for the first semester (February-June), you will be able to attend the Societies' Sign-up Evening within the first two weeks of semester to choose the society that best suits your interests. Society and Club membership fees vary from approximately R70.00 to R350.00 depending on the society/club. These costs will be debited to your student account as miscellaneous costs, for which you are liable.
Rhodes University offers a wide range of sports clubs and excellent sporting and fitness fascilities. The clubs are student-run, but backed up by the RU Sports Administration. The Health Suite is independently managed, which ensures a high quality of trainers and fascilities.
While here, we recommend that you continue whatever sporting interests you have at home as this is a great way to make friends with like-minded people. You may also want to pick up a sport while at Rhodes to experience some of the local sports culture. All sports clubs have a great social life while maintaining a passion for their disciplines.
For a complete list of the 26 sports clubs at Rhodes, please see:
If you want to know what is on offer at the Health Suite, you can visit this site:
Sports and Health Suite Sign-up Evening happens within the first two weeks of the first semester. If you sign up at the Sign-up Evening, the amount will be deducted as a miscellaneous expense from your account. If you sign-up later in the year, you will be asked to pay cash. Sports clubs at Rhodes and Health Suite membership for Rhodes Students are all very affordable, considering the benefits and fascilities available. You can expect to pay between R200.00 to R1500.00 per club membership, including equipment, kit and tours.
Rhodes University has two Libraries:
The main library is situated in the middle of campus. It was upgraded in 2009 and features a massive selection of books and journals. It also has several quiet and comfortable workspaces where students can study without distraction. There are two computer labs in the library, one of which is devoted to post-graduate students. These computer labs are equipped with scanners, printers and photocopiers. There are special conference rooms and group study rooms which can be booked by students needing to complete group assignments and hold meetings. Furthermore, the library website ensures that Rhodes students have access to a wide range of online academic journals.
The Cory Library houses historical records and books pertaining to Southern Africa. This library is open to all visitors who want to research family genealogies, early journalism in the area and the cultural and politcal history of the SADC region. It is situated in the Eden Grove Building.
Grahamstown is very small, and most places you may want to go within Grahamstown will be within walking distance. In fact, most residences are on the same street as the shops you will visit during the day and the night spots you'll go to at night. So, students at Rhodes tend to walk everywhere. If, however, you feel unsafe or want to go further than you are prepared to walk, we recommend you make use of these two RU services:
- Get Home Safe
The Dean of Students Office provides a free Get Home Safe service to students who find themselves in difficulty late at night. The service operates only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights between 22h00 and 03h00. Please phone 084 869 9679 should you require this service.
- Rhode Trip
For a full time taxi service, you can sign up for Rhode Trip. Rhode Trip is a taxi/shuttle service provided to students for a nominal fee. It can take you anywhere in Grahamstown. You simply send a text or call them and they will collect you and drop you off. Once you have signed up for the service, you will be given the number to text/call. See their website for more details and to sign up: www.rhodetrip.co.za. You can debit this cost to your student account. Note that it is considered a miscellaneous cost and you would be liable for it. Their offices are next to the FNB ATM machine in the Steven Biko building. Their email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and contact number: 082 925 5971.
Rhodes University has an on-campus health care centre. Students wishing to see a medical professional are welcome to visit our health care centre free of charge. The professionals here are capable of helping you with colds, 'flu, headaches and most regular complaints. They are also able to do HIV testing and provide the necessary counselling. In the case of a serious complaint, the health care professionals will be able to refer you to a local specialist.
Contact: 046 603 8523
Rhodes offers Student Counselling for all of its students free of charge. Should you require ANY counselling while you are at Rhodes, please visit our counsellors at the Counselling Centre. The Student Counselling Centre is located on the top floor of the Student Union Building on Prince Alfred Street and is open Monday to Friday from 08h00 – 17h00. To contact the Student Counselling Centre for more information, call them at (046) 603 7070 during office hours or email email@example.com.
The 24 hour emergency line is: 082 803 0177
Campus Protection Unit
Rhodes University is a safe campus. Despite having no visible boundaries between the campus and town, students are safe to walk around all areas of the Rhodes campus at any time of the day or night. The campus is guarded by the Campus Protection Unit (046 603 8146) located just next to Hobson Hall. The Unit is open 24 hours per day and provides highly visible patrols on campus. Students can arrange for a guard to walk them home at night from anywhere on campus. There are also panic buttons situated at key points throughout campus. If you are in immediate physical danger, you can either phone the CPU number or press the nearest SOS Button for an immediate response.
Website: Campus Protection Unit
Although all residences are equipped with very good internet connections, Rhodes accommodates for the fact that not all students will have personal computers. The University has several high-speed computer labs from which you can connect to the Internet. These labs provide a quiet work environment for all of our students and are all equipped with printers.
The most popular are:
The Jacaranda ("Jac") Labs on Artillery Road by the School of Languages
The Eden Grove Labs in the Eden Grove Building
The Union Labs in the Bantu Stephen Biko Building (previously "the Union") on Prince Alfred Road
If you want to find out more about the Rhodes computer labs, please see Computer Labs.
eduroam (Internet connectivity)
eduroam is a secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community. It allows students, researchers and staff from participating institutions to obtain Internet connectivity across campus and when visiting other participating institutions by simply opening their laptop.
How to use this service at Rhodes:
Check if your home institution participates in eduroam.
Connect to the eduroam-test wireless network at Rhodes to get free Internet access.
Authenticate with your home institution's credentials (you may need to make arrangements with them for this to work).
The eduroam-test wireless network for visitors offers limited Internet access, including email and web browsing. It does not provide access to Rhodes' internal network.
For more information, please see: http://www.ru.ac.za/it/resources/wireless/eduroam/
Post can take between 10 and 14 days for overseas mail to arrive. Parcels are likely to be inspected by customs and high charges are often levied by customs on the value of parcels entering the country. We recommend that for all parcels sent, you ensure that the sender gets a tracking number, to help you trace your parcel.
Should you require items to be posted to you, you can use either your residence’s postal address, or the International Office’s postal address (See Contacts). If you use the International Office postal address, we will email you when your letter or parcel arrives.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) is the active voice of the Student Body. It represents the students' interests and concerns at Senate Meetings and to Rhodes Administrative structures. The SRC is responsible for the running of student societies. They also aim to create a great student atmosphere on campus, arranging social events and ensuring that students get access to fascilities that make living at Rhodes comfortable.
There is an SRC councillor responsible for the interests of all international students at Rhodes. You are welcome to visit this councillor to relay any concerns you may have about life at Rhodes. The councillor's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please see the SRC website.
As time progresses, you may desire to move off campus and live in Grahamstown. We call students living off-campus 'Oppidans', or 'Oppis' for short. Oppis all live in 'digs' - rented student accommodation. If you want to be free from the structures of on-campus life, digs is for you. (We do not, however, recommend spending your first year at Rhodes in digs, because students are more likely to find a supportive social network in residence). Most students move into digs with a group of friends to share costs and to create a family away from home. Digs life has its own challenges, but it is an exciting way to experience Rhodes and Grahamstown. To help you through your life in digs, there is a the Oppidan Union. This body looks after your interests as a student at Rhodes.
Please see the Oppidan Union website.
Rhodes has its own Radio station: Rhodes Music Radio 89.7fm. This is a student radio station, playing a wide range of music. They often provide music for sports and social events at Rhodes. Tune in while you are here; or, if you think you have the talent, why not ask if they have a spot for you to DJ?
Community engagement opportunities
Grahamstown is a microcosm of the disparity that exists between rich and poor in South Africa. Eastern Grahamstown is poverty-stricken and student engagement plays a large role in improving people's lives. Community engagement also provides you with a chance to enrich your life through learning from the many wonderful people that live here. Though this is not for the faint-hearted, it is an unregrettable learning experience that will open your eyes to another way of life.
Rhodes University offers students an opportunity to do volunteer work and help the community of Grahamstown. There are a variety of projects to choose from, which work to improve the psychological and material welfare of people in need, and help is always appreciated!
For those interested in doing volunteer work, please visit the Centre for Social Development (CSD) on Prince Alfred Street, or email them.
Contact: email@example.com and 046 603 8573
Religious Life at Rhodes
Rhodes is a secular institution which undertakes to respect the different cultures and religious communities represented in the student body.While Rhodes has no religious stance of its own, it promotes understanding, respect and communication between people of different religious convictions and backgrounds.
Grahamstown is known as the 'City of the Saints' with around fifty churches, many of them historic monuments. The city Cathedral faces the entrance of the university, and the beauty of this building is to be admired by the religious and non-religious alike. It is open to be viewed on Sunday afternoons and during the week. All major Christian denominations have congregations in Grahamstown. Grahamstown also has a Hindu temple which can be visited by Hindu students.
On campus, there are two places of worship. The Chapel of St Mary and all the Saints has weekly services for Anglican students. Rhodes also has prayer fascilities for Muslim students.
Rhodes dining halls accommodate for the religious dietary needs of the students, with a Hindu/Halaal and a vegetarian option being available for every meal. There are also thriving religious student societies which offer spiritual support for religious students away from home.
Grahamstown is in the middle of the Eastern Cape, and is halfway between our two major coastal cities: Durban and Cape Town. While in South Africa, you will definitely want to travel. Of course, you should see the beautiful Cape Town and experience Durban's metropolitan atmosphere. But, the Eastern Cape has lots to offer too, and you'll find it much cheaper to travel. Grahamstown is only 60km from the pristine beach towns of Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred. To the North, there are beautiful mountain ranges which are often snow capepd in winter. A popular destination that is only 140km from Grahamstown is the tiny hamlet of Hogsback in the mountains. When it is not snowing, you can walk through the dense and mystical forests that surround this town. To the West, one finds the otherworldly Karroo. This semi-arid landscape is captivating, with crystal clear night skies for stargazing. Here, you will find many farm bed-and-breakfasts where you can stay and enjoy the wildlife.
Grahamstown is also surrounded by game farms and is close to the Addo Elephant park. It is easy to see big game in the area. If you have not been game viewing before, we recommend that you book a trip while you are here.
If you want to find out more about travelling in South Africa, please see Travel and Tourism for information on leisure activities in the Eastern Cape and on touring South Africa.
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