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SIT South Africa Social & Political Transformation

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring


Durban, South Africa



Program Features

Affiliated Program


- 2.5 GPA

- Good academic and disciplinary standing

Application Due:

Spring 9/27

Fall 3/4

Taxi driving down street

SIT Study Abroad offers more than 60 accredited semester and summer study abroad programs in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. SIT also offers the International Honors Program, which is multi-locational.

The SIT Experience

  • Rigorous academic programs through a field-based, experiential approach
  • Undergraduate research through an Independent Study Project
  • Cultural immersion through fieldwork, language classes, and urban and rural homestays with local families
  • A small group of students in each program, supported by SIT faculty and staff, homestay families, in-country experts, and community members
  • Access to SIT's extensive local resources and networks
  • A commitment to reciprocity as the foundation of our educational philosophy

Academic Program

Examine the history and dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid system and visions for the country’s future.

Engage with the local community as you focus on issues of memory, reconciliation, development, nation building, and South Africa’s social and political transformations in the 20 plus years after apartheid.

Key topics of study include:

  • The historical background of South Africa's apartheid system, the dismantling of that system, and emerging visions for post-apartheid South Africa
  • Remembering the past through individual and popular memory and the role of memory in healing the trauma of the past
  • Reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
  • The evolution from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to a developmental state
  • The role of civil society, education, and media in the goal of nation building
  • The challenges of transition
  • Gender and social change

For more information, see SIT's webpage.

Program Structure

city view of durban buildings

Interdisciplinary Seminars

Thematic seminars merge student experience with academic theory to examine critical issues from multiple perspectives. Students learn from SIT faculty as well as guest lecturers from local universities, research institutes, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community and professional associations. Field-based activities and assignments complement readings, discussions, and research papers, allowing students to engage in a variety of study methods.

Intensive Language Study

Programs typically offer language study at the intermediate and advanced levels and/or beginning instruction in a less commonly taught language spoken by the local community. Language courses incorporate formal classroom instruction, discussion, and field exercises designed to enhance student engagement while improving oral and written competence. Select programs are taught entirely or partly in the target language.

Research Methods and Ethics

Students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake fieldwork on topics connected to the program’s theme and specific cultural context. Students develop research skills and approaches including cross-cultural adaptation and skill building; project selection and refinement; contact and resource cultivation; observation and interviewing skills; gathering, organizing, and presenting findings; and maintaining a field journal. Students also examine the ethics and impact of their research on local communities and are required to follow the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy, which serves as an approval process and guide for ethical field study practices.

Independent Study Project (ISP)

Typically conducted during the last month of the semester, the ISP allows students to pursue original field-based research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The academic director advises each student on developing a project plan. Students also identify an ISP advisor who works with the student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of the student’s research project. Final projects generally include a 20- to 40-page paper and presentation to peers, academic staff, and interested members of the host community.

University of Iowa students who complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) must follow University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies and procedures. For more information on the Iowa IRB process please visit the Undergraduate Research Abroad webpage. An additional pre-departure orientation session, hosted by the Iowa IRB, will be offered on campus to help answer questions and ensure compliance.

ISP in Journalism: The program’s journalism track gives you the opportunity to identify, research, and execute a full-length feature on a topic of your choosing under the expert guidance of journalists from Round Earth Media and Times Media Group. You will engage in ongoing reporting assignments in the media format in which you have the most experience—print, video, audio, photography, and/or multimedia. In addition, you will collaborate with early-career South African journalists working at Cape Town’s Daily Dispatch and Johannesburg’s Sunday Times to report a major feature story.

Cultural Activities

IN AND AROUND DURBAN: Your base for the program will be in Durban, among the most cosmopolitan of South Africa’s cities with a rich fusion of African, western, and Asian influences. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese, and other enclaves. Here, you will experience several fascinating excursions: You’ll visit residents of an informal shack dwellers settlement; an African traders’ market; an ecotourism project; a center for jazz and popular music; and local schools.

JOHANNESBURG: In Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, you will visit the Apartheid Museum to gain a better understanding of the 20th century history of South Africa. You will see the Constitutional Court and Soweto, where you will learn about how students joined the struggle against apartheid at the Hector Pieterson Museum. You also will explore the Mandela House, former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

MOZAMBIQUE: Study the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique and the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, in the liberation struggle against apartheid, following its own hard-fought independence from Portugal in the 1970s. Learn about the military wing of the African National Congress and bases of operations throughout Mozambique, and witness the physical effects of the South African apartheid government’s attacks in the capital, Maputo. Compare the political transformations of both countries.

RURAL KWAZULU-NATAL: In week six of the program, you will live with families in the Amacambini Reserve for 10 to 12 days. During this excursion, you will engage in a special educational program with the graduating class at Amatikulu High School.

HLUHLUWE-UMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE: Visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where you will have the chance to spot the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and black and white rhinoceri), as well as giraffes and zebras.

CAPE TOWN: During the evaluation period, the program travels to Cape Town, where you will typically visit Robben Island, site of the prison that held late South African President Nelson Mandela for 18 years and many other political activists. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, you will trek or ride up the scenic cliffs of Table Mountain, part of the coastal Table Mountain National Park. You may have some time to explore the city on your own.

Program Dates

Spring Semester: Late January - Mid May

Fall Semester: Early September - Mid-December

For more information

Steps to Studying Abroad

  1. Before initiating an application with SIT, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa. 
  2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
  3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive program application instructions.

Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242

Phone: 319-335-0353

Durban, South Africa

Harbor in Durban

Explore the bustling and historic city of Durban, South Africa’s third-largest city.

Learn about Durban’s rich history of political activity, which includes contributions from leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, John Dube, and Chief Albert Luthuli. Discover Durban’s great diversity, including the Zulu people, South Africa’s largest ethnic group; English-speaking whites; the largest population of South Asians outside of India and Pakistan; tens of thousands of African refugees; and African and Asian migrants from a range of countries.


Skyline buildings in Durban

SIT places the highest priority on the health, safety, and security of all students. Through their 80-plus years of running international experiential education programs, they have developed sophisticated proactive and reactive risk management strategies. Their proactive risk management begins with in-country assessments of safety and continues through student orientation and emergency preparedness. Their reactive risk management strategies include 24/7 on-call availability, emergency/crisis response protocols, and comprehensive student insurance. Their structure also allows for rapid response and adjustment to changing situations.
South Africa Travel Information

US Department of State Country Information

The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

Living Arrangements

Victoria Street Market with stales selling goods
Victoria Street Market

You will experience three different homestays on the program, each of which opens a larger window into South Africa’s extraordinary diversity and complexity. Homestays are in urban, suburban, and rural areas. In each homestay, you will be either in neighborhood clusters or placed with families in pairs.

Cato Manor

The program’s first homestay is with isiZulu-speaking families in Cato Manor, an urban township about five kilometers from the SIT facility in Durban. You will spend approximately five weeks with your own family, within a quarter of a mile of other students, and within a mile of the whole group. The homestay in Cato Manor gives you the opportunity to practice isiZulu and gain an appreciation for the richness and challenges of township life. All houses have cell phone reception, flush toilets, and electricity and are constructed of cinder brick.


In the 10- to 12-day rural homestay in Amacambini, about 100 kilometers north of Durban, conditions are basic, with some marked differentiation between households. Some households may not have electricity, indoor plumbing, or piped water.


You will live in Newlands, approximately 20 kilometers from Durban’s city center, with an Indian or Coloured family for approximately two weeks.

Other Accommodations

During the last four weeks of the program, many students remaining in Durban choose to stay in beachfront apartments. Other accommodations during the program may include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Educational Excursions

Buildings along beachfront

In and Around Durban

The program is based in Durban, the site of one of Africa’s busiest working harbors and among the most cosmopolitan of South African cities with its rich fusion of African, Western, and Asian influences. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese, and other enclaves with a variety of shops and restaurants. From this base, you will experience multiple short excursions.

In the greater Durban area, you will visit and interact with the residents of an informal shack dwellers settlement. You will also visit an informal African traders market (including a traditional bead market), an ecotourism project, a center for jazz and popular music, the University of KwaZulu-Natal campus, and several local high schools. You will also visit the Luthuli Museum, the former home of the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli, and the Phoenix Settlement, the former Durban home of Mohandas Gandhi.


During the Johannesburg excursion, you will spend time at the following sites:

  • The Apartheid Museum
  • The Constitutional Court, Soweto — here you will visit the Hector Pieterson Museum
  • The Mandela House — the former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela


An excursion to Mozambique will give you a firsthand opportunity to learn of the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique, with a focus on the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party—Frelimo—in the liberation struggle against apartheid following its own hard-fought independence movement from Portugal in the 1970s.

You will learn of the African National Congress’s military wing—Umkhonto we Sizwe—and its bases of operations throughout Mozambique; witness the physical effects of the South African apartheid government’s attacks in the capital, Maputo; and meet key individuals and institutions, with a view toward the shared, but divergent, project of political transformation in both countries.

Excursions in and around Maputo typically include visits to museums, sites of ANC armed struggle, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, and the Frelimo Party School, including a discussion with the head of the school, Dr. Arlindo Chilundo, a fighter on the frontlines during Mozambique’s liberation war, and currently Mozambique’s minister of education.

Rural KwaZulu-Natal

In week six of the program, you will live with families in the Amacambini Reserve for 10 to 12 days. During this excursion, you will engage in a special educational program with the graduating class at Amatikulu High School.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

You will visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where, with luck, you may spot the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, and black and white rhinos) as well as giraffes and zebras.

Cape Town

During the evaluation period, the program visits Cape Town, where you will typically visit Robben Island and Table Mountain. You may also have some time to explore the city on your own.


US Citizens

If you do not have a passport, it is important that you apply for one as soon as possible to ensure you receive it before the program begins. US citizens can find more information about how to apply for a passport on the US Department of State’s website.

Important notice for students without a valid passport or whose passport will expire within the next 12 months:

US citizens can find more information about how to renew a passport on the US Department of State’s website.

Students without a valid passport should apply for a new passport or a passport renewal as early as possible.

Students with a valid passport should check the expiration date. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months AFTER the anticipated return to the US from studying abroad. If your passport is not valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated date of return to the US, you must renew your passport before applying for the visa you will need to enter your host country.

Expedited processing service is available for US passports (although this still takes several weeks and is at an additional cost). UI Study Abroad encourages students to ask the passport agency at the time of application whether expedited service is recommended.

Non-US Citizens

Students who are not US citizens should contact Ryan Ourada ( for information on how to ensure that their passport is valid for the duration of their time abroad.


Students will work with their program provider to make travel arrangements to their program site. The cost of travel is not included in the course fee. UI Study Abroad will not arrange a group flight to your study abroad destination.

Do not purchase plane tickets until you have received instructions on how to do so from your program provider.

Local Transportation

Within your host city and around the country, students will utilize public transportation such as buses and trains. Excursions and general travel require a lot of walking, so bring some comfortable shoes!


Students must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and be in good academic and disciplinary standing. For the journalism ISP track, student must have strong writing skills and an interest in journalism. You must be in good academic and disciplinary standing with the university at the end of the semester, too. If you are not in good standing at the end of the semester, your acceptance will be revoked and you will be responsible for the associated withdrawal fees.


The UI cost sheet for this program is forthcoming. General cost information can be found on SIT's webpage.

This document outlines the total estimated costs associated with participating in this program and can be used for financial aid purposes. It includes fees charged on students’ U-Bill as well as out-of-pocket expenses. Actual out-of-pocket expenses will vary from individual to individual. Quoted estimates are conservatively high, yet realistic.

The cost sheet includes the Study Abroad Administrative Fee and Mandatory Iowa Regents CISI Travel Insurance. Please see the respective websites for further details. If the fee is inclusive of UI tuition, it is calculated by Current Tuition. Please contact your study abroad advisor with questions regarding this cost sheet – call 319-335-0353 to schedule an appointment.

Upfront, out-of-pocket expenses

Some costs are incurred prior to departure and will be due before financial aid/scholarships disperse. Here are the expected upfront costs for SIT:

  • Iowa application fee: $50
  • Airfare: $1,000-$1,500
  • Passport: $135

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options.

Scholarship opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities and Non-UI External Awards.

SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary — the amount is automatically credited to your account. SIT offers additional awards that can be found on SIT's webpage.

Pell Grant Recipients will have their application fee waived by SIT, are eligible for additional SIT scholarships, and are competitive candidates for the Department of State's Gilman Scholarship. Please talk to your Study Abroad Advisor for more details.

Withdrawal policy

SIT's withdrawal policy can be found here: Withdrawal and Cancellation. After applying and being accepted students will then be asked to confirm their participation in the program. After confirmation, students are responsible for the following:

Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
After submitting the Confirmation of Participation Study Abroad Administrative fee: $400
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT
Less than 30 days before the program start date Study Abroad Administrative fee: $400 or 50%, whichever is greater
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT
On or after the program start date Study Abroad Administrative fee: 100%
Portion of course fee: As determined by the program contract with SIT

Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. Check with your specific provider/host university for details. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.

Application Deadline

Spring: September 27

Fall: March 4

How to Apply

You can find the application for this program on our website here: UI Study Abroad Application. Applicants must meet with a Study Abroad advisor before their application will be processed. You can schedule a meeting by calling 319.335.0353.

Participants must also complete the SIT application and complete all the application components by SIT's deadline. The SIT application can be found here: SIT Application.

Acceptance and Confirmation Materials

Coming soon.

Health & Safety Planning

In addition to submitting their Confirmation of Participation form, students should review the following:

Study Abroad Resources

Passports and Visas

Iowa Regents CISI Health Insurance Information

Students are also encouraged to complete the PDFHealth Preparation Guide for International Travel form with their medical practitioner. This document is intended to help you plan for your medical needs abroad. Please DO NOT turn this form in to UI Study Abroad.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

For more information about receiving financial aid while studying abroad, please review the following:UI Financial Aid Information

You can find more information about options for funding your study abroad experience including scholarships on Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad.

In addition, take a look at SIT Scholarship website for information about scholarships offered directly through your program provider.


U.S. passport holders should follow the Visa batch process instructions provided by SIT. Make sure to submit all required documents by the submission deadline. Otherwise you will have to apply for your student visa independently.

U.S. Citizens will need a student visa if they are going abroad for a semester, or academic year. Typically, they will not need a visa for the summer sessions.

UI Study Abroad will hold advising appointments and/or information sessions to provide details on the visa application process. UI Study Abroad staff can provide some assistance on the Italian visa application process, but ultimately the individual traveler (the student) is the person who is responsible for providing correct information on the visa application and securing the visa and all other required documentation prior to travel.

Prior to starting the visa application process check in with SIT for more information; they have a preferred timeline that students need to follow.


In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider. See below for more information.

Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

You are required to complete the International Programs ICON course "Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation" prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals, and much more. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions, you can email

Program-Specific Orientation

This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific to your program and host country. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one depending on your type of planned activity abroad. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.

Pre departure Resources

SIT will provide you with a variety of pre-departure resources to prepare you for your study abroad experience. These will include a packing list, cultural information, housing instructions, etc. Ensure that you thoroughly review any information provided to you by SIT and refer back to it if you have any questions.

These materials may be periodically updated to reflect new program information prior to departure. Be sure to check your SIT Account often.