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SIT South Africa Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring


Cape Town, South Africa



Program Features

Affiliated Program


- 2.5 GPA

- Good academic and disciplinary standing

Application Due:

Spring 9/27

Fall 3/4

clouds covering table mountain

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

Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Explore issues of multiculturalism, ethnicity, and identity in the context of South Africa, from historical and contemporary perspectives.

This program focuses on South Africa’s ethnic diversity. In a typical semester, students complete four homestays — each providing the opportunity to meet and interact with South Africans from different geographic and ethnic backgrounds. The strong emphasis on the homestay as experiential learning complements lectures, discussions, field-based assignments, and excursions to provide a multidisciplinary analysis of the country.

Major topics of study include:

  • The historical background to South Africa's apartheid system, how apartheid shaped and continues to impact social policy in South Africa, and the visions for post-apartheid South Africa
  • Social change in education, language use, land, social justice organizations, party politics, rural development, social welfare NGOs, and tourism in three cultural contexts: Xhosa, Coloured/Khoe, and Afrikaner
  • Critical identity markers beyond race — such as gender, sexuality, class, or generational or political affiliation — which cut across cultural contexts in post-apartheid South Africa
  • The political, economic, and social structure of the future South Africa

For more information, see SIT's webpage.

SIT Academic Program

Penguins on Boulder Beach near Cape Town
Boulder Beach near Cape Town

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.

Program Dates

For program dates, please consult SIT's webpage.

For More Information

Toni Bartolutti
Study Abroad Advisor & Program Coordinator

Phone: 319-335-0353

The University of Iowa
International Programs, Study Abroad
1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242-1802

Cape Town, South Africa

City Hall downtown Cape Town

Students spend the first four weeks of the program living in a township called Langa in Cape Town. Primarily isiXhosa-speaking, Langa was one of many areas designated for black South Africans and is one of the oldest townships in the country. Settlements in apartheid South Africa were populated not only according to race but also ethnicity. This was a deliberate policy by the state to control South Africans using the “divide and rule” tactic.

The SIT classrooms and office are located in the southern suburb of Rondebosch, also the site of the University of Cape Town. Students spend an additional 14 days in Cape Town during the Independent Study Project (ISP) preparation period concurrent with the Bo Kaap homestay period. Depending on where a student conducts his or her ISP, the total time spent in the Cape Town area could be ten weeks.

Multiculturalism has long been a defining characteristic of Cape Town, and the program takes advantage of the multiple resources the city offers. During the mid-twentieth century, the population of Cape Town had reached approximately half a million, of which whites were less than half. Economic hardship and racial discrimination encouraged policies that favored whites; this created economic and cultural differences that steadily split the population along racial lines. Immigrants, coloured, and black groups struggled to define their identity and respond to this discrimination. Meanwhile, Afrikaner nationalism grew stronger in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa, leading to a growing right-wing movement.

Through monuments and new institutions, Cape Town has asserted itself as a cultural center of South Africa and is commonly known as the “Mother City” of the nation.


Cape Town aerial view

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

Long Street in Cape Town

The program features several homestays designed to introduce students firsthand to South Africa’s cultural diversity. Students spend three weeks with isiXhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town, one week with families in the rural Eastern Cape (Tshabo), one week with bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking families in Stellenbosch, and one week with families in another bilingual family in Bo Kaap.

The family is the center of life in South Africa. The opportunity to live with such a diverse array of South African families is a major highlight and defining feature of the program.


Students spend three weeks living with isiXhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town. Langa is one of the oldest townships that emerged following the passage of the Urban Areas Act in 1923. Langa was a planned town and looks radically different from informal settlements that dot the Cape Town landscape. The term township refers to residential areas for non-white people.

Langa is a vibrant community that values education and sports and has a very strong Christian identity. Families typically consist of five to six members. The name Langa literally means “sun” but it is derived from Langalibalele, a rebel chief imprisoned at Robben Island for rebelling against the government.

Each weekday, students commute to the suburb of Rondebosch for class; weekends are spent with the host family. An excursion to Robben Island is typically arranged during the Langa homestay; other excursions may include hiking Table Mountain or Lion’s Head or visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Bo Kaap

Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is one of the best known and most photographed areas of Cape Town and is closely associated with traditional Islam and the Cape Malay community. Early settlers of the Cape Town area included slaves from South Asia and the Indian Ocean basin and political prisoners who pioneered Islam, all of whom influenced the area’s cultural and social practices.

During the Bo Kaap homestay period, students interrogate “coloured” identity and visit museums such as District Six and the Slave Lodge to learn more about land ownership, human rights, and state-sponsored resettlements and land dispossessions. Students attend classes at the SIT program center.

Bo Kaap is well known for its rich history and cultural heritage as well as for its brightly colored houses and distinct Georgian architecture that was typical during the area’s development in the early to mid-nineteenth century.


Students spend one week living with families in the village of Tshabo situated near King Williams Town, the capital of the Eastern Cape Province. This homestay offers students an excellent opportunity to experience rural life, examine issues of rural development, and practice isiXhosa.

During the Tshabo homestay, students may visit local rural projects run by NGOs and schools. They typically have the chance to observe traditional rituals and compare and contrast urban and rural Xhosa cultures. Students receive lectures by local experts on issues of education, social development, economics, and Tshabo’s history and culture.

During their time in Tshabo, students conduct a mini field assignment to practice their research methods and enhance their confidence for the four-week Independent Study Project.


Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Stellenbosch, located in the Western Cape Province about 50 km outside of Cape Town. The city is home to one of South Africa’s leading tertiary educational institutions, Stellenbosch University.

During this period, students attend classes at Stellenbosch University and undertake excursions, including the town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument. An excursion to the Solms Delta Wine Estate is also arranged, giving students the opportunity to learn about the social history of the farm and programs being implemented at the winery to empower farm workers and their families. Students engage with faculty and local students on issues related to the future of the Afrikaans language as both a language of instruction at the university and a cultural symbol to the Afrikaner community. The language debate has put Stellenbosch University in a tug-of-war requiring tolerance, flexibility, and imagination in order to come up with a language policy that would be realistic and inclusive. Conversations on this issue typically continue outside the classroom with students’ Afrikaner host families.

In addition to homestay accommodation, other housing options during the program may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels and camping.

Educational Excursions

Cape Town oceanview


The program’s first excursion outside Cape Town is to Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. Johannesburg is also the capital of the wealthiest province, Gauteng, and houses South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. The city of Johannesburg includes Soweto, one of the largest settlements in South Africa. Soweto was a place of significant resistance to apartheid and gross human rights violations by the South African state.

While in Johannesburg, students undertake excursions to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Peterson Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s House (Museum) in Soweto. The program also visits Liliesleaf Farm, the underground headquarters of the armed winged of the ANC (Umkonto we Sizwe) during the struggle. During this excursion, the history of South Africa’s past is presented in different forms to provide students with a solid grounding in the context of issues studied throughout the semester.

On this excursion, the program also visits Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa. In Pretoria, students visit the Voortrekker Monument and Museum and the Union Buildings. The excursion to Johannesburg happens immediately after the end of the first three-week homestay in Langa.

Eastern Cape

The program’s major 14-day excursion takes students to a village called Tshabo, on the Eastern Cape. The group traverses South Africa’s cultural tapestry, passing through regions historically populated by Xhosa, San, Afrikaner, and English inhabitants. This part of South Africa is seen as the first frontier between black and white. The landscape of this part of South Africa provided a dramatic backdrop for the moral struggles around colonialism, expansionism, race, and freedom. During this excursion, students have an eight-day homestay with an amaXhosa community in Tshabo, a village near King Williams Town. Students also have an opportunity to visit the Steve Biko Centre. Here, students learn about the Black Conscious Movement and its relevance to past and present-day South Africa.

Travel Arrangements

Participants will make their own travel arrangements to South Africa, taking advantage of any frequent-flyer options and/or internet specials available to them. The cost of travel is not included in the program fee. Information about airport pick up will be given at orientation. Students should book airfare to correspond with the arrival and departure dates provided by SIT.


Students must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and be in good academic and disciplinary standing. 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
Within the first nine days after the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
10-19 days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
20-44 days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
45 or more days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: 100%
Portion of program fee: Determined by 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

After you have received an email from UI Study Abroad indicating that you have been formally accepted to the program, have reviewed the estimated costs, and you are ready to commit to participating in this program, you will need to complete the following steps:

Fall and Academic Year 2019 - 2020 Students

First, read, download, and complete the Confirmation of Participation and Withdrawal Policy document. Sign this document, and submit it to the UI Study Abroad office no later than 5:00pm on May 13, 2019.

Note that if the Confirmation of Participation document is not submitted by the confirmation deadline, your application will be automatically withdrawn and your acceptance rescinded.

All Students

Thoroughly review the following sections of text:

  • Pre-departure Resources
  • Program Payment
  • Orientation

Pre-departure Resources

SIT and the UI have a variety of resources available to you to prepare for departure. It is recommended that you review these materials, share them with your parents, and refer back to them if you have questions.

  1. SIT Pre-departure Guide
  2. List of books, documentaries, films, videos, and online materials related to AfricaPDF
  3. A Parent Guide to Study AbroadPDF
  4. Health Preparation Guide for International TravelPDF
  5. Iowa's SIT Pre-departure Orientation

Program Payment

You will be billed for the program on your U-Bill through the University of Iowa's billing office. Billing occurs the semester you're abroad and is due with the first U-Bill of the term. This allows for financial aid and scholarships to disperse BEFORE the bill is due.

Contact a Former Student

SIT has an excellent network of alumni available to help speak with prospective and admitted students. Find a returnee here: Contact a Former Student


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.