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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 9/24

Fall 2/24

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

Academic Program

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.

Program Structure

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.

Cultural Activities

JOHANNESBURG: Johannesburg is South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. See the Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s House, now a museum, in Soweto—one of the country’s largest settlements and a place of resistance to apartheid and its gross human rights violations. Tour Liliesleaf Farm, the Hector Pieterson Museum, and the underground headquarters of the armed wing of the African National Congress. Visit Freedom Park, the first museum designed from the standpoint of the dispossessed in South Africa.

EASTERN CAPE: Visit the rural settlement of Tshabo in the Eastern Cape. Be welcomed as guests into the life of the village, practice your isiXhosa, and experience the links and disparities between urban and rural life. In addition, we will visit the Steve Biko Centre and learn more about Black Consciousness and it’s relevance to past and present.

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

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.

South Africa

View of sunset with trees

Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa has a landmass of 1,233,404 km². It is edged on 3 sides by a nearly 3,000-km coastline comprised of both the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also wraps itself around two independent countries, the Lesotho and Swaziland.

The South African population of more than 49 million people is extremely diverse. Africans are in the majority, making up approx. 80% of the population, followed by the white population of approx. 4.4 million; the coloured population of approx. 4.2 million; and the Indian/Asian population at approx. 1.2 million.

Since the demise of apartheid, international tourist arrivals have surged, making tourism one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. The tourism industry is well-established with an exciting array of emerging entrepreneurs. The country is strong on adventure, sport, nature, and wildlife and is a pioneer and global leader in responsible tourism.

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.


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 Monica for information on how to ensure that their passport is valid for the duration of their time abroad.

Travel Arrangements

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!


This program is open to UI students who fulfill the following requirements:

  • Minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA: Students must have at minimum a 2.5 cumulative GPA to participate in this program.
  • Good academic and disciplinary standing: Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the University of Iowa. Academic and disciplinary history will also be considered when determining whether a student is prepared to represent the University of Iowa as part of this program. Students who, even after being accepted into a program, are put on either academic and/or disciplinary probation for any period of time overlapping with the study abroad program dates are ineligible to study abroad. In these cases, students must forfeit their acceptance, will not be allowed to study abroad, and are wholly responsible for any and all financial expenses incurred.


The cost sheet 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. There is a $50 application fee charged to a student's U-Bill at the time of application.Please note that for study abroad programs through Fall 2022, students will not be charged the $50 UI application fee until travel is assured. If a student chooses to withdraw prior to the application fee being billed, it will not be charged. There is also a subsequent $50 application fee charged by SIT. Total application fee charges equal $100.

Estimated Cost Sheet

Updated cost sheets are forthcoming

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.

SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary, the credit 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!

How to Apply

Interested students should make an appointment with the designated UI Study Abroad advisor to discuss the program and the application process. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 319-335-0353. During the appointment, the advisor will provide full application instructions. Note: Application materials will not be reviewed unless a student has already met with the advisor to discuss the program.

The application process consists of the following steps:

• Complete the UI Online Application for Study Abroad. Please note that the non-refundable $50 application fee will be charged to your U-Bill as part of this online application.

• Complete the SIT Application. Final admissions decisions to the program are made by SIT.

Application Deadline

Deadlines are relative. This program often fills early. Spots are first come, first served.

Applications are due on February 24 for Fall.

Applications are due on September 24 for Spring.

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.

SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary, the credit 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!


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.