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SIS Abroad

Democracy and Development in South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Immerse yourself in one of the most dynamic and influential countries in Africa and one of Africa's most beautiful and diverse cities. On this program, you will learn from leading scholars and practitioners as you develop an understanding of how South Africa is dealing with the social, political, and economic challenges of democracy and development.

SIS Summer Abroad: South Africa

Faculty Director

David Hirschmann

Academic Details

This 3-credit seminar program explores a variety of themes and issues related to democratization and political reform, security, public health, ethnic and national identity, poverty and unemployment, decentralization and local governance, and other topics related to South Africa, which may include:

  • The Historic Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Post-1994 Political Reform and Challenges
  • Current Political Uncertainties
  • Civil Society, the Media, and Culture
  • Decentralization and Local Governance, Political Participation
  • Challenges of Economic Growth and Restructuring
  • Strategies for Reducing Poverty and Improving Equality
  • HIV/AIDS: Public Health, Social Impact, and Economic Implications
  • The Role of NGOs in Service Delivery
  • Challenges and Opportunities for the Private Sector
  • Black Empowerment
  • Foreign Policy

SIS can also help students who participate in the seminar obtain an internship with a partner organization in Cape Town. The internship experience is not an integrated part of the seminar program and can be done for credit, or on a non-credit bearing basis for MA students only who wish to complete their professional experience requirement.  A list of potential internship organizations can be found in the Forms section of this page. 

Site Visits and Field Trips

Students enrolled in the seminar will have the opportunity to visit a number of academic site visits and field trips in Cape Town. Excursions may include the South African Parliament, Robben Island, the notorious island prison off the Western Cape; a hike up Table Mountain, famous for its dramatic plateau; Cape Peninsula, at the southern end of which is the famous Cape of Good Hope; 'African townships,' urban living areas of Cape Town created for 'non-white' people during apartheid and still inhabited by poorer communities; an agricultural enterprise; BoKaap, a beautiful historic district occupied by a 'Coloured' community; and be introduced to various local communities. Site visits are subject to change.

2014 Program Dates (TENTATIVE)

Pre-Departure Workshop: April/May (date TBA)

Arrival in Cape Town: May 15

Seminar program: May 16 - June 1

Departure from Cape Town (seminar-only participants): June 2

Optional internships: variable dates

Program Costs

AU tuition (see program guide for more details).

Who Should Attend

This multi-disciplinary Program is designed for graduate students from any U.S. university. Graduate students with interests in comparative political systems, development, history, economics, human rights, international business, international communication, international politics, African area studies, and peace and conflict resolution are invited to apply.  Advanced undergraduates who have completed at least 90 credits toward the completion of their degrees or are enrolled in the Honors program having completed at least 75 credits are also encouraged to apply.



Students are required to make their own travel arrangements to and from Cape Town. Students in the seminar will be housed in group accommodation for the duration of the seminar dates only; students staying in Cape Town for the optional internship component will be responsible for their own housing during the internship period, starting June 4.

Application and Deadlines

Students must read the entire program guide before applying. The program guide can be found in the Forms section of this website. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis but must be received by February 24, 2014, for priority consideration.

As part of the review process, the Faculty Director may invite students to meet with him to discuss the submitted application. Enrollment may be limited to approximately 10 students. Once admitted to the program by SIS, students receive notification via e-mail. At that time, students will be required to submit a non-refundable deposit of $250 to SIS, through a check or money order made payable to American University, to secure their place in the program.


Contact Us!

Email: sisabroad@american.edu

Facebook: American University SIS Study Abroad

Twitter: SISStudyAbroad

Google Chat: sisstudyabroad@gmail.com

Info Session

Tuesday, January 28, 5-6pm, SIS 115

Priority Application Deadline

February 24, 2014


South Africa 2014 Program Guide

Advisor Approval Form

IEW Research Symposium 2013

Come learn about the cultural experiences and original research conducted across the globe by the alumni of the SIS Abroad summer programs. Regional cuisine served at each event. Nov. 11-18, 2013

IEW Research Symposium

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SIS Abroad students in the 2008 South Africa program.

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