South Africa Study Abroad Program

Combining Study Abroad Experiences with an Internship and Course Work

The WGSS Internship Program is a beneficial internship in empowering students by integrating their academic knowledge with their personal and professional experience. Dr. McComiskey is serving as resident director and faculty advisor for the UConn in Cape Town Internship Program since 2008. She is convinced that adding a study abroad component to one’s internship expands the benefits a hundredfold.

This particular program is designed to facilitate greater understanding of South Africa’s troubled past while contributing to its vibrant hopeful future through combining three-day a week internships with relevant coursework. While living and working in one of most beautiful settings in the world students have the opportunity to study the multiple concerns facing South Africa as it strives to become one of the world’s most progressive democracies. Internship placements are selected by the Cape Town Coordinator after interviewing students to determine which specific site will best meet their needs, interests, majors, and potential career aspirations. For more information see

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Application Details

  • Application Deadline: 09/20/12
  • Decision Date: 10/15/2012
  • Budget sheet
  • Students must be in there 2nd year or higher, with a 3.0 GPA. There is no prior language requirement and the program is taught in English.

To apply for the South Africa study abroad program please click here.

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Course Work

Taking classes taught by two native Capetonians enables students to learn from those who have personally experienced the struggles of the past and now face the challenged of the future in the new South Africa. Becoming a co-educator in a class facilitated by a member of the UConn faculty provides an opportunity to use current understandings of race, class, genders, and sexualities in the U.S. to explore a growing awareness of such relationships in South Africa

POLS 3255. Politics of South Africa
(3 Credits) Instructor: Mr. Vincent Williams
This course provides an introduction to and overview of the historical development of the social, political and economics of South Africa. While outlining the various challenges and obstacles facing South Africa, this course provides a broad theoretical and contextual framework from which to analyze and interpret internship and general experience while living, learning, and working in Cape Town. In addition, this course provides a forum to engage in discussion about broader, social, political, economic and cultural dynamics in South Africa.

INTD 3985. Special Topics: South African Internship: Field Study
(5 Credits; S/U) Internship Coordinator: Rev. Vernon Rose
In this portion of the program students intern three days per week for 12 weeks in a field placement specifically chosen to best meet their individual needs and aspirations. Each student is assigned to an agency supervisor who serves as an onsite mentor. Receiving guidance to become familiar with mission and goals of the organization makes it possible for interns to become more fully immersed in the work being done by organization in which they work.

INTD 3784 H. Interdisciplinary Seminar: Internship: Research Seminar
(3 Honors Credits) Instructor: Rev. Vernon Rose
Coupled with the internship experience, each intern selects a research project determined through consultation with the mentor/field supervisor. Ideally, the project provides some substantial contribution to the sponsoring organization. A description of the proposed project, its purpose, its value to the organization, and a tentative timetable for completion are submitted to Internship Coordinator early in the semester. At the end of the semester, a copy of the project together with a description of how it was completed and how it is intended to benefit the organization is presented.

WGSS 3998 H. Variable Topics: Race and Gender in a Global Perspective
(3 Honors Credits) Instructor: Dr. Marita McComiskey
This variable topics course explores issues of race and gender in South Africa and the United States. Together the class will examine: race and gender as social constructions shaped by key social institutions such as government, media, religion, economic systems, and culture; diverse worldviews and value systems which contribute to the production of “accepted” gendered expectations, racial stereotypes and cultural practices; multiple ways gender, ethnicity/race, class, age, sexuality, and religion intersect to shape the lives of women and men in various societies; and patterns of race and gender inequality worldwide as well as specific differences between those in the US and South Africa.

The History and Politics of South Africa course enables students to place what they were seeing, hearing, and experiencing within the broader historical and contemporary social context. Research Methodology on Non-profits assists interns in better understanding the particular organization in which she or he interns by looking not only at the vision, mission statement, strategic plan, and annual reports, but also at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats faced at their individual placement site. The Comparative Study of Race, Class, Genders, and Sexualities is structured to encourage students to connect issues they confront in South Africa with issues they may or may not have been aware of in the U.S.

Pre-departure Course, On-site Course, and Re-entry Course
Three 1-credit courses help to enrich the overall experience by enabling students to: work as a cohort to prepare for their upcoming adventure, integrate adjustment to a new culture with experiences throughout the semester; and process how to use the lessons learned upon their return…

WGSS 3993: UConn in Cape Town Pre-Study Abroad
(1 credit)
This course explores strategies for adjusting and adapting to a new culture and tactics for getting the most from an internship experience. Students meet once a week for the final six weeks of the fall semester prior to their departure

WGSS 3993: UConn in Cape Town Study Abroad
(1 credit) Spring 2012
This course facilitates the work of adjusting to culture shock, pursuing personal and professional goals while fitting in, and learning about one’s own culture while becoming immersed in another. Throughout the semester abroad students work in teams to develop a symposium detailing their experiences, which is presented to the UConn community during the following fall semester.

WGSS 3993: UConn in Cape Town Post-Study Abroad
(1 credit)
This companion course provides an opportunity to reflect upon how the knowledge, skills and experiences gained from living and learning in Cape Town can be most beneficially incorporated into future academic, personal, and professional life plans while discovering effective ways to fit a new self into an old environment.

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Living-Learning Community

Participants in this program live in a fully-furnished house in Rondebosch, a southern suburb of Cape Town, where the University of Cape Town is located. The house is within easy access to public transportation and is located about a 30 minute walk to shopping and about a 35 minute walk to the university. By living together students have the opportunity to create a community, which is actively engaged in a co-educational process throughout the semester. This cohort-based interdisciplinary approach to higher education has been shown to offer more: curricular coherence; integrative, high-quality learning; collaborative knowledge-construction; and skills and knowledge relevant to living in a complex, messy, diverse world. Studies show that such communities have a powerful effect on learning and achievement.

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Beyond the Classroom

Beginning with orientation week, students get to truly know the area in which they will be living and working. Combining cultural and historical activities they:

  • visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner.
  • participate in the Transcending History Tour of the Slave Lodge.
  • take a walk to the auction block in the center of Cape Town where slaves were bought and sold; where they listen to an educational lecture at the District 6 Museum.
  • also visit several of the places that were declared “white only” areas under apartheid.

Such immediate engagement provides a valuable perspective to what students learn in the months ahead.

Expanding upon their academic and experiential learning students also participate in a Human Rights Training Weekend with other young adults from South Africa and various other African countries from the continent. Throughout this weekend students learn about universal human rights; civil rights, challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees, Working in teams they also experience the complexities involved when attempting to make decisions with individuals from backgrounds and perspectives very different from one’s own. Through such cohesive fusion of their academic, personal, and professional experiences students broaden their understanding of what it means to be a consciously engaged global citizen.

The week long “semester break” excursion in March entails a trip to Johannesburg where students are able to visit many of the significant sites which they study in the program, such as:

  • the Apartheid Museum
  • the Hector Pieterson Memorial
  • the former home of Nelson Mandela
  • the site of the Sharpeville Massacre
  • Freedom Square: the new Constitutional Court
  • and many other historically significant places

Many believe no trip to South Africa is not complete without seeing some of the “big five” for which the country is famous, the excursion concludes with a trip to Kruger National Park to enjoy a sunrise game drive and, for those who choose to participate, an afternoon “safari walk.”

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Additional Information

There is no way to put into a few paragraphs all that this Study Abroad in Cape Town experience entails. However, to read the insights and experiences, of former participants as well as see some amazing pictures, the blogs kept by students during the last several years are available at:

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