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South Africa Study Group – University of Cape Town

Director Fall 2018: Susan Thomson, Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies

Students Diana Dimas ’20, Annie Getz-Eidelhoch ’20, Shamarcus Doty ’20 and Taylor Dumas ’20 pose along the African coast with a Banner that reads Colgate at 200 YearsThe University of Cape Town Study Group is a new study abroad opportunity in South Africa. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is located in one of Africa’s global cities, and is one of the top research and academic universities in the world. This program offers students an opportunity to take courses toward their major while becoming immersed in the rich culture and history of the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape region of South Africa. Students will be able to take two upper-level electives in their discipline and two required courses that uses Cape Town as our laboratory. All classes are in English. There is also a mandatory week-long field course in neighboring Namibia. Here, we will learn about the legacy of genocide and liberation on modern day justice and reconciliation initiatives. We will also explore Namibia’s natural heritage through guided hikes and an optional river rafting tour.


  1. To take courses within a broad range of disciplines at a world class research university
  2. To introduce students to Cape Town through study of material culture and colonial history
  3. To understand the violence democratic transitions, race politics, and economic liberalization, using Cape Town as a case study
  4. To meet students from around the world and broaden their social and cultural perspectives in a different society

The UCT program is open to up to 18 students. Professor Susan Thomson will lead the group, teaching one course and leading the Namibia tour in partnership with UCT’s Centre for African Studies (CAS). Students must enroll in professor Thomson’s PCON 318 course, entitled Everyday Violence and will take a Colgate-listed course from CAS-affiliated faculty on critical issues in African Studies with a focus on South Africa (ALST 250: Representations of Africa). These two courses will be linked, sharing 10 half-day excursions around Cape Town to extend our classroom learning, including Cape Point, District Six, Solms Delta winery in nearby Stellenbosch and Kirstenbosch Gardens, and historical walking tours, to name a few. We will also study wild animal conservation with an overnight trip to Inverdoorn Game Reserve to learn about rhino conversation and cheetah rehabilitation. ​Professor Thomson’s course meets Colgate’s Global Engagements (GE) requirement.


Two of the four courses will be for credit in the student’s major or minor field of study, chosen from UCT’s course catalogue.


The UCT Study Group is an interdisciplinary program, meaning students from any area of study are welcome to participate. All current sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply for admission. As part of the application process, all applicants will be interviewed by the coordinator. All participants must have completed the requisite introductory sequences for their major prior to participating, and ideally will have some intermediate or advanced elective experience to prepare for the research component.  Up to 18 Colgate students will be admitted to the program this year.  This program requires no foreign language skills. 

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Living Arrangements

Students will reside in student housing near UCT.  You are responsible for your own meals. Your accommodation will have a small kitchen and there are many inexpensive dining options near and on campus. Residences are located on campus, and are conveniently located by cafeterias, grocery stores, athletic facilities, and banks. Downtown Cape Town is easily reached via UCT’s shuttle known as the Jammie. You will be able to use the Jammie Shuttle at no cost as an enrolled UCT student. 

Safety and Security

Cape Town is considered a medium risk destination. Petty theft is the most common crime. Female students may experience verbal sexual harassment. Director’s rules for your safety will be explained during pre-departure meetings.  Some rules, such as drug use, are subject to a zero-tolerance behavior policy. Colgate’s Code of Conduct applies during your semester abroad in Cape Town.

Costs in Cape Town

Costs will not exceed what students pay at Colgate. Students will be billed Colgate tuition and the cost of their Cape Town housing plus housing on overnight excursions.  Cape Town housing will be less costly than Colgate housing for the semester.  Students will be responsible for their airfare, student visa, and food.  Living expenses are generally low in South Africa, so students can expect to spend less than what they spend at Colgate for the semester (not including any other personal travel while abroad).  For details of student expenses on this exchange program, please see the student cost estimate sheet on the Off-Campus Study website.

Calendar and Deadlines

The fall semester at UCT is expected to begin in early August and goes until early December; orientation will begin approximately August 1.  Colgate students will need to remain on-campus in South Africa until their exams are finished, returning to Colgate in time for the spring semester. The deadline for applications to the South Africa Study Group is Wednesday, November 15, 2017.   All applications are on the Colgate University Off-Campus Study/International Programs study groups’ websites and are submitted online.  Only finalists in the selection process will be interviewed. Interviews will be arranged by email, and student notification of selection will take place in early January 2018. 

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport is valid through July 2019.  All students participating on the Fall 2018 South Africa Study Group will be required to obtain a student visa.  With participation on this study group comes the responsibility of understanding and complying with South African visa requirements. All students must also be travel to the South African consulate in person to obtain the visa. All US citizens must obtain an FBI report, and must apply for the report soon after the start of the Spring 2018 semester. If you will not be traveling on a U.S. passport it is imperative that you contact an adviser in Off-Campus Study/International Programs, 101 McGregory, and International Student Services, 103C  Lathrop, to learn as much as you can about the visa requirements.  For some students there are significant requirements to be met that take time, advance planning, and incur extra costs. 

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Program Dates

South Africa Study Group program approximate dates: 1 September to late December, 2018

Informational Sessions:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 12pm

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 12pm

Both meetings will be held in 109B East Hall.  All students interested in applying should plan on attending one of these sessions.

More Information

For more information, contact Prof. Susan Thomson,