Examine the interplay of modernity and tradition, Islam and constitutional democracy, technology and youth culture, and social and political transition in Tunisia.
Examine how modernity and tradition are shaping social and political transition in Tunisia, site of the first Arab Spring protests.
Tunisia is an ideal site for the study of the twin tensions shaping Arab communities today: tradition and modernity. You’ll visit youth clubs, NGOs, and radio and TV stations and talk with young Tunisians about unemployment, Islam, emigration, political participation, and hip-hop culture. You’ll consider the country’s secular tradition, its multicultural population, and the impact of mass media and technology on Arab identity. You will also examine the recent resurgence of popular Islam and the role of the Islamist movement in shaping the political, social, and cultural landscape of post-revolutionary Tunisia.
Study at the intersection of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
As the northernmost country on the African continent, just south of Europe, Tunisia is the most Mediterranean country in North Africa, particularly in terms of customs and lifestyle. In this setting, you’ll study the factors driving the emergence of new identities, the local and global forces that sparked the Tunisian Revolution, and the cultural phenomena that shaped Tunisian and Arab identity and supported Tunisia’s democratic success.
Learn about Tunisian culture and the roots of the Tunisian Revolution.
Discover the geographic and human diversity of Tunisia’s different regions. Live for seven weeks with a Tunisian family. The economic causes of the revolution when visiting interior regions where the revolution started. The impact of mass tourism on Sahara and oases lifestyles. Economic inequalities between coastal regions and hinterland.
Study in the beautiful town of Sidi Bou Said, an inspiration to numerous artists.
Sidi Bou Said is a quiet town of blue and white buildings located on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The town has been home to artists Paul Klee and Yahia Turki, the “father of Tunisian painting,” and philosopher Michel Foucault. From here, you will travel frequently to nearby Tunis, Tunisia’s sprawling capital, where you’ll attend lectures by prominent academics from Tunis University and the Center for Maghreb Studies and visit historic and cultural centers, including the city’s seventh-century medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Travel throughout Tunisia to see its ancient sites and stunning landscapes.
Explore the dunes and oases of the Sahara and traditional Berber mountain villages used as the set for the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars movies. You’ll see Turkish and Spanish forts, the ancient Roman city Utica, the historic city of Carthage, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Kairouan. You’ll trek through mountains and coastal towns to Bizerta, the oldest city in Tunisia, and spend time on Hammamet’s beautiful beaches and in Ichkeul National Park.
Do independent research or an internship.
If you choose the internship, you will spend four weeks with a local Tunisian organization, developing professional skills and work experience. If you choose an Independent Study Project, you will conduct field research and write an academic paper.
Study Arabic or French.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The impact of Tunisia’s political revolution on international relations in North Africa and the Middle East
- The role of political Islam in post-revolutionary Tunisia
- Youth culture, social media, and social change
- Impact of tourism on local economy and popular culture
- Mass media and popular identity
- The political culture of democracy building
The program’s thematic seminars introduce key aspects of emerging identities in Tunisia following the Arab Spring. Lectures and excursions introduce students to the culture and politics of Tunisia, the transformation of secular and Islamist identities, and the roles of media and youth in social movements.
You will examine the following topics as part of the program’s thematic seminar:
- North African social movements: the dynamics and expansion of women, Islam, and human rights movements
- The Tunisian Revolution
- Youth and globalization: youth and unemployment, Islam, emigration, political participation, and hip-hop culture
- Mass media and culture: the proliferation of media outlets in the region, especially through satellite television; the impact of new technologies on Arab identity; and how Al-Jazeera and the Internet have shaped a new understanding of national identity in the Arab world
- Islam, secularism, and identity: debates about the veil, cyber Islam, the state and Sharia Law, and religious radio programs
Students on the program may choose to study either Arabic or French; both language courses accommodate any level of language ability. The Arabic course includes a focus on the Tunisian colloquial dialect, and the French course provides students with French language study within a Tunisian context and, for advanced students, an introduction to Francophone literature in North Africa.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
Arab Spring and Emerging Identities in North Africa – syllabus
(MDES 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Focusing principally on contemporary Tunisian society, this course examines transformations in local identities in the context of democratization, globalization, and recent political change. Through a focus on two themes — Tunisian culture and civil society, and Islam, identity, and democracy — the course probes the impact on identities prompted by social change across the region. In particular, this course explores the formation of new political identities — both secular and Islamist — in a period of nascent democratization.
Youth, Media, and Social Movements – syllabus
(MDES 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Focusing principally on contemporary Tunisian society, this course examines transformations in Arab popular and political culture, with an emphasis on the mutually constitutive impact of new information and communications technologies on the emergence of local and regional civil society. Through a focus on two themes — mass media and the Arab Spring and youth, politics, and social movements — the course probes the ways in which the Internet and related electronic revolutions across the region have changed and are changing expressions and understandings of Arab political culture. Course lectures, debates, and educational excursions foreground various tensions and moments of continuity between modernity and tradition in Arab culture, illuminating the seemingly disparate connections between various social phenomena, including raï and hip hop music, bilingualism, mural art, the reemergence of the hijab, jihadist Islam, and the emergence of a new democratic culture.
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)The seminar includes lectures on qualitative methods of research in social sciences and in particular in the critical global issues of migration, identity, and resilience; development of a research proposal or internship proposal; and preparation of an application for review of research with human subjects. The seminar strengthens students' cultural awareness through exercises and discussions about researcher positionality and the ethics of fieldwork in Tunisia. All students participate in an overview of research design and methodological approaches to program themes. Ethical considerations related to conducting research or completing an internship will be discussed. The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP), which is largely based on the data gathered from primary sources, or an internship at a local organization.
Language Study – Arabic or French
Students choose to enroll in either Modern Standard Arabic or French. Students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced Arabic or French language classes based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing. Note: Beginning and intermediate French students enroll in the course French in Tunisian Contexts at the appropriate skill level. Advanced French students enroll in the course North African Francophone Literature.
Beginning Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 1003–1503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 2003–2503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Advanced Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 3003–3503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
The Modern Standard Arabic course focuses on speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom instruction, with additional opportunities for language learning with homestay families and on educational excursions. Students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes, based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing. A short, non-credit introduction to Tunisian Colloquial Arabic is included in all language levels.
Beginning French: French in Tunisian Contexts – syllabus
(FREN 1003–1503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intermediate French: French in Tunisian Contexts – syllabus
(FREN 2003–2503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students who place at the beginning or intermediate level in French language study one of the two intensive courses above, to either begin or further enhance their language skills in a North African context. The focus is on oral proficiency and the role of French language in contemporary Tunisia. French in Tunisian Contexts integrates a variety of local media to promote nuanced understandings of the unique role of French language in Tunisia, including contemporary print sources and audiovisual materials, together with experiential activities accompanying the course text.
Advanced French: North African Francophone Literature – syllabus
(FREN 3003–3503 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students who place at the advanced French language level focus on social and cultural representations in North African Francophone literature. Through the study of literary texts by Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan authors, the course addresses issues of bilingualism, postcolonialism, identity, and nation building. The course also relies on discussions with Tunisian academics and students to enhance students’ oral proficiency and to facilitate their immersion in Tunisian society.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Tunis or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: role of women’s organizations in transforming feminist discourse; street art before and after the Tunisian revolution; reproductive health in Tunisia; illegal immigration from Tunisia after the Jasmine Revolution; political Islam in Tunisia; political agency among young people in post-revolutionary Tunisia;; humanitarian efforts in Tunisia; political self-education among Tunisia’s youth.
Internship - syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO in Tunisia. The aim of an internship is to enable students to gain valuable work experience and enhance their skills in an international work environment. Specifically, students will conduct an internship in the context of civil society and democracy-building in Tunisia, and a focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issue, Migration | Identity | Resilience. The seminar includes regular reflection and assessment meetings with the academic director or internship coordinator to review the progress of the internship and learning associated with the internship experience. Students complete a substantial academic paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. Students also conduct an oral presentation of their internship experience and findings.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Southern Excursion: Kairouan and the Sahara
This seven-day excursion will acquaint you with the country’s heartland, and you’ll experience the juxtaposition of traditional culture and the modern influences of globalization.
In the UNESCO World Heritage site Kairouan, the first Muslim settlement built after the conquering of North Africa in the seventh century, Islamic and Arab presence is still strong. A highlight of the excursion is visiting the “Libyan” market in the town of El Jem; it’s a storehouse of products and commodities from all over the world, a testament to globalization. El Jem boasts the third largest Roman amphitheater in the world.
On the island of Djerba, you will visit Turkish and Spanish ribats (seafront forts), Africa’s oldest synagogue, and a Talmudic school in the Hara Kebira (Jewish quarter). You will discuss with the local rabbi and residents challenges of maintaining their faith in an overwhelmingly Muslim region.
En route from Djerba, you will visit troglodyte dwellings and traditional Berber mountain villages used as the set for the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars movies. In Douz, an oasis in the Sahara dunes, you will spend time at a cybercafé and see how the Internet affects the lives of Tunisians.
Northern Excursion: Bizerta and Tabarka
The program’s five-day excursion through the mountainous regions and coastal cities of northern Tunisia will take you from Roman Dougga and the plains of the Mejerda Valley, once known as Rome’s breadbasket, to the mountain community of Sejnane, where you will see traditional red clay potters at their kilns, and Tabarka, a coral fishing town transformed into a holiday resort for the wealthy.
In Bizerta, with its lingering French colonial atmosphere, you will see a diversified economy based on tourism, manufacturing, wine production, and military bases and observe the effect of the global market on local customs.
You will also explore Ichkeul National Park, where flora and fauna alternate every six months between freshwater and marine conditions. The excursion culminates with a visit to the archaeological site of the ancient Roman city of Utica within an international free trade zone.
Accommodations during the excursion may include hotels, guest houses, and an environmental center.
My experience in Tunisia with SIT was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life
My experience in Tunisia with SIT was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The academic content was tremendously enriching, and I expanded myself greatly intellectually. The program is very well thought out.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Mounir Khélifa, PhD, Academic Director
Mounir, a native of Tunisia, studied English at Tunis University and the Sorbonne and received his MA and PhD from Yale. A professor of English language and literature for more than two decades, he teaches poetry, poetics, and comparative literature at Tunis University. He has been director of English graduate studies at the University of Manouba and senior advisor in the cabinet of the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, where he was responsible for cooperation with foreign institutions and curricular reform. He is a lifetime member of the Tunisian Academy for the Arts, Letters, and Sciences.
In addition to designing the program’s academic and field components, Mounir advises students, drawing on his understanding of American and Tunisian higher education systems, his knowledge of Tunisian culture, and his wide range of contacts.
Nadya Ghribi, MA, Program Assistant
Nadya has a master’s in English language and literature from the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure of Tunis. As program assistant, she is a key resource on homestay issues, educational excursions, translation, logistics, and Tunisian culture. She supervises the Arabic language placement test and oversees the Arabic language program. A native of Tunis, Nadya is knowledgeable about its medina and European quarters as well as the suburbs where SIT and host families are located.
Najla Abbes, MA, Arabic Language Instructor
Najla has a master’s in trans-cultural poetics from Tunis University. As a Fulbright scholar, she taught Arabic language and culture to American students at Pfeiffer University (North Carolina) in 2007 and 2008. In addition to teaching Modern Standard Arabic with the Critical Language Scholarship program in Tunisia, Najla has been SIT Tunisia’s Arabic language instructor for Modern Standard Arabic and Tunisian Dialect since 2009.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Férid is a Tunisian film director, cinema critic, and historian. He taught film studies for many years at Tunis University and was part of many film festival juries, such as the Cannes Film Festival and Les Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage.
His first film, Halfaouine, l'enfant des terrasses (Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces, 1990), is his best known work outside Tunisia. In addition to documentaries and short films (Pique-nique, 1972; Caméra d'Afrique, 1983), his feature films include Un été à La Goulette (1996) and Villa Jasmin (2008).
Asma Nouira, PhD
Asma has a PhD in political science. She specialized in law and Islamic studies, with emphasis on the state and Islam. She is an assistant professor of law and political science at the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Management at Jendouba University. She is a member of Unité de Recherche “État, Société et Culture” and “Groupe de Recherche Islamo-Chrétien” and author of Le Mufti de la République, la fonction et l’institution (2000) and Responses to Wahhabism in the 19th Century (2008).
Hamadi Redissi is a professor of public law and political science at the University of Tunis. He was a visiting scholar at Yale University in 2008 and at Fordham University in 1999. He has been a Fulbright scholarship recipient and has lectured at American universities (Yale, Fordham University, Colorado College, Loyola University, and the American Academy of Arts and Science in Boston). He is the author of L’exception Islamique, 2004; Les Politiques en Islam: Le Prophète, le Roi et le Savant, 1998; and Religion and Politics: Islam and Muslim Civilization (with Jan-Erik Lane), 2004. He recently published a book on the history of Wahhabism and in 2008 co-edited a collection of manuscripts refuting Wahhabism in nineteenth-century Beirut.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will participate in a seven-week homestay in greater Tunis with a host family familiar with the issues explored in your coursework. Homestay families are in the centuries-old neighborhoods of La Marsa, Sidi Bou Said, and Carthage. Students completing Independent Study Projects or internships in Tunis may extend their homestay by four weeks.
Other accommodations include hostels, research institutes, or small hotels.
The homestay experience in the words of an alumna:
“The homestay was an amazing experience and remains one of my best memories from Tunisia. My host family lived in La Marsa, a seaside suburb of Tunis. Because family plays such an important role in Tunisian culture, the homestay was a great way to immerse myself in the culture and get the most out of my experience. It gave me access to cultural activities and also provided me with support during my semester abroad.
“I arrived in Tunisia during the holy month of Ramadan, a month centered on family get-togethers full of delicious, traditional meals always followed by glasses of mint tea and pastries. Two other celebrations also centered on family and friends—Aid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and Aid al-Aidha a few months later—gave me further cultural insight. These events were also fantastic opportunities to practice my burgeoning Arabic skills. The homestay enabled me to participate in these celebrations and made me feel welcome.
“The opportunities for food and celebration were clearly highpoints of the homestay experience, but living with my host family provided many other valuable benefits. My host family was incredibly welcoming and wanted me to get the most out of my stay. I was truly treated like a daughter and integrated into daily activities, whether those included cooking, shopping, or visiting friends and family. I gained a view of everyday life, but the homestay also helped me adapt. I used my host family as a resource for discussing adjustment issues and culture shock, and talking with them helped me feel more comfortable. My host family gave me a feeling of constancy and made the transition to living in Tunisia not just easier, but also so much more enjoyable. By the time I boarded my airplane home, I no longer felt like a tourist in Tunisia; I had established friendships and connections that I value to this day."
Krista Moore, Macalester College
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You can choose to spend the last four weeks of the program completing an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which you will apply concepts and skills acquired from coursework and experiential exercises. You’ll examine a topic, community, or situation of particular interest to you.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Role of women’s organizations in transforming feminist discourse
- Political Islam in Tunisia
- Reproductive health in Tunisia
- Social entrepreneurship after the revolution
- The new state and civil society
- The Arab Spring and the tourist industry
- Political cartoons
- Identity formation through Islamic education
- Governance and youth empowerment
- Role of civil society and democracy-building
- Arab reality TV
- Origins of the Tunisian Revolution
- Sexuality in Islam
- Women's movements in North Africa
- Black, Amazigh, and LGBT minorities after the revolution
You can choose to complete an internship during the last four weeks of this program. You will be placed with a Tunisian organization, where you will gain work experience and develop professional skills.
SIT internships are hands on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper about your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.
Interning in Tunisia
In the aftermath of the revolution, thousands of nongovernmental organizations were founded in Tunisia. In part because of them, the country is a relative success story in the Arab Spring. Four of these organizations received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
These essentially non-political and non-partisan groups support the transition from authoritarianism to democracy by fostering civil life and political culture. They advocate gender parity, promote social entrepreneurship and rural development, defend social justice and good governance, and monitor corruption and transparency.
SIT’s program in Tunisia has strong links with many of these organizations and can offer internships to students interested in the processes of democratic consolidation in an Arab Spring country.
- Promoting women’s involvement in government with the League of Tunisian Women Voters
- Supporting LGBT rights campaigns at Shams
- Fighting racism and promoting black consciousness at M’nemty
- Providing social entrepreneurship support and financing at Yunus Social Business
- Monitoring democratic institutionalization at the Tunisian Observatory for Democratic Transition
- Checking government transparency and anti-corruption at I-Watch
A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Journalist with ABC’s Eyewitness News, New York, NY
- High school teacher
- Intern at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, Scotland
- Volunteer with the Peace Corps
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Two thematic courses:
- Arab Spring and Emerging Identities in North Africa
- Youth, Media, and Social Movements
- Research Methods and Ethics course
- Intensive language instruction in Arabic or French
- All educational excursions to locations such as Kairouan, Tabarka, Nabeul, Hammamet, and Bizerta, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,100
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Tunis), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay family.
- Homestay (seven weeks in greater Tunis)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay family.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Books & Supplies: $200
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.