In Tunisia and Italy, crossroads of the Mediterranean, study the interplay of regional politics, migration, and religion. Examine the ethics of solidarity, care, and resilience as you learn or advance your Modern Standard Arabic.
Study at the intersection of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
As the northernmost country on the African continent, less than 100 miles south of Europe, Tunisia is the most Mediterranean country in North Africa, particularly in terms of customs and lifestyle. Hailed for its peaceful transition from an authoritarian to a democratic mode of governance, Tunisia is an ideal place to assess the complex political and religious linkages that define the geopolitical map in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Spend three weeks in Sicily, Italy, the crossroads of the Mediterranean and often the first port of call for immigrants.
Tunisia and Italy share in the struggle for social and economic justice, democratization and sustainable development, social cohesion and immigrant integration, and ways of imagining a livable future. You will hear lectures at the European Center for International Studies and Initiative (CESIE) and SIT program’s host partner in Palermo. Visit NGOs and associations working with immigrants and meet with members from the North African immigrant community in Sicily to discuss the impact of religious practice on social identity formation. There will also be a 10-hour module on conversational Italian.
Live in the beautiful Tunisian village of Sidi Bou Said, 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.
See Tunisia’s 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.
Do independent research or develop professional skills with an internship.
During an internship, you will spend four weeks with a civil society association, NGO, or small business developing professional skills and work experience. If you choose an Independent Study Project, you will conduct field research and write an academic paper.
Learn or advance your Modern Standard Arabic.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Migration | Identity | Resilience
None. The program is of interest to students studying political science, international relations, international studies, migration and refugee studies, European studies, Middle Eastern Studies, religious studies, global studies, sociology, and anthropology. Students with some background in French will be able to practice at their homestay in Tunis.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Political transformation, transitional justice, and democratization in Tunisia
- International relations and religious integration in the context of Mediterranean mass migration
- The interplay between secular politics and political Islam, religion and public life, religious practice and political affiliation
- The role of art in articulating the vision of a more sustainable future
- The role of the state and civil society in a divided society
- The ethics of care and hospitality in the context of populism and assimilationist ideologies
The program’s thematic seminars address Tunisia’s experience with democratization and what it teaches us about negotiation, dispute resolution, and the establishment of sustainable democratic institutions. Students will be introduced to key aspects of political and religious integration in Tunisia and Italy following the Arab Spring, and will examine the impact of populist ideology on the ethics of care and hospitality. Lectures and excursions acquaint students with the impact of assimilationist and xenophobic ideologies on immigrants and the ethics of inclusive solidarities. The Arabic course focuses on Modern Standard Arabic and includes a component on the Tunisian colloquial dialect. The Italy excursion includes a 10-hour module on conversational Italian.
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.
- Immigration, Politics, and Religion in the Euro-Mediterranean Space – syllabus
- (MDES/EURO 3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Mass migration across the Euro-Mediterranean region has refocused the debate on Europe’s absorption capacity and immigrant integration. This interdisciplinary seminar takes Sicily as a case study to analyze the underpinnings of EU “open-door” policy and its impact on immigrant and religious “integration” and social cohesions in Europe. Students critically interrogate the viability of the nation-state as an integrative political category, analyze ways in which immigrant religious identity interacts with the idea of a laic Europe, and revisit conceptual articulations of the notions of citizenship and multiculturalism in light of political and cultural hegemonies based on the exclusion and marginalization of “otherness.” Lectures and field visits will also allow students to examine pressing issues of language and identity, Islam and religious affiliation as they interact with European secular modernity and impact subjectivity, political engagement, and integration. Contra the assimilationist discourse about exclusion, students are encouraged to think through counter-hegemonic ethics of inclusive solidarities. This seminar is delivered during the excursion to Italy.
- Rethinking Politics and Religion in the Mediterranean – syllabus
- (MDES3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This interdisciplinary seminar addresses ways in which politics and religion are being reexamined and approached in Tunisia and across the Mediterranean. The succession of revolutions in the MENA region and ensuing disintegration of authoritarian political systems, the accentuation of human mobility across North Africa and Europe, the rise of the global threat of ISIL, and the entanglement of politics and religion with the discourse on violence have urged policy makers, political scientists, and religious scholars to rethink conceptual designs and strategies to appraise transnational politics and political linkages, democracy and democratization processes, religious affiliation, and radical expressions of Islam. The seminar explores the role of the state and civil society in the democratization process and the reorganization of the religious landscape across North Africa, examines the impact of secular politics and Sufi Islam in curbing the discourse of violence and intolerance circulated by radical groups, and assesses the importance of affiliation and belonging to transnational political spaces in the formation of subjectivities and collective identities.
- Beginning Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB1003-1503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB2003-2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Advanced Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB3003-3503 / 3 credits / 45 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.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This seminar includes lectures on qualitative methods of research in social sciences and in particular in the critical global issue of Identity|Migration|Resilience 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.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 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 & Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. 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 social and political transition 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 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.
Palermo, Sicily (3 weeks)
The three-week excursion to Italy is based in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, and includes tours of the cities of Cefalù, Taormina, Catania, and Bagheria. Sicily and Palermo boast a remarkable historical past that has included Punic, Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, French and Spanish civilizations. Just over 90 miles from the Tunisian coast, Palermo commands the Strait of Sicily and already has an African and Oriental atmosphere. The city, which can be aptly called the crossroads of Mediterranean cultures and peoples, is also in a position that has made it the first port of call for immigrants both documented and undocumented.
Our partner in Palermo is the distinguished European Center for International Studies and Initiatives, (CESIE), an institution dedicated to growth through innovative and participative education. CESIE provides the logistics for the excursion and the pedagogic requirements for Italian language classes, and lectures and onsite visits for the course on immigrants’ integration. You will have access to the wide network of Palermo University academics and civil society activists, both secular and religious, such as the Jesuit foundation Caritas, Centro Danilo Dolci for mobility, and Moltivolti co-working space, all concerned with immigrants’ cultural, social, and economic integration.
Southern Excursion: Kairouan and the Sahara
This excursion will acquaint you with Tunisia's heartland, where you will 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 7th century, Islamic and Arab presence is still strong. A highlight of the excursion is El Jem's Roman amphitheater, the third largest 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 to learn how the Internet affects the lives of Tunisians.
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:
Hafedh Chekir, MA
Hafedh is an international expert on youth demographics. A graduate of Tunis University and the Paris VI Institute of Political Studies, he was for many years the Arab World regional director in Jerusalem for the United Nations Population Fund. In this capacity, he acted as a consultant on population policies, demographic analyses and population projections, population surveys, and youth policies related to immigration.
Sleh Fredj, PhD
Sleh studied anthropology and sociology at universities in Tunis, Paris, and Michigan. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Tunis Faculty of Human and Social Sciences. His fields of study are youth demographics, youth culture, and youth immigration, both documented and undocumented.
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.
Livia Tranchina, BA
Livia has a bachelor’s degree in Latin and Italian Literature from the University of Palermo and taught high school Italian and Latin. After she retired, she began working with the NGO Centro Astalli, where she has been coordinating and organizing volunteers since 2002. Livia is also an intercultural mediator who leads school project to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue and refugees’ social inclusion.
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 six-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, small hotels, or independent apartments while on excursion to Italy.
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
Student Video - Isaiah Sciford
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
Your ISP will be conducted in Tunis or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas include: 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.
Some topics students may want to explore as ISPs are:
- Strategies for the prevention of youth radicalization in Tunisia and Italy
- Immigrants’ integration: Secular and religious NGOs
- Tunisian youths’ perceptions of immigration to Europe
- Politics and religion: Christian Democracy and Ennahdha Islamist party
- Ennahdha Islamist party and the Politics of Moderation
This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a Tunisian community organization, research organization, small business, or international NGO. Sample internships include:
- 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.
This program is eligible for a New Horizons Grant, a scholarship for our new programs. Award amounts are $2,500 for semester and $1,500 for summer programs. Students demonstrating need through their submitted scholarship application will be eligible.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Two thematic courses:
- Rethinking Politics and Religion in the Mediterranean
- Immigration and Religious Integration in the Euro-Mediterranean Region
- Research Methods and Ethics course
- Intensive language instruction in Modern Standard Arabic
- All educational excursions to Italy and other locations in Tunisia, 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 (six 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.
Contact A Former Student
Tunisa Memories, a video by alum Bradley Toney