South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


“The homestays, by far, were my favorite part of the program! It is such an incredible way to learn about the many South African cultures. I loved seeing how my four families live, what they eat, what they value, how their family structure works, and how they were (and still are) affected by apartheid and South Africa’s past. I loved meeting their friends and extended family, watching their favorite television programs, playing with their children and the neighborhood kids, chatting around the dinner table, and just being a part of the family. It is so enriching to learn about South Africa’s cultures firsthand at the same time as you’re learning about them in a classroom setting.” 

—Claire Oatey, Whitman College

Bo Kaap

The program features several homestays designed to introduce students firsthand to South Africa’s cultural diversity. Students spend three weeks with isiXhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town, one week with families in the rural Eastern Cape (Tsabo), one week with bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking families in Stellenbosch, and one week with families in another bilingual family in Bo Kaap.

The family is the center of life in South Africa. The opportunity to live with such a diverse array of South African families is a major highlight and defining feature of the program.

Students spend three weeks living with isiXhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town. Langa is one of the oldest townships that emerged following the passage of the Urban Areas Act in 1923. Langa was a planned town and looks radically different from informal settlements that dot the Cape Town landscape. The term township refers to residential areas for non-white people.

Langa is a vibrant community that values education and sports and has a very strong Christian identity. Families typically consist of five to six members. The name Langa literally means “sun” but it is derived from Langalibalele, a rebel chief imprisoned at Robben Island for rebelling against the government.

Each weekday, students commute to the suburb of Rondebosch for class; weekends are spent with the host family. An excursion to Robben Island is typically arranged during the Langa homestay; other excursions may include hiking Table Mountain or Lion’s Head or visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Bo Kaap
Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is one of the best known and most photographed areas of Cape Town and is closely associated with traditional Islam and the Cape Malay community. Early settlers of the Cape Town area included slaves from South Asia and the Indian Ocean basin and political prisoners who pioneered Islam, all of whom influenced the area’s cultural and social practices.

During the Bo Kaap homestay period, students interrogate “colored” identity and visit museums such as District Six and the Slave Lodge to learn more about land ownership, human rights, and state-sponsored resettlements and land dispossessions. Students attend classes at the SIT program center.

Bo Kaap is well known for its rich history and cultural heritage as well as for its brightly colored houses and distinct Georgian architecture that was typical during the area’s development in the early to mid-nineteenth century.


Students spend one week living with families in the village of Tshabo situated near King Williams Town, the capital of the Eastern Cape Province. This homestay offers students an excellent opportunity to experience rural life, examine issues of rural development, and practice isiXhosa.

During the Tshabo homestay, students may visit local rural projects run by NGOs and schools. They typically have the chance to observe traditional rituals and compare and contrast urban and rural Xhosa cultures. Students receive lectures by local experts on issues of education, social development, economics, and Tshabo’s history and culture.

During their time in Tshabo, students conduct a mini field assignment to practice their research methods and enhance their confidence for the four-week Independent Study Project.

Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Stellenbosch, located in the Western Cape Province about 50 km outside of Cape Town. The city is home to one of South Africa’s leading tertiary educational institutions, Stellenbosch University.

During this period, students attend classes at Stellenbosch University and undertake excursions, including the town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument. An excursion to the Solms Delta Wine Estate is also arranged, giving students the opportunity to learn about the social history of the farm and programs being implemented at the winery to empower farm workers and their families. Students engage with faculty and local students on issues related to the future of the Afrikaans language as both a language of instruction at the university and a cultural symbol to the Afrikaner community. The language debate has put Stellenbosch University in a tug-of-war requiring tolerance, flexibility, and imagination in order to come up with a language policy that would be realistic and inclusive. Conversations on this issue typically continue outside the classroom with students’ Afrikaner host families.

In addition to homestay accommodation, other housing options during the program may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels and camping.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Cape Town

Language Study: Afrikaans,  isiXhosa

Prerequisites: None

South Africa

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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