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South Africa

International Relations in the Global South

Explore non-western perspectives on South-South and continental relations through lectures, visits, and internships involving diplomats, activists, and intellectuals in South Africa and Mozambique.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Aug 30 – Dec 12

Program Countries

South Africa

Program Excursion Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Geopolitics & Power

Development & Inequality


Why study abroad in South Africa?

This program offers an opportunity to learn non-western perspectives in the fields of international and South-South relations and to examine broad policy questions in sub-Saharan Africa through the lenses of youth employment, conflict, and poverty. An introduction to South African politics sets the groundwork for the program focus on international relations and foreign policy, providing an opportunity for you to engage in major contemporary debates in the Global South.

We examine the African Union and other continental influencers including international organizations and non-state actors, and we look at how BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has emerged as an alternative power block on the global political stage. Central to the program is the opportunity to intern at an internationally acclaimed NGO such as the Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD), Institute for Security Studies (ISS), or the South African Institute of International Affairs.

You will visit the Luthuli Museum, former home of the first Black Nobel Prize winner, and the home of Mahatma Gandhi, whose political consciousness was shaped in South Africa. Learn about the role of NGOs in international relations on excursions to Cape Town and Maputo, Mozambique, which offered frontline state solidarity to South Africa during apartheid.


  • Explore career paths while engaging with diplomats and NGOs working in international relations to learn about South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.
  • Witness the mechanics and dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid system.
  • Travel to Mozambique to learn about its role in the struggle against apartheid.
  • Examine South-South relations and political and social developments through the lenses of various partnerships and governing bodies such as BRICS and the African Union



program map


In and Around Durban

Your base for the program will be in Durban, among the most cosmopolitan of South Africa’s cities with a rich fusion of African, western, and Asian influences. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese, and other enclaves. Here, you will experience several fascinating excursions: You’ll visit residents of an informal shack dwellers settlement; an African traders’ market; an ecotourism project; a center for jazz and popular music; and local schools.


In Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, you will visit the Apartheid Museum and Freedom Park Museum to gain a better understanding of the 20th century history of South Africa, and the Pan-African Parliament, a legislative body of the African Union. You will see the Constitutional Court and Soweto, where you will learn about how students joined the struggle against apartheid at the Hector Pieterson Museum. You also will explore the Mandela House, former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela.


Study the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique and the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, in the liberation struggle against apartheid, following its own hard-fought independence from Portugal in the 1970s. This framing helps us understand a key example of historical and contemporary South-South relations and how a frontline state like Mozambique rose to the political occasion for South Africa. Meet with officials from the Foreign Affairs ministry and learn from activists about their lives in exile with activists from South Africa.

Rural KwaZulu-Natal

You will live with families in the Amacambini Reserve for a short rural homestay. During this excursion, you will engage in a program to understand the role of foreign aid in rural development.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where you will have the chance to spot the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and black and white rhino), as well as giraffes and zebras.

Cape Town

Visit South Africa’s national parliament and visit NGOs like the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. During the evaluation period, the program travels to Cape Town, where you will typically visit Robben Island, site of the prison that held late South African President Nelson Mandela for 18 years and many other political activists. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, you will trek or ride up the scenic cliffs of Table Mountain, part of the coastal Table Mountain National Park. You may have some time to explore the city on your own.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Demonstrate knowledge of major theories, paradigms, and perspectives in the field of international relations and how they relate to South Africa’s trajectory.
  • Interpret South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy through discussions with key South African diplomats.
  • Use the lens of South African diplomacy to analyze the positions, goals, and relationships among various continental and international alliances, from SADC (Southern African Development Community), to the African Union, to BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).
  • Apply appropriate ethical and intercultural skills while doing an internship or Independent Study Project in the context of South Africa
  • Carry on casual conversations in isiZulu and discuss the role of language in social cohesion initiatives in South Africa.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Africa and the International Order
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  • BRICS Challenges and Accommodations with Global Power Relations
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  • Examining SA’s foreign policy agenda
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  • SA/US relations in the post Cold War period

International Relations in the Global South

International Relations in the Global South
(INTS3000 / 3 credits)

This interdisciplinary seminar begins with an introduction to South African politics and goes on to wade into the field of international relations and diplomacy, introducing students to dominant theoretical paradigms in international relations. The course will also explore major contemporary issues and border politics in the Southern African region.

Continental Geopolitics and South-South Relations

Continental Geopolitics and South-South Relations
(INTS3005 / 3 credits)

The course looks at the impact of poor governance on Africa’s development and will explore how geopolitics in Africa are characterized by cooperation and competition over natural resources, as well as a desire of African countries to forge stronger links with the world’s traditional and emerging superpowers.

A large part of the course looks at continental organizations such as  the African Union, international organizations and non-state actors, and the roles played by African states in regional organizations. Students will also be introduced to the recent resurgence of South–South cooperation in international affairs, in the context of how BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has emerged as an alternative power block and moved to the center stage of world politics.


isiZulu – syllabus
(ZULU1003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis is on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. The course aims to develop conversational abilities in isiZulu and provide greater insight into various aspects of Zulu culture through discussions and excursions.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will choose one of the following two tracks:

Research Methods and Ethics
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to an Independent Study Project or internship and related material, including cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a field journal.

Internship & Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This course consists of a four-week internship with a national or international international relations organization  that is working on South-South relations, foreign policy or conflict resolution    within the southern Africa context. The internship enables students to obtain skills and knowledge in methods, principles of, and obstacles to African development, continental solidarity, and peace within societies that have been highly polarized by racialized social welfare policies and racialized national politics, as was the case in South Africa for many decades.

Sample internships:

  • Assisting creative solutions to challenges posed by conflict at ACCORD (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), Africa’s largest conflict resolution NGO, specializing in conflict management, analysis, and prevention through mediation, negotiation, training, and research
  • Working with researchers advancing balanced, relevant and policy-oriented analysis, debate and documentation of SA and Africa’s global politics and diplomacy at the Institute For Global Dialogue
  • Supporting research, public education, and legislative initiatives at the South African Commission on Gender Equality


Research Methods and Ethics
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to an Independent Study Project or internship and related material, including cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a field journal.

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Durban or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Students may choose to complete either a research-based or practicum-based Independent Study Project, the former being a traditional research paper and the latter emerging from a practicum with an affiliated organization working in social and/or political transformation. Sample topic areas: border politics in the southern African region; peace and conflict  in the SADC region; democracy as defined by South Africans; insurgency in Cabo Delgado; unconstitutional changes in government on the African continent; deglobalization and the rise and fall of the BRICS challenge to the West. ;

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • S./South Africa relations
  • Political risk analysis
  • International trade blocs and implications on Africa and South Africa
  • The African Continental Free Trade Agreement and implications on Africa and South Africa
  • China-Africa relations
  • The Belt and Road Initiative and implications of African foreign policy
  • Political violence in the SADC region

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects and undergraduate research.



Live with isiZulu-speaking families for five weeks in Glenwood, formerly a white suburb at the foot of the University of KwaZulu-Natal which has become more cosmopolitan through the emergence of the Black middle class. Socioeconomic mobility has seen more isiZulu speakers buying properties in former white suburbs. Glenwood is about four kilometers from the SIT Learning Center. You’ll practice isiZulu and witness the richness of daily life, as well as receiving insights into what life in Glenwood means for the homestay families. You can expect to have mobile phone reception, flush toilets, and electricity.


This is a rural homestay for seven to 10 days in Amacambini, about 100 kilometers north of Durban. Some homes may not have indoor plumbing or piped water.


Live for about two weeks in Newlands, approximately 20 kilometers from Durban’s city center, with an Indian or Coloured family.

Excursion & Orientation Accomodations

During the final four weeks of the program, many students in Durban choose to stay in beachfront apartments. Other accommodations during the program may include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Career Paths

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Researcher for the Special Rapporteur for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Memphis, TN

  • Researcher at ACCORD (Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), Durban, South Africa

  • Policy Specialist at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability, Washington, DC

  • Researcher at National Geographic, Washington, DC

  • Manager at Open Society Foundation, London, UK

Faculty & Staff

South Africa: International Relations in the Global South

Imraan Buccus, PhD bio link
Imraan Buccus, PhD
Academic Director
Nonceba Lushaba bio link
Nonceba Lushaba
Academic Coordinator
Shola Haricharan bio link
Shola Haricharan
Office Manager and Homestay Coordinator
Janine Hicks, PhD bio link
Janine Hicks, PhD
Lecturer and ISP Advisor

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

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  • OPINION: The day I met Kathy

    Meeting a legend in South Africa
    Student publishes article on late anti-apartheid leader

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  • The Mercury

    Academic Director Imraan Buccus puts politics into perspective.

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  • Ela Gandhi continues her grandfather’s legacy

    Our students in the South Africa program, Social and Political Transformation, had a chance to speak to Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Check out this article written by Jacky, one of our students.

    Learn More
  • Follow us on Instagram!

    Come along as we explore social and political change in Durban and beyond!

  • Meeting Mac Maharaj at the Moses Mabhida Stadium

    Meeting Mac Maharaj
    Students meet one of the fathers of democratic South Africa

    Learn More