Learn how communities around the world understand and strive for health and well-being.
Compare strategies of health and community across four radically different country contexts and at global and local scales, through case studies, ethnographic research, and visits with a diverse array of health practitioners and local activists.
The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also experiential education in the form of student observations and experiences in the field, with guest lectures and homestay families to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.
Learn how communities around the world understand what it is to achieve and maintain health and well-being.
Explore the health realities all citizens face amid mounting challenges created by changing social, environmental, and economic forces
Strengthen your ability to understand, interpret, and compare the socio-cultural, ecological, economic, political, and biological factors that affect human health.
Experience a three-day retreat outside of Buenos Aires at the end of the semester.
Critical Global Issue of Study
None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in public health, anthropology, biology, or other related fields is strongly recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- How a deeper understanding of culture can transform our view of health
- Whether health is a fundamental human right and, If so, who is responsible for guaranteeing it
- Possible solutions to the health inequities—between rich and poor, urban and rural—that exist around the world
- The role of public health in the global context and how the forces of globalization impact health and healthcare
- How grassroots activism and top-down approaches to health conflict with or complement one another
- The role of community in health and well-being and how different people understand what it is to be a healthy person in varied cultural contexts
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.
- Health, Culture, and Community – syllabus
- (ANTH3050 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Medical anthropology serves as the theoretical foundation for this course. It seeks to strengthen students' ability to understand, interpret, and compare how personal and community identity, health and well-being, illness, and healing are understood within diverse cultural contexts. The course examines the philosophy and practices characteristic of biomedicine and a wide range of traditional and other systems of health and healing, as well as the reality of medical pluralism in the lives of individuals. In so doing, the course covers themes of health and healing pertinent across the life span — from birth to death. Throughout, students are encouraged to support their comparative understanding with an exploration of their own assumptions and practices related to identity, health, and healing.
- Globalization and Health – syllabus
- (IPBH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Nations at all levels of development vary in their commitment and capacity to define healthcare as a human right and provide healthcare to their citizens equitably. Some have created systems to provide basic healthcare, yet struggle with other factors that influence health, while others position healthcare as an economic commodity subject to market forces. This course provides a framework for comparing the organization and financing of health systems and health policy-making across the countries visited. It examines the political economy of health, with special attention to the impact of international governance, economic, and trade policies. Students gain skills in critical thinking, policy analysis, and debate, supported by research, observation, and exposure to varied perspectives among in-country experts. The course is taught by four different in-country faculty throughout the semester.
- Public Health: From Biology to Policy – syllabus
- (IPBH3505 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course begins with an overview of global and national health trends in the context of demographic shifts and development. In each country visited, a significant health condition is addressed: What are the biological mechanisms of disease? How is disease distributed in the country's populations? What public health interventions are supported by empirical evidence? In light of social, cultural, economic, and political conditions, how can such evidence be applied in the local context? Specific considerations studied range from infectious to "lifestyle" and chronic illnesses, e.g., diarrheal diseases of early childhood, adult mental health, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. This course is taught by local faculty in each country.
- Community Health Research Methods – syllabus
- (IPBH3510 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course seeks to strengthen students' competence in inquiry-guided learning through field-based case studies. The course begins with an introduction to the philosophic traditions of ethnography, epidemiology, and health services research — complementary and sometimes conflicting. It then teaches and gives students the opportunity to apply the chief tools of each tradition (e.g., participant observation, in-depth interviewing, community surveys, mapping, interpreting data analyses, and oral presentation of findings). In each country, students choose from a range of available field case study topics/sites as the primary venue for demonstrating their field research and presentation skills.
Why choose IHP for your SIT study abroad program?
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Washington, DC, US
The seat of government for one of the richest nations in the world and hub of international policymaking, Washington, DC, is also home to some of the greatest wealth disparities of any city in the United States. Over the course of two weeks in DC, you will explore the diverse neighborhoods and local NGOs of DC; meet with community leaders, activists, and government officials; and begin to develop your own toolbox for effecting change by learning from the successes and failures of others. You will gain deeper insight into the many challenges of and solutions to health and disease at national and local levels while preparing for your exploration of similar issues internationally.
Hear from global health experts at international NGOs while observing firsthand how health inequities affect those living near the halls of world political power. Investigate some of the many social determinants of health, such as access to housing, transportation, and education, as well as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status, and income and examine how these inequities have led to some of the country’s worst health outcomes.
One of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and rapidly developing nations, Vietnam has succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty, yet considerable challenges remain. Some of the country’s most vexing health-related issues include an HIV/AIDS epidemic that threatens to become widespread, enormous demands placed on health systems from rising rural-to-urban migration, widening social inequalities, and worsening environmental conditions.
The whirring of motorbikes, the calls of fresh fruit vendors, and the clang of new building projects fill the air in Hanoi, where you will be hosted by the Institute of Population, Health, and Development. This dynamic NGO, formed by experienced public health experts, implements a range of health research and development programs, such as online HIV/AIDS and sexuality education for migrant workers and HIV prevention for most-at-risk populations.
Hanoi Medical School, Vietnam’s premier medical education institution, is known for leading medical training in Vietnam and will serve as co-host. This combination will provide you with a rare opportunity to study with Vietnam’s finest public health professionals and observe firsthand, through visits to project and field sites, creative efforts to resolve some of the country’s greatest health challenges.
You will have a homestay in Hanoi and a weeklong stay in Lac Village where you will visit ethnic Thai and Hmong villages in the surrounding hillsides.
Cape Town, South Africa
The complex colonial and apartheid history of South Africa has entrenched a social, economic, and political climate that remains part of the country’s contemporary condition. Disparity of wealth and unequal distribution of resources provide a distinct backdrop to analyze and explore how the country’s past affects South Africans’ access to healthcare, education and, in some cases, basic services.
Homestays in the Salt River neighborhood near the center of Cape Town and in the rural heritage fishing village of Arniston will offer you access to communities committed to political, social, and economic transformation and health justice. You will have the opportunity to meet and talk with community activists, physicians, public health practitioners, and historians about issues of inter-generational trauma, infectious diseases, climate change and sustainable livelihoods, migration and access to healthcare and employment, and growing schisms between public and private care. Throughout your time here, you will interrogate how law, politics, and economics intersect and shape health outcomes and how communities resist, manage, and adapt in their daily lives.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
With a population of 14 million, Buenos Aires—the most important and influential city in Argentina, both politically and economically—is the perfect place to experience and study the complexities of living and surviving in a globalized city immersed in a Latin American context. Shaped by massive waves of immigration, both past and present, this cosmopolitan city stands out because of the delicate equilibrium between tradition and modernity that characterizes it.
Immersed in a context of rapid growth and globalized development since mid-2000, Argentina plays a fundamental role in a region characterized by extreme inequalities in vast sectors of the population. In Argentina, a complete free public health system that covers every person residing in the country coexists with two others, a private sector and a semi-private labor union sector, both powerful and competitive.
While in Buenos Aires, you will visit a variety of healthcare settings, from primary health centers to regional hospitals. During a rural stay, panels with agricultural producers and health workers provide insights into the specificities of health access in remote areas.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
SherriLynn Colby-Bottel, PhD, Program Director
SherriLynn received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2012 and a BA in anthropology (1998) and an MA in music (2001), with distinction, at California State University, Fresno. From 2005 to 2012, with support from the National Science Foundation and the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Fellowship award for scholarly achievement and excellence in teaching, she conducted ethnographic research on disaster recovery, nonprofits, urban traditions, and community-based social activities in New Orleans. Her research explored issues highlighted by disaster and recovery: how racial inequities align with health disparities, how environment and social policy act as determinants of community health, and the vital role of community in one’s ability to achieve personal health and well-being. SherriLynn has worked and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations in the last decade while also researching how nonprofit organizations retain and reward labor. Her current intellectual interests are focused on holistic community well-being, ethnography, and the ethical considerations of representation. SherriLynn has worked in higher education for more than a dozen years as both teacher and administrator at California State University, Fresno; the University of New Orleans; and the University of Virginia. She has been with SIT since 2011.
Zufan Hagos, MA, Program Manager
Zufan holds a BS in secondary education and Spanish from the University of Vermont and an MA in international education from SIT Graduate Institute. Zufan’s work has focused on multicultural education, service-learning, language acquisition, and international education. Prior to joining IHP, Zufan worked with Putney Student Travel, National Geographic Student Expeditions, and the Center for International Studies designing, managing, and facilitating middle, high school, and college level programs in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Ebony Yarbrough, MA, Launch Coordinator
Ebony holds a master’s degree in sustainable international development from Brandeis University and a bachelor’s in Spanish from Florida A&M University. Her work and research have centered on collaborative grassroots community empowerment and self-reliance in Latin America and Africa. In her graduate work, she created a best practices documentation tool to support solidarity among communities exchanging knowledge of how they’ve achieved success in various aspects of community-led development. For much of her career, Ebony has been planning, executing, and facilitating various types of learning and community engagement experiences, both in the United States and abroad. Before entering more fully into global work, she dedicated herself for over a decade to improving the reach of the US national child nutrition programs, through advocacy from the local community level up to congressional engagement.
Vu Cong Nguyen MD, MPH, Country Coordinator, Vietnam
Vu Cong is the deputy director of the Institute of Population Health and Development. He was previously director of the Family Health Research Center, lecturer at Hanoi Medical School, program officer with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and program officer with Family Health International. Currently, Nguyen is leading several HIV/AIDS research and intervention projects in Vietnam that target most-at-risk populations and implementing an HIV prevention project targeting young Vietnamese soldiers completing mandatory military service. Vu Cong obtained his medical doctorate from Hanoi Medical School in 1993 and a master’s of public health at Brown University in 2005. He is also a founder of the Vietnamese Society for HIV/AIDS Medicine and a member of the Vietnamese Public Health Association and American Public Health Association.
Laura Winterton, MA, Country Coordinator, South Africa
Laura is a social anthropologist based in Cape Town, where she has been researching tuberculosis and drug-resistant tuberculosis treatment of and care for vulnerable populations in South Africa. Laura is interested in how the intersections of law, history, and ethics shape an individual’s and community’s experiences of health and healthcare in the city. Her work moves between the clinic, the court, correctional facilities, and communities as a way to explore the complexity in administering and receiving care. She completed a master’s in social anthropology at the University of Cape Town (2013) and an undergraduate degree in women’s studies from the University of Ottawa (2006). Laura is enthusiastic about experiential learning and collaborative research projects.
Carolina Rovetta, MFA, Country Coordinator, Argentina
Carolina holds a five-year degree in arts from the University of Buenos Aires and a postgraduate degree in contemporary cinema and theater. She has been working in the field of international education for many years and designs several academic and immersion programs in Argentina for students and institutions from abroad. Carolina has written several pedagogical guides on cultural activities in immersion. She also is very interested in arts and culture and works as a cultural facilitator for the city of Buenos Aires. She first began working with IHP in 2005 and helped establish the Cities in the 21st Century program in Buenos Aires. From there, she was asked to design the Health and Community program and has been working with this program since 2008.
Laura Steil, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Laura is an anthropologist interested in the ways health and well-being are shaped by disparities in power and capital and by transnational flows of people, goods, and images. Her research focuses on mental health, migration, social justice, and the cultural dynamics of global cities. Laura’s teaching and research emphasize the importance of the embodied experience, which she approaches both as an object of study and as a tool for achieving knowledge. She conducted a decade-long study in Paris, among urban dancers of African and Caribbean origin, examining the role of dance for achieving resilience and dignity as well advancing political agendas regarding social justice and cultural memory in postcolonial France. Before joining IHP in June 2016, Laura taught medical anthropology in an urban nursing college located in a Parisian outer-city. She worked in a public hospital as part of a team of health professionals and researchers in a unique psychiatry unit approaching mental health from a transcultural perspective and bridging biomedical and “traditional” systems of interpretation and healing.
Peter Seilheimer, MA, Trustees’ Fellow
Peter holds a master’s degree in international education from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. His interest in international education started early, when he discovered a fascination with language and the connections it enables one to make with others. While studying at Lewis & Clark College, Peter had the privilege of living and learning for an academic year in Munich, Germany. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in German, Russian, and gender studies, Peter taught English with the Fulbright Commission in rural Austria. He has also been a counselor and teacher at Waldsee, an immersive German-language summer camp, in the Northern Woods of Minnesota and a teacher at the German International School in Portland. Most recently, he worked as a program leader for Thinking Beyond Borders, leading groups of students on a gap year program centered on international development and social justice in Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.
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 live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Co-founder and executive director of Spark MicroGrants, New York, NY, and multiple locations in Africa
- Policy advisor in the Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, DC
- Managing director of Food Loft, Boston, MA
- Intern at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy, Washington, DC
- Primary care intern at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
- Founder of TurnOut, an LGBTQ volunteer-matching social enterprise, San Francisco, CA
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:
- Content and logistics for field programs in Washington, DC; Hanoi; Cape Town; and Buenos Aires
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Public Health
- Globalization and Health
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Health, Culture, and Community
- Community Health Research Methods
- Locally taught classes
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions to rural stays, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group travel during the program
- This travel includes all flights and a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program, arranged by our travel agent.
Room & Board: $4,500
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program, except the vacation period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Hanoi, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires
- All meals for the entire program, except the vacation period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site
Domestic 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.
Visa Expenses: $ 50
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
Break: $600 - $1,000
Please note: This is an estimated range based on student surveys from past semesters. Students' individual needs for their breaks will vary. For the entirety of the break period, students will be responsible for all of their expenses, including travel and room and board.
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.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.
These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.