Explore social justice in urban environments. Examine how four cities around the world work, how they operate within the global economy, and how their citizens live and organize to create more just cities.
Learn through an innovative urban studies curriculum with fieldwork involving key actors and stakeholders—urban citizens, thought leaders and academics, public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots organizations.
The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also student observations, guest lectures, and homestay interviews to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.
Live and study in four world cities undergoing rapid change and facing unique challenges.
Explore how politics, economics, geography, and culture shape social relations and the built environment.
Learn how to critically “read a city”—honing your ability to observe, question, research, document, and communicate—and gain a better understanding of the interconnected systems that affect urban environments.
Discover how people create a sense of community and urban identity.
Conduct fieldwork and complete an independent comparative research project on a topic of your choosing.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Development | Economy | Inequality
None, but previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in urban studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, or other related fields is strongly recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- What a just city is
- Who “owns” the city? What the priorities of city governance should be and what the consequences of pursuing some priorities over others are
- How urban citizens create a sense of place, of community, of urban identity
- Historical and sociocultural contexts that frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life
- What must be done—and by whom—to move toward ecologically sustainable cities
- Opportunities for political action by individuals, community organizations, social movements, and local governments to shape city life
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.
- Culture and Society of World Cities – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course examines the many ways people make urban life meaningful. What are the historical, political-economic, and sociocultural contexts that frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life? How do people create a sense of place, of community, or of urban identity? In addressing these questions, we will explore the core concepts and conceptual frameworks that anthropologists and sociologists use to understand lived experience in cities. Our study of social and cultural urban processes emphasizes the relationship of space to identity and power. The course examines aspects of identity, including race and ethnicity, gender, class, family, and citizenship. In each city, we will grapple with conflicts, struggles, and celebrations that are embedded in and emerge from specific historical, socio-economic, and political contexts. We will examine cities as physical and imagined spaces, exploring how spatial and social life are mutually shaped, and how the meanings of cities are multiple and contested by different groups and actors with often incompatible agendas. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
- Urban Politics and Development – syllabus
- (DVST3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Cities are simultaneously centers of individual opportunity and civic engagement and sites of inequality and economic disparity. In this course students explore, question, and critique the intersection of politics and development in cities at multiple scales, from local to global, and examine how related institutions, policies, and processes shape the evolution of cities. This course examines a variety of structural elements and processes, including relationships between municipal and regional institutions, privatization, community development, economic growth, industrial restructuring, informal economy, and poverty and income distribution. We will pay particular attention to these guiding questions: What economic, social, and political factors (local, national, and international) shape the development/organization of cities? Who exercises power in cities and what are their sources of power? Whose voices are considered relevant in the discussion of what the city could be? In the Urban Politics and Development course, we will explore how and why urban development is a tension filled, conflictual process that occurs at multiple scales. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
- Contemporary Urban Issues – syllabus
- (URST3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This research and methods seminar is designed to give students the tools to identify and analyze challenges common to cities across continents and cultures, and to distinguish such challenges from others that are rooted in particular histories and human geographies. It is also focused on developing in students the ability to make meaningful comparisons, particularly concerning configurations of political, economic, and social power as they are manifested in urban space. Using these tools, students have an opportunity to pursue individual comparative research on topics of their own choosing. The course will be co-taught by all faculty and country coordinators to emphasize the multi-disciplinary analysis of issues and to integrate the experience-based learning of the semester. This course is taught by traveling and locally based faculty.
- Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments – syllabus
- (URST3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Within cities we find key challenges to long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability; processes of exclusion and deepened inequalities are occurring at such a scale that new geographies of power and injustice arise. In this context, planning and socio-spatial practices have become key instruments to understanding and intervening in complex realities that require both physical and social comprehension. This course introduces key concepts about the history, theory, and practice of urban planning and sustainability. It emphasizes how the physical elements of cities are related to and interact with the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of cities. This course is taught by locally based faculty.
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.
United States: New York
The program starts in arguably the most prominent “world” city in the United States. In New York, you will meet classmates and faculty and be introduced to field experiences by exploring neighborhoods, visiting nongovernmental organizations, meeting with actors from the private sector, and hearing from public officials. You will discuss local conditions and issues and discover that, while every city is local, it is also a piece of the global puzzle.
Brazil: São Paulo
Brazil gives you an excellent opportunity to see how participation, democracy, and a mobilized citizenry affect change. In multi-ethnic São Paulo, the largest urban area in South America, public infrastructure takes aggressive steps forward, but never seems to catch up to the expanding city’s growing needs. Land and water are plentiful, but how much is available to the secluded rich, the hard-working middle class, or the tenuous poor remains a question.
Barcelona, a city whose origins predate the Roman Empire, has always been a major site of political influence both regionally in Catalonia and globally. One of the most densely populated cities in Europe, Barcelona is a place where progressive urban policies and practices are being implemented and tested. The current city administration, led by the first female mayor, is being heralded as a beacon of participatory city management, where the theory of “The Right to the City” is ostensibly being made into reality. During your time here, you’ll explore a very different approach to the challenges that face other cities such as housing, labor, and the impact of global economic forces on a city.
South Africa: Cape Town
In Cape Town, you will see how a society that was grossly unequal by design is attempting to transform itself into one that provides equal economic opportunity for all. You will meet with government leaders, social activists, and academics from local universities involved with Cape Town’s post-apartheid transformation.
Contrast the awe-inspiring beauty of Table Mountain and Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans’ currents meet, and the charming cobblestone streets of the bustling Green Market Square with apartheid-legacy townships such as Langa, Khayelitsha, Joe Slovo Park, Guguletu, Nyanga, and the Cape Flats. Observe effective community radio stations, food cooperatives, informal traders, taxi companies, and the variety of small businesses, art, crafts, music, and vibrant personalities that make township culture thrive.
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.
Kelly Rosenthal, MS, Program Director
Kelly trained as a social anthropologist at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford. Her work has focused on urban social movements, particularly in a comparative context between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. She has focused on the struggle for socioeconomic rights and education as well as political culture and masculinities in Africa. Her fieldwork was supported by the Commonwealth Foundation and was conducted in the township of Soweto, outside of Johannesburg, where she worked with a group of community organizers mobilizing against the privatization of water and electricity. She has extensive teaching experience in social anthropology, particularly the anthropology of development, political anthropology, medical anthropology, and interdisciplinary research methods. She has also worked in the development world for many years, in the field of education advocacy. More recently, she worked for a philanthropy foundation, managing a portfolio of grants to organizations working on education and child rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Kelly has a long association with this program, as both traveling faculty and local faculty. She lives in Cape Town.
Sam Ryals, Program Manager
Sam has a BA in politics and government from Pacific University in Oregon. She has been working with social change and grassroots initiatives for more than ten years. From 2012 to 2015, she lived in Khon Kaen, Thailand, while working at CIEE’s study abroad program focused on globalization and development and then coordinated The Isaan Record, an independent online news blog. While in Thailand, Sam worked with the grassroots organization, ENGAGE, to bring four Thai anti-mining activists to Oaxaca, Mexico, where they exchanged experiences on anti-mining tactics and strategies. For the last three years, she has been part of the social enterprise Radical Grandma Collective. The collective is a group of mostly grandmas that have banded together in radical ways to fight a gold mine in their community in Thailand. Sam and her team sell the weavings online and at markets in the US.
Sonny Singh, MEd, Launch Coordinator, New York
Sonny received his master’s degree in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he practiced using education as a tool for liberation. Since moving to New York City, he has worked for the union UNITE HERE and was a community organizer at the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project and the Sikh Coalition and a humane education instructor with HEART. Sonny has written essays and articles on race, religion, and social justice for The Huffington Post, India Abroad, The Langar Hall, Colorlines, Sikh Chic, Left Turn, The Asian American Literary Review, and Open City Magazine. He was a 2014-15 Open City Fellow for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, covering stories in Richmond Hill, Queens. Sonny has been designing and facilitating workshops and classes on social justice for more than 15 years. He is a member of the training teams at Border Crossers, which trains educators on racial justice, and Race Forward. He is also a musician and tours with the Brooklyn-based bhangra brass band Red Baraat.
Glenda de la Fuente, MA, Country Coordinator, Brazil
Glenda de la Fuente has been the Brazil Country Coordinator for the “Cities in the XXI Century” Program since 2008 and for the “Health and Community” Program since 2010. She was also the Interim Program Director for the “Social Innovation” Program in the Fall term in 2018. The IHP experiential learning model allowed her to combine three of her passions: 1.) teaching- she holds a MA in Teaching of English and Applied Linguistics by the King´s College, University of London and she has served a coordinator of the ESL extension programs at the University of Buenos Aires for over 10 years-; 2.) social justice –she has been involved in the International Humanist Movement since her twenties, which gave her a vast experience in education for non-violence programs and grassroots organization, and 3.) intercultural communication- she is a certified professional interpreter. She was born in Argentina and moved to Sao Paulo in 2003 where she started a family.
Mauro Castro Coma, PhD, Spain Co-Coordinator
Mauro is an activist, researcher, and associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC). He works as a consultant in La Hidra Cooperativa and is an active member of the Fundación de los Comunes, a project driven by various experiences of autonomous research, education, publishing, and political intervention practiced in social movements in Spain. He is an economist and Doctor of Philosophy in political science with a research history in urban commons and other related topics such as territorial segregation, urban movements, processes of participation and democratic innovation at the local level. He has participated in the organization of scientific events and research projects and has published in scientific publications such as EURE and Urbe (magazines of urban studies) and Social Justice Journal. Throughout his career, he has developed consultancy projects in the fields of citizen participation, community management, and social and urban innovation for numerous local administrations.
Lucas Shapiro, Spain Co-Coordinator
Lucas has been with IHP since 2014, serving as launch coordinator for the Human Rights program and as trustees’ fellow and a coordinator of the Barcelona program for Cities. As a dual citizen of the US and Spain, he maintains connections to social movement organizations, family, and friends in both countries. From 2005 to 2006, he helped turn an old factory near Barcelona into a center for social transformation called Ateneu Candela. In 2015, he led a delegation of US grassroots activists to Spain in the lead-up to the historic elections that brought Barcelona’s municipalist movement to power and has led other delegations of international and US-based leaders to the city. After earning a degree in Studies in Social Change from Ithaca College, Lucas moved to New York City to become the national organizer for a progressive youth and student network and later worked as an organizer with a tenants’ rights nonprofit. He served as senior organizer at Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, working with members to fight for living-wage jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food, and a seat at the table in shaping local development. He is a co-founder and collective member of Mayday Space, a center for arts, activism, and movement building located in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Nicolas Eppel, Country Coordinator, South Africa
After studying anthropology and history at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Nic worked as a professional photographer for many years — including for magazines, newspapers, commercials, and exhibitions. His personal work focused on history, health, gentrification, migration, memory, identity, and the intersections and influence of politics and economics on the lives of ordinary people. His work has been nominated for the prestigious World Press Photo Joop Swart masterclass. He has also received various grants, been awarded a fellowship from UCT, had work published in academic journals, and worked in collaboration with various NGOs. His knowledge of South Africa is based on a deep fascination of social mechanics, years of fieldwork experience, a lifelong interest in social justice, and a strong desire to better understand how South Africa can realize its potential. After living and working in Spain for a few years (partly on a project examining Christian, Jewish, and Muslim heritage within Andalucía), Nic returned to South Africa and became a partner in a Cape Town tourism mapping company, working with the private sector, government departments, and national conservation organizations to develop travel material promoting tourism — especially rural tourism — throughout Southern Africa. He currently consults as a researcher for economic development projects and has been working with IHP since 2017.
Melissa García-Lamarca, PhD, Local Faculty Coordinator
Melissa holds a PhD in geography from the University of Manchester, where she studied how mortgage indebtedness affects everyday life and struggles against housing foreclosure and eviction in the Barcelona metropolitan region. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Barcelona Laboratory for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, based at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Aside from her research on housing, at the Barcelona Laboratory Melissa studies the role that urban green space creation plays in gentrification, how residents are responding, and what cities are doing to be green, just, and equitable. Melissa is an activist in housing movements in Barcelona. She has fifteen years’ experience working as a consultant, researcher, teacher, and project coordinator in Canada and internationally, including two semesters as travelling faculty with IHP Cities in 2011.
Dominique Somda, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Dominique is a sociocultural anthropologist trained in France, where she received a PhD in anthropology from Université Paris Ouest Nanterre and a master’s degree in philosophy from Université Blaise Pascal. She is returning as a traveling faculty with IHP Cities for the fourth time. Prior to joining IHP, she taught anthropology as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and at Reed College. As a postdoctoral researcher, she held visiting positions at the Fondation Maisons des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and at the London School of Economics. Her work focuses on how inequality, or conversely, egalitarianism, emerges through everyday practices, a thematic interest that has led her to engage with the anthropology of democracy, Christianity, and feminist and postcolonial studies. Her regional focus is Africa, specifically Madagascar.
Mara Duer, PhD, Traveling Faculty
Mara received her training in sociology at the University of Buenos Aires. After working for several years in shanty towns and rural schools in Argentina, Mara was selected as a Rotary Peace Fellow to do a master’s in peace and conflict resolution at the International Christian University, Tokyo. She later earned the Political Spaces scholarship to do a PhD at Warwick University, UK. Mara worked as a researcher for Leicester University. She has taught on world politics, critical geography, and international relations. She specializes in political geography, with a strong focus on socio-spatial conflicts, bringing together feminist, post-structural and decolonial approaches. She is part of the Geografías Emergentes research group based at the University of Buenos Aires and is an active member of the activist feminist collective “city of desire”, which organizes public interventions, considering the city space as an active and central dimension in the feminist struggle.
Sara Smith Sell, MSW, Trustees’ Fellow
Sara holds a BA in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College and an MSW from Hunter College. She is a 2012 alumna of IHP Cities in the 21st Century and worked as a Fellow for Cities in 2016. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Sara moved to New York in 2009 and has been a resident of the NYC area ever since. Sara worked for many years in education and youth development, managing after-school programs, summer employment programs, a farmer’s market and multi-day camping trips for youth. Recently, she made the shift to the mental health field, working as a social work intern at The Arthur Project and the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Sara’s social work practice focuses on transformative justice, ecotherapy and its applications in the urban environment, trauma-informed work, bridging micro and macro social work practice, and grounding all work in anti-oppressive practices.
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:
- Reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace, Los Angeles, CA
- Program director at Helmsley Charitable Trust, New York, NY
- Director of cross agency partnerships at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Health Equity, New York, NY
- Executive director of LivableStreets Alliance, Cambridge, MA
- Analyst in the urban investment group at Goldman Sachs
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 New York, Ahmedabad, São Paulo, and Cape Town
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Urban Planning and Sustainable Environments
- Culture and Society of World Cities
- Urban Politics and Development
- Contemporary Urban Issues
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions and final program retreat, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance after leaving the United States
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for these.
The travel fee covers the following:
- All group flights once you leave the US.
- A flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program or a travel allowance for other locations, arranged by our travel agent.
- Group travel in each country program for program activities (buses, taxis, boats, trains, metro, etc.).
Note: Travel to the program launch city in the US is not covered, students are responsible for this cost.
Room & Board: $4,703
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, 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 São Paulo, Cape Town, and Ahmedabad
- All meals for the entire program 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: $ 45
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 - $1,200
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.
Speak With An Admissions Counselor
Contact A Former Student
These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.