South Africa Study Abroad Country Profile

South Africa Overview

South Africa is one of the more distant locales that students can select for their study abroad experience, but it is worth the lengthy 15-hours plus flight to get there. Despite a tumultuous history and the tragic legacy of Apartheid, today South Africa is something of a model nation on the African continent. It is one of the most democratic countries in Africa, and its growing economy is frequently likened to other up-and-coming middle economies like Nigeria, Brazil, and India. South Africa is home to some of the most stunning and iconic natural landscapes in the world and its cities, particularly Johannesburg, are incredibly modern in comparison to much of the rest of the continent.

Cultural Highlights

It would be remiss to talk about South Africa and not mention its fantastic system of natural parks and amazing wildlife. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, covering an area of approximately 7,400 square miles. This park and others are considered national treasures, and there is a lot of emphasis placed on sustainable tourism and preserving landscapes and wildlife.

There is no single culture in South Africa, and there is a high level of diversity when it comes to languages, ethnic groups, and ideologies, all of which are constitutionally protected. Soccer and rugby are popular in South Africa, and the country is set to host the 2010 World Cup tournament for soccer. Music is popular and diverse, and many of South Africa’s musical groups have achieved international fame – Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one of the most famous groups.

Popular Fields of Study

In addition to the wide variety of programs offered in South Africa, the country is also home to dozens of colleges and universities that offer courses in English (despite South Africa’s eleven official languages). South Africa is a great destination for students interested in ecology, conservation and wildlife biology. South Africa study abroad participants interested in history and politics will find that the country makes a great case study. There are also unique opportunities in South Africa that are worthy of a mention – for a more non-traditional experience, many students opt for cooperative, humanitarian or aid-oriented programs, which provide a different sort of experiential learning and give students a chance to make a difference in local communities.

Why Study Abroad in South Africa?

South Africa has many unique advantages as a study abroad destination. Here are ten reasons why you should consider studying abroad in South Africa.

1. World Famous National Parks

Though Kruger National Park is perhaps the most famous, South Africa has an incredibly strong network of national parks with unforgettable landscapes and exotic wildlife.

2. Make A Difference

For students interested in giving back as part of their study abroad experience, a variety of programs are available that will get you active in local communities and working with people where they live.

3. Cultural Diversity

South Africa has an incredibly diverse population comprised of people from different ethnic groups and speaking many different languages. This diversity provides a unique opportunity to gain many different perspectives on a nation and its culture.

4. Cape Town

Cape Town is a city located amongst some fabulous natural attractions – Table Mountain provides scenic views of the city and the sea - also flanking the city are numerous gorgeous beaches perfect for sunning or whale watching.

5. Bungee Jumping

It goes without saying that many students that study abroad are adventure seekers, and what better place than South Africa to complete the one of the world’s highest bungee jumps – nearly 710 feet high!

6. Hike the Wild Coast

South Africa’s Eastern Cape region is incredibly scenic, but many parts of it are only accessible by foot. Visit beautiful waterfalls, untouched beaches, and pristine forests.

7. Swim With Penguins

Like many of the activities in South Africa, the chance to swim with penguins at Boulders Beach is a once in a lifetime experience. The beach is adjacent to the penguin colony, which provides great opportunities for viewing and interacting with these often-comical birds.

8. Dive With Sharks

Another once in a lifetime opportunity and on the bucket lists of many divers, diving with Great White Sharks (from the safety of a cage, of course) is truly a South African experience.

9. Soccer

If you’re a soccer fan, there are few better destinations in Africa than South Africa. The country will host the World Cup in 2010 - South Africa study abroad participants should take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

10. Language

Despite having eleven officially recognized languages, there are many colleges and universities that offer courses in English and, because their structure is often simpler, many of the African languages are not as difficult to pick up as other foreign tongues.

South Africa Study Abroad Statistics

South Africa Country Ranking: 14

(based on total outbound U.S. students)
  • % of U.S. students: 1.4%
  • Total US Students 2006/07: 3,216
  • Total US Students 2007/08: 3,700
  • Yearly 2006/07 Trend: +15.0%
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