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african penguins

African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus) at Boulders Beach, Simonstown, Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town

Program Summary

Cape Town, the site of the first European settlement in South Africa, provides an ideal setting in which to learn about the people, history, politics and culture of this dynamic, multi-cultural society.  With about 4 million inhabitants, it is a cosmopolitan, culturally diverse city, blending descendants of Khoisan, Xhosa and other African tribes with those who trace their roots to Indonesian and other south Asian and African slaves, and British, Dutch, French and German settlers. While much of the city’s history is darkened by apartheid, Cape Town was in the forefront of the opposition, and has entered the new millennium with a focus on rebuilding its communities and renewing its cultural vibrancy.

The Cape Town program enables students to learn about these communities, their achievements and their challenges through service-learning, community-based partnership research, related academic courses and extracurricular activities, all aimed at helping students achieve a deep understanding and appreciation of the city, its cultures, the wider Western Cape region and South Africa generally.  While the curriculum is diverse and designed to serve the academic interests of most undergraduates, experiential learning and coursework will usually focus on contemporary challenges related to South Africa’s development as an emerging democracy, e.g., cultural, economic, environmental, health-related, historical, political, social.

Program Location Quarter(s)
Prerequisite(s) Language of Instruction Living Arrangements Enrollment Capacity
Cape Town Winter
None - see below English

Stanford House

(Double Rooms)



The academic objective of the Cape Town program is to introduce students to the people, history, politics and culture of post-apartheid South Africa with an emphasis on responsible engagement with development initiatives undertaken and challenges faced by an emerging democracy. Service-learning and community-based research experiences with local NGO staff, activists and citizens form the core of the program, and are integrated with critical reflection seminars and concurrent academic coursework to enable students to connect theory and practice and enhance their service and research skills, helping to ensure that they can contribute effectively towards development and social change in the Western Cape and develop awareness of and a commitment to the ethics and practice of responsible citizenship in a global world.

Academic Prerequisites

There are no academic prerequisites.  However, students are strongly encouraged to achieve a beginning understanding of the history and politics of South Africa – past and present – prior to enrolling by taking courses that address these issues on campus.  In addition, while not required, students are encouraged to enroll in Xhosa courses through the Stanford Language Center, as preparation for research and/or service-learning in the Western Cape. See: