The Who, What, When, Where, & Why of Study Abroad in Africa

by Published

Afrobeat music. Powerful lectures. And afternoons visiting epic African heritage sites. Are you a student feeling pulled to life on the African continent? Follow that voice because when Africa calls you don’t ignore her! Studying abroad in Africa means stimulating classes and exciting excursions. Imagine hypnotic beats in your ear as you’re chilling with cool new friends. Plus, rapid-fire development is happening all over the continent. So, there’s literally no better time to study in Africa than now. Need a little more convincing? Here’s everything you need to know about study abroad in Africa.

Trees against sunset in Africa

Everything the light touches is your kingdom. #HakunaMatata

What kinds of students study in Africa? 

Badass ones! 😉

Students who choose to study abroad in Africa aren’t your average college kids. They’re a special breed with unflinching spirits. They make waves wherever they go. So, how can you know if studying abroad in Africa is for you? Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do I enjoy the unconventional? Studying abroad in big city Europe is the go-to for most students from the West. So, why not go against the grain and plant your wings in an African country instead? That’s right, you trendsetter, you. If you’re cool with going the road less traveled, study abroad in Africa is sooo for you. 
  • Is my curiosity through the roof? Do you sit around Youtubing kizomba music or drooling over Pinterest images of Nigerian fufu? Are Africa-related web pages all up and down your Google Chrome history? Loved to study Africa from as far back as you can remember? Students studying abroad in Africa have interests in learning about the many layers of life on the continent. 
  • Am I the trailblazer of my family? Living in Africa is sadly something many folks would never do. Why? Well, because there are loads of misconceptions about life across the continent. But you’ve been following all the gorgeous #travelAfrica Instagram pics. And you’ve read blogs about how happenin’ Africa really is. You’re ready to be the first of your squad to experience all that African awesomeness! 

Answer “yes” to any of these questions? Then it’s time to start planning your LIT African study abroad experience!

[Get matched with your dream program studying in Africa today!]

So, what’s the big deal about studying abroad in Africa anyway?

Well, since you asked… there are a gazillion reasons why study abroad in Africa is important! But, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

Studying abroad in Africa breaks down negative stereotypes about African life. So yea, there’s sooo many misconceptions about life on the continent. Some people think Africa—a continent of over 50 nations, is nothing but war, disease, and famine. The media hasn’t painted the brightest picture. 

As a study abroad student, you’ll show folks that there’s literally nothing to be “afraid” of. Your photos, blog posts, and experiences will give amazing insight into 2017 African life. You’ll be educating others about one corner of the continent and putting Africa’s diversity on the map (because Africa is not a country!). Your presence alone will force people to pay better attention to what’s going on around this continent.

African lion laying down by tree

We’d be lion if we said the wildlife wasn’t breathtaking.

Is that the only reason why studying abroad in Africa is such a big deal? 

Uh… nope! It’s also pretty major because...

Being pushed outside your comfort zone makes better humans. Not raised on the African continent? Then you’re gonna have to get used to some stuff as you study abroad in Africa. While most African capitals are pretty comfy; there are still poor townships, rural lifestyles, and social challenges that your home country may not experience as deeply. And, as a foreigner, you’ll have to get used to being in the minority. Yes, this can be uncomfortable, but it’s also actually pretty healthy! Why? Well, being immersed in different cultures and lifestyles makes for more well-rounded, independent, and flexible students. So, if you have to spend a few days in a rural village with no running water, embrace it. You’ll wrap up your study abroad in Africa a better person for it all. 

Give me one more reason why study abroad in Africa is such a biggie!

Because Africa is rising. It’s the truth! And studying abroad in Africa will have you front and center to all the greatness. African economies are advancing at lightning speed. Don’t believe us? Just do a quick Google search. Millions of articles about African development, startups, tech hubs, savvy apps, the growing middle class and tourism sectors will pop right up. And since you’re here, you’ll witness it all for yourself! Plus, your new African friends will be the bright young minds also contributing to the growth. Talk about good timing!

ghanaian man dancing
Woot! There's never been a better time to study in Africa

When can I do study abroad Africa programs?

How soon can you leave?! The beauty of studying abroad in Africa is that there are plenty of flexible ways to fit it in.

  • Summer. Want to maximize your summer to the fullest? Skip sunbathing by your home’s pool and do a summer study abroad Africa program. Study Xhosa in South Africa or African lit in Senegal. Just pick the African spot you want to check out. Then get course credit for it. When you return, you’ll have the best summer stories in the dorm, promise! 
  • Semester. You’re geeked about Africa study abroad. Yet, you really want to spend a decent amount of time overseas. Then Africa study abroad semester programs are your go-to. A semester is the perfect amount of time to study, socialize, and get immersed into the local scene. One semester in Africa too short? You’re more than welcome to do two!
  • Intern. Majoring in paleontology or women’s studies? Whatever your passion, you can nurture it in an African study abroad internship. Some programs offer a combo of coursework and an internship. Have a soft spot in your heart for gorillas? Study wildlife conservation during an internship that takes you into forest. There are opportunities in tons of fields all over the continent. 
  • Service learning. While Africa is rising, due to population growth, more Africans are living in poverty than ever before. Issues like water and sanitation, hunger, infrastructure, disease, and violence still plague the majority of the continent. You can help to combat it all through service learning study abroad in Africa. Passionate about youth development? Do a study abroad South Africa stint mentoring kids in townships.You’ll have a combo of classes and volunteer work to help fight African social issues.
Birds and elephants against African sunset

Kenya imagine the views?!?!

Where should I study in Africa? 

Make sure these popular African study abroad hotspots are tops on your life. Where do all the cool kids head for study abroad programs Africa? From north, south, east, to west—there are dope study abroad programs Africa all over! Here’s some of the top spots folks are flying out to:

[10 Best Places to Study Abroad in Africa in 2018]

1. South Africa

Seriously, what’s more amazing than walking in the footsteps of the great Nelson Mandela?! With South Africa study abroad programs, you’ll be surrounded by stunning landscapes like Table Mountain and historical museums like Robben Island. Plus, you’ll have access to game drives through the bush and the southernmost beaches in Africa! And not only is South Africa the most popular choice for study abroad students in Africa. It’s also home to the top performing universities on the whole continent; Stellenbosch University and University of Cape Town are two popular campuses for foreign students. Worried about crime and safety during South Africa study abroad programs? Don’t trip. Simple steps like staying lowkey with expensive items and being vigilant at ATMs will keep your covered.  

Recommended programs:

pumba simba timon marching
Get in line!

2. Ghana

Ready to immerse yourself in the “Black Star of Africa”? Study abroad in Ghana will have you hooked on West African livin’. Common Ghanaian study abroad campuses include the University of Cape Coast and University of Ghana in Accra, the capital. Ghana is full of live music, marketplaces, gorgeous beaches, and cultural sites like the Kwame Nkrumah Museum. So, no matter where you’re based, you’ll be captivated by Ghanaian culture. 

Looking for colorful kente cloths, gold bangles, and artwork from out of this world? Hit up the street markets like Makola in Accra. Passionate about pre-colonial African studies? Then definitely visit the historic former slave trading castles in Cape Coast. And get this—a few years back Forbes ranked Ghana as the friendliest African country and the eleventh most friendly in the world!  

Recommended programs:

Two girls dressed in traditional African clothing

You’re definitely Ghana want to interact with the locals here!

3. Kenya 

Picture this. Weekday Swahili lessons and jetting off to Indian ocean beaches on weekends—yaaas! You’ll have access all this and more as a study abroad student in Kenya. From cultural studies and environmentalism to literacy and public health, you’ll never have a boring moment. You can study socio-economic challenges facing Kenyan communities. Or, focus on the numbers behind Kenya’s position as the biggest economy in East Africa. Study abroad programs in Kenya offer students top-notch educational settings. That means you’ll wrap up the semester like a boss. Plus, you’ll have endless places to explore Kenyan wildlife (Serengeti stampede anyone?), cultural heritage, and beach life of course—beaches in Mombasa and Diani are out-of-this world gorgeous! 

Recommended programs:

Insider tips on study abroad in Africa

So, how does one really make the most out of studying abroad in Africa? Hint: it starts before you even touch down on the continent! Here’s our advice for having an epic African experience.

trevor noah yes
Here's how to really ball as an international student in Africa

Get clear on course credit approval. 

What’s one of the most important thing to do before you fly out? Chat with home university advisors about course credits! The last thing you want is to be all the way in Africa discovering some snag that keeps you from getting credit hours. So make that study abroad office your second home in the months leading up to departure. You’ll want to carefully look through all your course options; then pick the ones that best match your interests and give you credit. 

Be patient and flexible. 

Whether you’re in Morocco or Botswana, living across Africa requires a lot of patience. You’ll run into long supermarket lines and slow office processes. Sometimes care packages take months to arrive or completely “disappear”. Basically, time often moves slower in African nations. Relaxed attitudes about timeliness can affect the speed that things get done. And sometimes technology can just go kerplunk and you’ll have to wait until things are repaired. So, pack along a good dose of patience. You’ll learn that while things don’t happen in your time they ultimately get done!

[6 Ways to Get Involved in Your Study Abroad Country]

Experience different sides of local life. 

Take a peek through your average Africa guidebook. You’ll see a lot of stuff about safaris and adventure travel. And while that’s all lots of fun, there’s so much more to explore! Plus, as a student, you’ll have a great vantage point that will allow you to experience Africa beyond the touristy stuff. So, even if you’re assigned to study wildlife conservation, accept that invite to the Wizkid concert too. 

Group of Zebras in Botswana

You’ll have A ‘Frican great time during your study abroad in Africa.

Go deeper to really experience Africa

It’s cool to hang out with students from your home country. However, definitely take time to hang with locals because—cultural immersion. And after all, you’re in their country! Plus, they’ll grant you VIP access to fun social invitations like parties, festivals, and weddings too. 

  • Visit lower, middle, and upper income communities. Having a balanced view of modern day African life is key to breaking down stereotypes. It also helps with understanding the wealth disparities affecting most nations.
  • Read up on both pre-colonial life and independence. This is all priceless insight that will make your experience that much deeper (and be awesome content for end of term papers too!). Learn about the country’s historic spots and then visit them! And check out the local news when you have time. 
  • Don’t obsess about packing. African shops don’t carry much stuff? Lies! And another pesky misconception. The truth is nowadays many African capital cities are well-stocked with just about any product or service you can think of. There are opulent malls, with everything from MacBooks to contact lenses. So, don’t freak out too much about packing everything you think you’ll need. There’s no need to overpack when you can find tons of the same stuff right in-country.
  • Study Africa climates. Here’s a doozy for ya. Parts of the African continent actually get cold. And some African nations have “winters” that can get pretty chilly! So, that early morning Zambian game drive or climb up Kenya’s Mt. Kilimanjaro? Or that study abroad Senegal program during the rainy season (rubber rain boots are a must)? Check the forecasts or take cues from locals on how to dress. Understanding the climate can save you from some uncomfortable moments. 

[Things to Take When Studying Abroad: Our 2018 Gear Guide]

Study abroad in Africa is everything. Come & get it!

woman on a beach at sunset
This is your chance.

It really is. Those sappy stories about folks coming back from Africa a better person? Accurate. There’s something about this continent that pushes you for the better. Just think of it as that burn you feel during a workout. At the end of it all, you’ll feel like a million bucks. That’s the beauty of study abroad in Africa. It won’t be a cakewalk, but you’ll come out of it with a truly unique set of experiences and perspectives. 

So what’s your pick? Study abroad in Ghana? Study abroad South Africa? Study abroad Senegal? You’ve got dozens of fantastic African nations to choose from! Wherever you go, you’ll leave with the all-encompassing lens that Africa deserves to be seen through. 

Find study abroad programs in Africa now