Summer Study Abroad in South Africa

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A Guide to Summer Study Abroad in South Africa

Your summer plans were to go back home to your old ZzZz job, so why not turn that time upside down with a summer of study abroad in South Africa? Yebo! Get topsy-turvy in the “Rainbow Nation” because your hot summers are during their cool winters. No worries, though— you’ll still be able to surf the waves and giggle at penguins, but you’ll also be able to celebrate a pseudo-Christmas in July at a winter festival. Put on that thinking cap, strap on those hiking boots, and join the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, and Charlize Theron in a country that offers a wealth of culture, diversity, and landscapes. You’re going on a safari with a summer in South Africa!

Why Spend Summer in South Africa

The warmer ocean temperatures, the mild and crisp Mediterranean weather, and the lack of the scorching summer sun equates to winters being the best time of year for outdoor activities in South Africa — not to mention most universities here offer a myriad of courses and disciplines. The sciences to the arts are at your selection disposal! Many local uni students are on holiday from July to mid-August, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet them at the plethora of annual music and arts festivals during your summer in South Africa.

Students who love adventures or studying the environment (or both) will rejoice with the available wildlife watching that inevitably comes alongside their South African summer study abroad program. Your potential coursework sounds fake but it’s REAL: your next assignment might be to spot whales along the Hermanus coast, pump up your adrenaline with shark cage diving in Gansbaai, and ride in land rovers through local and international game reserves. AWESOME!


When you’re not working hard in class, learn how to relax and unwind from the locals with their laid-back lifestyles in one of these fave spots for a South Africa summer:

Cape Town. This coastal city is located in southwest Africa with the Atlantic Ocean in the foreground and a mountainous background enclosing its central area. On your class excursions, you’ll venture to Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Cape of Good Hope while enjoying the pleasant sunshine. Warm up with some chowder at the Soup, Sip, and Bread Winter Feast; jive to some beats at the Cape Town Big Band Jazz Festival.

Johannesburg. This metropolis in northeast South Africa lies in the eastern plateau of the Highveld. Walk back in time and feel the historical vibes as you explore Constitutional Hill, the Origins Museum, and the Apartheid Museum. Can’t miss summer (er, winter) experiences for students include the Cellar Rats Port and Red Wine Festival and the Encounters International Documentary Festival — are you cultured or what!? Warm up by a roaring fire at the Library Bar while enjoying an ale and game steak with your chommies (friends) while musing over your studies.

Port Elizabeth. “The Friendly City” is a major seaport located in the southernmost tip of South Africa. Programs here offer first-hand experiences through service learning for students to learn about conflict management and human rights that were shaped by diverse peoples. Take a break from your homework; walk along the Guinea Fowl Trail to see tortoises, water birds, and lilies, climb the Donkin lighthouse to see sweeping views of the city, and, sandboard the Alexandria dune fields on the banks of the Sundays River.

Tips for Summer in South Africa

To have more fun than an elephant splashing in the water during your South Africa summer study abroad, keep these tips in mind. Don’t let the cooler temperatures fool you — you will need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin. A hat for the sun and an umbrella for the rain should do the trick. Pack comfortable clothing appropriate for your location, courses, and free time activities. South Africa is a culturally conservative country, so it it’s important to dress modestly while you’re there. Wear shirts with cap sleeves and long skirts, and leave the booty shorts or tight leggings at home.

Make safety a priority and exercise caution during your summer in South Africa. Always keep your valuables secure, especially in public transportation and urban areas. It’s recommended that you don’t travel alone while you’re hiking on trails or strolling along in urban areas. If you need to use an ATM to withdraw cash, do it at banks during daylight hours where there are security guards, as ATM scams are common in many areas.

If you’re in Johannesburg in August, check out its biggest annual jazz festival, the “Standard Bank,” or Joy of Jazz, which showcases musical talents and bluesy sounds. Don’t forget to visit Vryfees in Bloemfontein to watch live musical performances and mosey through stalls with arts and crafts. For those chillier than usual days, graze on food indoors in the City Bowl Market and Bay Harbour Market in Cape Town.

Summer Scholarships South Africa

You’re already making a smart decision by going to South Africa during its off-season and saving money with a short-term summer study abroad program. To have a g-“rand” ‘ol time without breaking the bank, look into applying for some available summer study scholarships in South Africa! Below is a brief list of some popular summer scholarships available:

  • Boren Awards offers a summer study abroad scholarship for STEM students up to $8,000! If you’re a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics student who plans on being in South Africa for eight weeks or more, apply by June 1st!

  • TEAN provides a FULL-RIDE summer scholarship up to a $26,000 value for undergraduate students. The selection criteria requires a one-page essay about what your journey would be like with a South African summer study abroad program. Don’t miss this deadline! 
  • AIFS awards summer study abroad scholarships and grants that go up to $500. The scholarships are based on need, merit, and diversity, all of which usually require a good GPA with the deadline being March 1st. 

You’ll no doubt order an extra plate of malva pudding (buttery dessert with a scoop of custard) when you have scholarships to cover some of the major costs. Just don’t forget to keep an eye out for all of the requirements and deadlines and to reach out to the program coordinator for tips and advice. For a voluminous list of summer study abroad South Africa scholarships, head on over to's Scholarship Directory — just a click away!

Benefits & Challenges

Spending your summer studying abroad in South Africa will be riveting, yet challenging. Luckily, English is the most-spoken language, so you won’t experience too much of a language barrier. The accents and dialects are a bit different (you’ll get used to it), and you might even pick up phrases in different languages along the way. Future employers will ultimately appreciate the international skills you’ve gained, and they’ll realize that you’re a valuable asset to their team.

Several courses will teach you about this country’s tumultuous history, and you may see some of the effects of it with the harsh juxtaposition of wealthy areas and poor areas. These courses will open your eyes to a culture with a painful past, but you will also learn and grow from these experiences. Lean into the pain rather than avoid it, and avow to return to your home country and better advocate compassion towards those with these tough experiences.

Learning about this country’s history will make you appreciate South Africa even more. Whether you’re exploring the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum or searching for animals in the wild (even dolphins!), you’ll no doubt be mesmerized with its beauty. Head to South Africa for summer study abroad in 2017!

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Summer Study Abroad in South Africa


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