From the desert to the wetland, or from the scrub land to the subtropics, South Africa boasts an incredible diversity of climate, flora, and fauna. Although 13km of sea separate Africa and Europe at the strait of Gibraltar, merely the blink of an eye divides the regional heritage from these two continents in the country of South Africa. Today, South Africa is a parliamentary republic. It is known for being the strongest economy in Africa, but it is also outstanding in representing the abundance and variety of African plant and animal wildlife. In fact, the country is considered third in biodiversity, after the much bigger countries of Brazil and Indonesia.
Home to Apartheid fighter and international world leader Nelson Mandela, South Africa is often a must-see destination for any human rights advocate around the world. Although apartheid officially ended in 1991, students of all ages and demographics continue to go to South Africa to learn more about the discrimination laws that segregated non-white students from those of European descent. South Africa is a place that is rich in cultural diversity and a great place for anyone interested in social justice.
Explore any number of their beautiful national parks and sights, including Table Mountain in Capetown or of course, the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. It's also a must to go to Robben Island see the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for over 27 years.
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country:
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If you have studied abroad in South Africa, consider creating a profile and sharing your experience. What you have to say could help inspire another student considering studying abroad. You can also submit an article to be considered for publication on our website.
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Also, here are some links to potential opportunities for students who have studied abroad and graduates interested in work opportunities in South Africa.
Note: These tips are intended to serve as an overview and are not exhaustive. Be sure to research your destination thoroughly as your identity can have a significant impact on your experience abroad.
Racism in South Africa stems from the legacy of Apartheid, a social system that divided and segregated people along racial and ethnic lines. Today, South African society has progressed and no longer operates by this system, but is still subject to residual racial prejudices. For example, many black men and women are still relegated to low-paying roles rooted in service, such as busing tables or house cleaning. Ethnically, South Africa is a diverse place. Black and Latino students should not have any major issues with prejudices, but should be aware of South Africa’s colonial and racially segregated past.
Hear from a Diversity Abroad Alumni that Studied Abroad in South Africa!
South Africa is ahead of the majority of African countries when it comes to the rights of the LGBTQ community. Despite this, there are still significant issues that the country has to deal with. Same sex marriages have been legal since 2006, but the country still suffers from homophobia, prejudices, and occasional hate crimes. As an LGBTQ student, you should be aware of this and be sure to seek communities of people in more urban and liberal areas to connect with.
South Africa has generally become more concerned with accommodating visitors with special needs. Today, most attractions and facilities across the country will be able to accommodate visitors with disabilities. The rights of disabled people are guaranteed in South Africa's Constitution, and legislation requires that public buildings and other places be accessible. Major attractions, airports, service stations, public buildings, game reserves and shopping centres have appropriate access, facilities, and parking. Generally, you will not face major issues, but should always plan ahead to make sure you have adequate accommodations.
Most religious South Africans identify as Christian. There are small populations of Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. Although there are some issues concerning Islamophobia and religious intolerance, the problem is not nearly as pronounced as it is in some other regions like Western Europe. Muslim students, unfortunately, must always be aware of Islamophobia. However, issues in South Africa should be minimal.
South Africa still has some strides to make in regards to women's’ rights. The feminist movement has had some drawbacks, as in other countries, due to its historical focus on the advancement of white women particularly. This has caused many South African women to not fully embrace the movement. There is also significant issues concerning domestic and gender-based violence. South Africa is still a patriarchal society and women can still experience violence at the hands of family members and romantic partners. Women students should be aware of this, but should not have major issues beyond cat calling and the rare disrespectful comment.
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Are you ready for South Africa? Here are few essential resources to help make your trip a success:
Diversity Abroad Tips
It is absolutely important for any history buff to spend the day visiting Robben Island, the place where Apartheid fighters such as Nelson Mandela spent years as political prisoners. A quick ferry ride from the V&A Waterfront will get you there, and you’ll be taken on a guided tour of the grounds by a former cellmate. Related to this, a trip to Johannesburg is a must to see historical sights such as Soweto, where the fight and struggle against apartheid began.
I would also strongly encourage students take a trip to the top of the iconic Table Mountain. South Africa offers beautiful trails throughout the country, including some that take you to the viewing deck at Table Mountain. For those either physically unable or that don’t want to spend the time trekking to the top, there is a cable car that takes you there in 5 minutes. With breathtaking views overlooking all of Cape Town, it’s a definite must-see. - Trixie, Student Outreach Coordinator
Have you visited or studied abroad in South Africa? Share your most essential tips and most important do’s with other students who may want to travel there!
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