Known as the “Mother City” of South Africa, Cape Town easily captures the heart and soul of all who come to stay. Located on the southern tip of the African continent, the breathtaking heights of Table Mountain and the beaches lining the city’s coast encase a global city of culture, history and adventure. Truly a city of extremes, Cape Town is still plagued by the legacies of colonialism and Apartheid and this has led to incredible levels of inequality. Living in this constantly changing city gives students the opportunity to see firsthand the ever emerging new South Africa.
Photo Credit: South Africa Tourism.
Check out these great scholarships if you would like to study abroad in South Africa.
- The Center for Global Education offers a "Diversity Scholarship" for students who have not been traditionally represented in study abroad!
- The Boren Awards provide scholarships for U.S. students interested in the cultures of world regions critical to U.S. interests, including Africa!
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
Planning Your Trip
Culture and Immersion
Cape Town is home to a diverse and vibrant culture that offers many opportunities for fun and exploration. Gain perspective on the city’s long and complex history by visiting some of the museums and interesting historical landmarks. See the Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, tour the old Slave Lodge and other colonial structures in the heart of downtown, or visit the District Six Museum and learn how Apartheid pulled apart a wonderfully diverse, multicultural neighborhood. Make sure to stop by Charley’s Bakery and grab a cupcake while you’re there. They’re absolutely delicious!
And don’t forget all the rugged outdoor adventures available! All students should make it to the top of Table Mountain and look over the beautiful city and Table Bay. You can take a cable car to the top or journey up one of the many trails. The proximity to the ocean offers many great activities. Learn to surf, search for whales, go play with the penguins, visit Cape Point and see where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean.
At the end of your days of study, travel and activity, make sure to hit up Long Street for its famous night scene and great restaurants. Long Street caters to young adults and is perfect for students looking to have fun! The V&A Waterfront also has its share of places to gather with friends over some food or drink and it’s not uncommon to run into live music while walking along the docks. The hills surrounding Cape Town contain some of the world’s finest wineries and vineyards, so be sure to schedule a tour!
It is likely that the most pricey part of a student’s trip to Cape Town is simply getting there! Living in South Africa is reasonably inexpensive and students often find that their money goes farther than would be expected.
Make sure to check how much of your university’s financial aid and scholarships will apply to your study abroad program. Many programs will accept funding that is transferred from your school and this can make studying abroad far easier on your finances. Your university’s study abroad office can also be very helpful in identifying scholarships that you could use for your abroad experience. There are many independent study abroad scholarships, including ones offered by Go Overseas, which you should definitely look into.
Movement within the city and beyond to the rest of South Africa is very feasible. However, travel to other regions of Southern Africa can be rather expensive, due to a lack of necessary infrastructure. If it is your wish to visit neighboring countries, such as Namibia to see the beautiful dunes or Zimbabwe/Zambia for Victoria Falls, make sure to check prices ahead and work the travel costs into your budget. The InterCape bus system is a good deal, safe, convenient, and even offers a discount to students with ISIC cards (which are required by many study abroad programs).
Culture Shock and Support
Though Cape Town is a large city with a definite urban feel, be prepared to enter what is known as “African Time” as soon as you step off the plane. South Africans take a slower and more relaxed pace of life, which definitely has it’s ups and downs. This places a great emphasis on friendships, conversations and common experiences, but can often lead to frustration and confusion for students who are used to a more Western style of business and constant multitasking. Try to breath it in and relax- you’ll enjoy your time in Cape Town far more and maybe take a new laid back perspective back home at the end of your experience abroad.
Most study abroad programs offer a great deal of support for their students who are abroad in Cape Town. This can be through specific classes that serve to guide students in this new and unfamiliar city and by encouraging fieldwork and homestays to really get the students grounded in their new communities. Generally, the more involved and immersed you become in your program, your new friends, and this great city of Cape Town, the smoother the road will be through any culture shock you may encounter.
If you’re looking for a bright and colorful city that promises a rocking time full of vibrant people, beautiful views, and a history worth learning from, then definitely come study in Cape Town. But be careful, once this “Mother City” steals your heart, you’ll never get it back!