IES Abroad Cape Town Direct Enrollment – University of Cape Town

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Service learning in and around Cape Town is a core component in our program. Students taking one of the IES Abroad courses are required to complete 60 hours of volunteer work while in Cape Town. Twenty of your 60 hours of volunteer work will be at Egoli, a settlement that receives no government services like water or electricity.


IES Abroad Scholarships
IES Abroad Scholarships and Financial Aid

As far as we're concerned, financial limitations shouldn't prevent you from studying abroad with us. That's why we offer more than $5 million in scholarships and aid.

$500 - $5,000

Questions & Answers


9.65 Rating
based on 26 reviews
  • Academics 8.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.4
  • Safety 7.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 26
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Yes, I recommend this program


My study abroad experience in Cape Town, South Africa was nothing less than liberating and transformational. I am a first-generation college student from Buffalo, NY at Howard University, therefore my experience abroad truly inspired me to encourage more HBCU students and black students to study abroad since we are underrepresented in these programs. My favorite class abroad was Community Development in Context (South Africa). This class truly added more to my study abroad experience and helped me interact more effectively with the local students and citizens. For example, in this class we learned about South African history from Apartheid to modern-day inequalities and inequities in South African higher education. Ultimately, my favorite thing about study abroad was the service-learning component. I had the opportunity to volunteer with 3 different organizations related to education, which is a field I plan to pursue as part of my long-term career goals.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future study abroad students is to immerse yourself! Study abroad is what you make it, but the best way to stretch and enjoy yourself is to fully immerse yourself and continuously put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The best semester

Deciding on a study abroad program is a difficult decision ecause there are so many out there, and you’re not sure which one is the best fit. I was looking for a way to study my major public health in depth in a global setting. IES’s program in Cape Town allowed me to do this. I was able to take the IES course Community Health in Context in addition to my University of Cape Town classes which was a small class that allowed for discussion and getting to know the professor, and also gave us the opportunity to do service learning. This class augmented my learning experience in South Africa.

In addition to the IES course I took 3 other classes at the University of Cape Town. The academics at the were challenging, and could be frustrating at times because of the differences in workload and grading compared to the US. However, I did learn a great amount in relation to South Africa's history and culture.

IES staff were kind, hardworking, and helpful with anything that need during your six months abroad. They helped with any issues that may have arised in academics (both at the University of Cape Town and the IES courses), housing accommodations, service learning, field trips, etc. They are there for you if you are having a problem adjusting to the differences in academics or living abroad, or if you just want to stop in for a quick chat.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed about IES were the free field trips which included Boulder’s Beach (penguin colony!) a Cape Malay cooking class, tour of Bo-Kaap, District 6 museum, Old Biscuit Mill, etc. They also offered to optional excursions at an additional subsidized cost (highly recommend) which was the Garden Route and a safari at Kruger National Park.

Cape Town has so much to offer from hiking to surfing, food markets, and shopping. It’s full of history and culture with many museums to visit, as well as Robben Island (a must).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience abroad because I met so many great people from all around the world, and was able to learn about a new culture and the history of South Africa.

What would you improve about this program?
The IES program was great, but wish I had been more involved in UCT’s clubs and gotten to know more locals rather than always hanging out with people in the program. Also, the academics were quite stressful so I wish I would have seeked out resources to have helped with the transition.
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Yes, I recommend this program

10/10 Experience

Before I went to Cape Town, people would tell me that "studying abroad is a life-changing experience," and I had a hard time believing them. Initially, I thought that studying abroad was a chance to experience a different world. But I did not think that experiencing a "different world" would change me. To me, it made sense that study abroad students would experience a different world and gain skills in intercultural communication--among other things--as a result. However, I reasoned that experiencing a different world and having one's life fundamentally changed were two mutually independent events. That said, living in South Africa for a semester and being able to take classes at the University of Cape Town changed my mind. Sure, I acquired skills, but more importantly, the radically different culture and world I got to experience forced me to change. Admittedly, I'm rather introspective, but studying abroad led me to reflect on all the differences I saw between South Africa, America, and their respective citizens. Moreover, I then had to decide how I would think and live moving forward. So, when people say that studying abroad is a life-changing experience, they're not lying or overexaggerating. Studying abroad gives students the chance to reflect on and be changed by all that they experience. And IES Abroad made this process as smooth as it could have been.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have applied for my Study Visa much earlier
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Yes, I recommend this program

Cape Town Has Something to Offer for Every Type of Traveler

I studied in Cape Town, South Africa for six months with IES for the spring 2019 semester. The program was supportive in terms of responding to students' needs, arranging an orientation with lots of culturally immersive activities, and educating us about local culture. I would say there was less support once the semester got underway. We had lots of freedom but also had the security of knowing there was a fully staffed office just down the road from our accommodation to answer any questions we had. The field trips throughout the semester were well-planned and lots of fun. We also had RA's living in close proximity if we ever needed assistance.

There were two options for housing through this program: either communal living in a house with a shared kitchen and bathrooms or studio style apartments. I opted for the first option and really enjoyed it. There was also the option to switch your housing placement if you were unsatisfied.

I only took courses at the University of Cape Town, but the program also offered classes at the IES Center. I was fairly disappointed with the quality of the academics at the University. The different grading system, lack of clear grading criteria, and general unorganized nature of the classes was frustrating at times. However, learning more about the culture through the classes was a huge part of my experience. The classes changed my perspective on different ideologies I held which I now realize were the result of only taking classes from a western perspective before attending UCT. Obviously, IES has no control over the academics at the University, but they did act as a liason if any issues arose between students and professors/admin. The academics were challenging and classes required a lot of dedication to receive high marks.

The local culture was easy to adapt to because everyone spoke English and people were generally very friendly and willing to talk to you. There were lots of clubs to get involved in at the University and endless activities in the area to participate in. Honestly, the people who had the best experiences tended to be open to the opportunities available. I rarely said no to doing anything while I was there and ended up having an incredible semester. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a study abroad experience with opportunities beyond what a typical European program would offer, since Cape Town not only had an amazing nightlife but also hiking, service learning opportunities, and the chance to be immersed in a non-westernized culture.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I regret not taking more of an initiative with activities or trips I wanted to do. I didn't really go into the experience with a good idea of what I wanted to get out of it, and ended up going along with what other people in my program were doing most of the time. I still had an incredible experience, but I wish I had been a bit more independent from people in my program.
Cape Town
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience!

Studying abroad was always a dream of mine, but I didn't know if it would actually become a reality. Fast forward to my junior year, and in the fall semester, I start to seriously plan on going abroad. I originally planned on studying in Granada, Spain, until I became aware of the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.

Before fully committing to Cape Town, I spoke to students who had studied abroad there during previous semesters, and ALL of them absolutely loved it and said it was the most amazing and beautiful experience of their lives. I decided Cape Town was where I wanted to go and started to get extremely excited.

The students who I had spoken to did not go through a study abroad program. Therefore I was very hesitant in doing so when my study abroad coordinator recommended that I did. She was right, going abroad with IES was the best decision that I made! Immediately from the moment of arriving at the airport, IES representatives were so welcoming and easy to locate, I remember that day like it was yesterday.

Of course, going to a new place for six months is nerve-wracking, but IES provided fantastic housing, support, and field trips just to name a few things. I miss my IES family in Cape Town and which I could go back immediately!

Yes, I recommend this program

Breaking patterns abroad

Studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa with IES was everything I could've wanted and more. Academically, I was pushed hard, and the vibrancy of a major coastal city provided a multitude of activities to explore during my free time. I knew that I wanted to study abroad somewhere very different from the U.S., but I also knew that I'd do my best work in my home language. South Africa, then, was a great fit for me, and still provided the opportunity to hear and learn about the dozens of other languages that coexist there- even walking down the street is a stimulating experience. IES made me feel cared about as an individual, and supported me from the pre-departure phase all the way to my return to the U.S. If I could go back in time, I would choose them again. In such a creative and support space, I was really able to step out of my comfort zone and deviate from comfortable patterns I'd fallen into in the U.S. Incredible value and learning to embrace spontaneity were hallmarks of my time abroad with IES.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly can't think of anything to improve upon.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Cape Town Study Abroad: Daily Lessons

Studying Abroad with IES Abroad in Cape Town, South Africa has been more significant in my life than I could have imagined. I knew I would have fun, meet new people, and experience unfamiliar things, but I gained so much more than I expected to. I learned and improved skills such as understanding cultural differences, working in diverse teams, listening, tolerating ambiguity, and being flexible. I explored other countries in Southern Africa, including Botswana and Zimbabwe. I stepped out of my comfort zone daily, from trying new foods to learning new languages.

None of this would have been possible without the incredible support from IES Abroad. They provided medical, social, academic, mental, and cultural support in every way. They organized several (free!) field trips and excursions, many of which would have been impossible to do independently.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Fun, challenging and meaningful

The University of Cape Town has a very beautiful campus that is centrally located. It is a short distance to the city centre. It also has many restaurants and bars nearby. The academics can be challenging at times but if you seek help should be ok. The campus life is very lively and there is always something happening. For those who are lovers of landscapes and nature this is the perfect experience for you. The highlight of my experience was the local tours we had as part of our program. We cooked local food, went to winelands, visited townships which overall created a very holistic experience. It was a life time experience which only helped me grow. Most importantly, the staff of the program is very supportive with anything. It really was home away from home.