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Honors Seminar Abroad: South Africa


Johannesburg, South Africa

Program Description

This will be a six-credit Honors Seminar on the history, culture and biodiversity of South Africa. It will require some non-credit preparatory work in the preceding semester and reflective work in the succeeding semester, but will be centered on three weeks in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, May 17 – June 8, 2014 (tentative). The seminar will be open to first- and second-year Track I and Track II honors students. Third-year Track I and Track Ii students will be considered on a space-available basis. Completion of the seminar will fulfill the six-credit Honors Program seminar requirement.

The experience will begin with readings over the 2013 Winter Break and two-hour evening meetings on campus approximately every two weeks in the spring semester of 2014. Students will use this semester to do readings, watch films, attend guest lectures, and complete assignments. They will use this period to get to know one another and the instructors, and will also be involved in preparing for the experience of travel to Africa. Once in South Africa, students will reside in various guest houses and chalets as we travel between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Students will meet with instructors on a daily basis for site study, field trips and events immersing us in the culture and history of South Africa.

Day trips will be planned including touring SOWETO (Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s houses, the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Peterson Memorial), the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the Battlefield sites of Blood River, Ishliwanda and Rorke’s Drift, the Drakensburg Mountains and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve among others. Students will also participate in service learning activities in township schools and AIDS orphanages.

Upon returning to JMU, students will participate in the Photovoice Project and the Street Art Project to examine students’ understanding of apartheid and reconciliation. All instruction will be in English, although students will be exposed to English, Afrikaans and isiZulu. Dr. Brian Augustine is a professor of chemistry and Dr. Teresa Harris is a professor of education. Both have lived in South Africa serving as Fulbright Scholars and have traveled extensively in Southern Africa.

Location Description

To understand South Africa, one must begin with a defining policy -- apartheid. Apartheid (“separateness” in Afrikaans) officially began in 1948, and ended with the first democratic elections in 1994; yet the effects still resonate in South African society. This course will begin to untangle the web of modern South African and its place in a connected world through readings, videos, and visits to places of historical, geographical and cultural significance. Gauteng is the location of two major cities in South Africa, Johannesburg, the financial capital, and Pretoria, the governmental capital. Surrounding Johannesburg and Pretoria are numerous black townships the most famous of which is SOWETO. KwaZulu-Natal was established as a British colony where the might of the British Empire came directly in the path of the proud and strong Zulu people.

Students will visit the sites of two major Anglo-Zulu battles and the “Battle of Blood River” in the Boer-Zulu conflict of 1838. Students will also visit a Zulu cultural site and will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Drakensburg Mountains to see cave paintings from the first inhabitants of South Africa, the San people with rock art up to 1500 years old. The class will culminate with a two day safari in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve and discover where the black rhino protection plan was developed by conservation biologists. This will be followed by a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Simangaliso Wetland Park / St. Lucia Estuary on the Indian Ocean before returning to the United States.


Teresa Harris | | Early Childhood, Elementary, & Reading Education
Brian Augustine |


Accommodations will be provided for through hotels, with all of the meals being covered in the program fee.

Additional Items to Consider

Passports with at least 4 empty pages are required for entry into South Africa. Visas for U.S. citizens are not required. Students are encouraged to check the CDC Webster for appropriate immunization requirements.

This program is designed for students participating in the Honors Program with preference given to freshman and sophomores. 


● Saturday, 17 May: Depart U.S. airports for Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)

● Sunday, 18 May: Arrive in JNB, check into lodging Week 1: (Students will visit major cultural, historic, economic and ethnic locations in Gauteng Province. Specifically, students will visit Johannesburg and Pretoria and surrounding townships. Included in these visits will be several service days at township schools and AIDS orphanages.)

● Monday, 19 May: Johannesburg Day. Students will tour the financial district, Sandton suburbs and downtown Johannesburg.

● Tuesday, 20 May: SOWETO Day. Students will tour SOWETO (South Western Townships) around Johannesburg. Cultural sites to include Nelson Mandela’s home, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s home, Regina Mundi Catholic Church, the Apartheid Museum, and the Hector Peterson Memorial, site of the SOWETO uprising of 1976.

● Wednesday, 21 May: Thembisa Township Service Day. Students will teach a science class at the Child Academy School in the black township of Thembisa.

● Thursday, 22 May: Pretoria Day #1. Students will visit the government center including the Union Buildings, Freedom Park, Vortrekker Museum, UNISA and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

● Friday, 23 May: Pretoria Service Day. Students will visit the Soshanguve Orphan Care Centre (home for HIV/AIDS orphans) and a local school to participate in service projects.

● Saturday, 24 May: Gauteng Tourist Day. Students will visit a lion park, the Jan Smuts house, a mine, and the Irene Concentration Camp, the first concentration camp for Boer women and children during the AngloBoer war.

● Sunday, 25 May: Students will attend the St. Peters Uniting Presbyterian Church in Tembisa followed by a drive to Dundee in KwaZuluNatal (about a 5 hour drive).


Week 2: (Students will visit major cultural attractions in KwaZuluNatal including two major battlefield sites from the AngloZulu War in 1879, and the Battle of Blood River from the BoerZulu war in 1838. Students will also hike in the Drakensburg Mountains to the site of San rock paintings and will visit Zulu cultural locations.)

● Monday, 26 May: AngloZulu War Day. Ishliwanda and Rorke’s Drift Battlefield sites

● Tuesday, 27 May: BoerZulu War Day. Students will visit the battlefield site of the Battle of Blood River followed by a 2 hr. drive to Giant’s Castle Game Reserve in the Drakensburg Mountains.

● Wednesday,28 May: Giant’s Castle Game Reserve. Students will participate in a morning hike to see the San rock paintings. The afternoon will be free for a longer extended hike, fly fishing, or taking a guided ranger nature tour.

● Thursday, 29 May: Travel to Pietermaritzburg. Students will stop at Howick, and Hilton in the Midlands of KZN. Howick is the location of a market with traditional African art and in Hilton there is a monument in the location where Nelson Mandela was arrested.

● Friday, 30 May: Edendale Township Service Day. Students will visit an AIDS orphanage in the morning and then visit Lily of the Valley orphanage and microenterprise center in Camperdown, KZN.

● Saturday, 31 May: Pietermaritzburg Day. Students will be accompanied by Zulu postgraduate students from UKZN for a visit to downtown Pietermaritzburg to see the downtown market, Zulu dancers, etc. in a typical Saturday day for a Zulu resident of PMB.

● Sunday, 1 June: Travel to Shakaland in rural KwaZuluNatal. Students will depart from Pietermaritzburg and travel to a cultural site which was originally the set for a South African TV show called Shaka Zulu. It has been converted into a museum showcasing the the life in a traditional Zulu village.


Week 3: (The focus will shift from places of cultural and historical significance to significant natural habitat. The first location will be HluhluweImfolozi game reserve in which the “Big Five” animals are present. This is also the location where the black rhino relocation protocol was developed by conservation biologists. Students will meet with conservation biologists to learn the challenges associated with changing ecosystems, biodiversity and antipoaching efforts. Students will then visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park / St. Lucia Estuary on the Indian Ocean before returning to Durban.)

● Monday, 2 June: Travel to HluhluweImfolozi Game Reserve. Students will travel from Shakaland to HluhluweImfolozi game reserve and will stay in a game lodge. An evening driving safari will be arranged.

● Tuesday, 3 June: HluhluweImfolozi Day. Students will enjoy a morning game drive and will meet with conservation biologists.

● Wednesday, 4 June: Travel to St. Lucia Estuary. Students will travel from HluhluweImfolozi to St. Lucia Estuary and will participate in an evening boat ride around the estuary to see exotic waterfowl and hippos.

● Thursday, 5 June: Richards Bay Science Museum. Students will visit the science museum in Richards Bay, SA affiliated with the University of Zululand.

● Friday, 6 June: Durban Day. Students will visit Durban to see the connection of South African culture with a significant Indian presence due to the indentured servants brought in during British rule of Natal Province.

● Saturday, 7 June: Depart King Shaka Airport, Durban, SA to return to USA

● Sunday, 8 June: Arrive in US

● Monday, 30 June: Final papers due

Application Process

For this program, students are required to submit the following material(s):

  • A supplemental essay addressing the following questions:Attend an interview with the program director prior to the application deadline:

    • What do you expect to gain from this experience as a scholar and as an individual? (1 page)

    • What do yo expect to contribute as a scholar and as an individual? (1 page)
  • Attend an interview with the program director prior to the application deadline: Teresa Harris | | Early Childhood, Elementary, & Reading Education

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.75.

For more detailed instructions and to download the application, please click on the following link to the Applications and Forms section for JMU Short-Term Programs.

Official transcript required for first-semester transfer students and non-JMU students.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


HON 200: Separateness in a Connected World