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Pretoria, Lusaka, Livingstone, South Africa, Zambia

Program Description

This eight-week study abroad program in South Africa and Zambia is interdisciplinary, catering to political science, arts and humanities, social sciences, and international studies students.

The program is a hands-on educational, cultural, and professional experience incorporating four weeks of internship and research and four weeks of immersion in lectures and sociocultural exchange with communities in Southern Africa. This specially designed course will enhance students' understanding of comparative politics, focusing on Southern African countries of South Africa and Zambia. The course will challenge students' knowledge of Africa and allow them to develop objective perspectives of the continent and the respective countries. It will also stimulate the interests of students who plan a career in the US government foreign service and development work.

In South Africa, students will attend classes at the University of Pretoria in the Department of Political Sciences and gain transdisciplinary research practice and experience in the university's Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn). They will also visit national heritage sites and listen to lectures on the selected Southern African countries' politics, economics, social, and cultural affairs from pre-colonial/pre-apartheid to post-colonial/post-apartheid.

In Zambia, the classes will take the form of lectures at the Southern Africa Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (SAIPAR) on Zambia's politics, economic, social, and cultural affairs dating from pre-colonial to colonial, independence, and post-independence. They will also work as interns for four weeks in nonprofits (both local and international) and some government agencies. These internships will be arranged by SAIPAR as part of the basic agreement with JMU. Excursions include visits to selected national museums and cultural villages, including the Lusaka, Livingstone Museums, and Kabwata Cultural Village.

At the end of the program, students will:
  1. Gain general knowledge of Southern Africa and a specialized understanding of politics, economic, social, and cultural affairs in South Africa and Zambia.
  2. Undertake a comparative analysis of South Africa and Zambia.
  3. Gain basic knowledge and understanding of some operations and practical work of the US Department of State foreign service.
  4. Have acquired skills through practical work experience in a developing country's public and/or non-profit sector.
  5. Acquire transcultural and social skills and appreciate the significance of various cultures through the museum learning experiences at African cultural and national heritage sites such as Freedom Park in South Africa and Lusaka and Livingstone Museum in Zambia, visits and cultural exchange with communities and families in the two countries and the marvel of tourist attractions such as the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa and the Victoria Falls in Zambia.
  6. Establish contact and be exposed to networks of students at the University of Pretoria and SAIPAR's Cornell and other American universities-managed programs.

Location Description

Students will be based in South Africa and Zambia.

The program will take place in two countries with contrasting yet complementing histories. South Africa fought for its liberation until its first multiracial elections in 1994. On the other hand, Zambia gained independence from Britain in 1964 and, until 1994, supported the liberation struggle in South Africa. The countries have a combined population of 80 million (about 60 million in South Africa and nearly 20 million in Zambia). Both countries have diverse populations of people of various racial, religious, gender, and political identities. Additionally, the countries are home to the United Nations world heritage sites such as the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng Province in South Africa and Mosi-Oa-Tunya (the Victoria Falls) in Zambia.


Sombo Muzata | | Political Science

Mike Gubser | | History


In South Africa, students will live in university apartments and houses, fully furnished with internet access and full kitchen and laundry facilities. In Zambia, students will be hosted by families that have participated in hosting students from Cornel and the University of Michigan through the Southern Africa Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (SAIPAR). This accommodation will be at subsidized rates for the students.

In South Africa, students should plan to spend their own money to cover meals each day unless provided during the program. Students will be given breakfast and dinner in their host families in Zambia. They will spend their own money to cover the cost of lunch unless this is provided.

Additional Items to Consider

A virtual pre-course orientation will be held to give an overview of the two countries for the program, South Africa and Zambia. This is important to give context and discuss expectations before travel. Some aspects of the day-to-day culture will be discussed as preparation for cultural competence. Sessions will be held April 15 and 19. In these sessions, students will be required to share the countries most exciting and surprising cultural practices and their personal goals for participating in the study.

American citizens do not require a visa to travel to either country. They need a passport with six months validity and three blank pages. Details about visas, including immunization requirements, can be obtained on the State Department website: Citizens of other countries can check for their respective country at

South Africa and Zambia, housing for the Study Abroad Program participants will be subsidized through the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Southern Africa Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (SAIPAR). Instead of paying market rates, a negotiated rate will apply through UP, and SAIPAR will arrange host families. However, during travel to other cities, students will pay the commercial rates applicable. Students can get local sim cards for their cell phones. A local sim card will allow the student to make local and international calls and access the internet. The billing system for cell phones differs from the USA, and students will get a briefing on this pre-departure.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

Open to sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Resume
  • List of Academic References
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Attendance at program information session required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students; unofficial transcript required for JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in.  

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


POSC 371: Topics in Comparative Politics: Exploring South Africa and Zambia (3 credits)

POSC 495: Internship in Political Science (4 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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