Study Abroad

South Africa 2018

Program Description:

South Africa stands as a witness to the power of social movements to not only imagine but also bring into being a more just and compassionate world. Social movements draw on a diverse repertoire of symbol, ritual, language, action, and music to unleash creative possibilities for (re)building community. In this course, students will explore this repertoire with a particular focus on music. Music enhances the emotion inherent in text, making the message more poignant and memorable - essential elements in social protest. "Protest Music" has been (and is still) used to challenge unjust authority, communicate danger, and offer peaceful solutions. Students will learn some of the South African protest repertoire and drumming techniques as they explore the power of music as a tool for positive social change in three case studies: the anti-Apartheid struggle, the AIDS crisis, and the ongoing university protests. Each of these will serve as lenses through which students examine in the classroom and on the ground in South Africa the complex global rhythms and local counterpoints of social protest movements. This semester-long course ends with a two-week immersion experience in South Africa at the end of May. 

Course Title:

3 credits in VUSM 300: Rhythm and Resistance in South Africa


VUSM 100 and VUSM 200 equivalent or with instructor's permission. Acceptance into the South Africa study abroad program.

Travel Dates:

2 weeks at the end of May, after the spring semester has concluded.

Cities Visited:

Johannesburg, Cape Town and Franschhoek, South Africa

Program Leaders:

Matthew Bersagel Braley and Mary Ellen Haupert

Estimated Cost:

$3,550 - $3,950 per student

*Based on a realistic estimate of participants. Fees may change based on final enrollment and/or exchange rate fluctuation.

*Costs includes international airfare, accommodations, in-country transportation, cultural activities, international health insurance, and some meals.

*Cost does not include passport fees, vaccination fees, personal spending money, some meals or trip/travel insurance.

**Financial aid may be able to be applied. Please contact the Study Abroad Office to learn more about how the program costs are applied.


Shared rooms at bed & breakfast in Johannesburg, camp-style bunkhouses at rural retreat center near Franschhoek, shared dormitory-style rooms in Cape Town

Things to expect:

To be involved in service learning opportunities in medical clinics and urban townships

Varied schedules for each day ranging from early morning wake-up calls to late night service experiences - days are full and can be long when taking account of transportation, so patience and flexibility are essential packing items for your suitcase

Limited access to technology - this is an intentionally low-tech immersion with an emphasis on being present to our hosts and to one another. (Not to worry, though, family and friends can keep up with our goings on through the class travel blog written by the students).

Emphasis on engagement with peers and trip leaders - it is definitely a group trip, so plan to be hanging out together a lot on airplanes, buses, vans, taxis, in common spaces, at restaurants...

To feel cooler than you think you should based on the weather forecast - for various reasons including climate and a different approach to indoor heating

Physically challenging activities including long bus/van rides with tight seating, hiking / walking varied terrain, spelunking in ancient caves, ferry rides on the choppy Atlantic. (If you have concerns about these type of activities, please speak to the program leaders.)

To be affected by jet lag - 7 hour time difference, two days of air travel to and from

To have U.S. notions of race and class complicated by South Africa's unique history

Time for reflecting and processing your experience individually and as a group - sometimes around a camp fire looking up at the vast African night sky

To share your own gifts and be open to receiving the gifts of others from another culture including song, dance, and story

To want to go back...

Past Student Testimony:

"This experience has been beyond valuable. I treasure every memory and moment from this journey. I have learned so much about South Africa, but more importantly, I learned more about myself. I learned how I take so much for granted and how much I love serving others. I learned that I can be independent and make a difference in others' lives. I have been beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and allow them to teach me things far beyond the course content." - Kelsi, South Africa 2016

"The best advice I can give to a future study abroad student is to go into another country with an open mind and open heart. I think we can challenge ourselves more when we are willing to be completely and uncomfortably immersed in another's world. I would advise to take advantage of every opportunity to talk to the people living there and engage in meaningful conversation and to always ask questions. The more willing we are to learn, the more we are able to." - Alyse, South Africa 2016

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