Cape Town
Area Studies and Culture

Semester ~ Academic Year

The Lexia Area Studies and Culture Cape Town Program exposes students to South African history, economics, and cultural heritage as it relates to the region as a whole. In addition, the program enhances students’ understanding of contemporary social and political issues in South Africa and Cape Town. With the unique opportunity to study Afrikaans or Xhosa, Lexia students increase their respect for cultural differences by learning to function and participate in a South Africa’s diverse cultural and linguistic setting.

The program strongly supports interaction and dialogue between Lexia participants and South African faculty and students. To this end, local students and faculty are involved with the program from the very beginning, giving the participants immediate and direct access to the culture. No prior knowledge of Afrikaans or Xhosa is required, as all courses are taught in English. However, intensive language training is provided, thereby helping students to develop the skills and confidence to live, study and conduct research in the South African setting.

Social and academic encounters with local students, as well as organized field trips, contribute to a greater understanding of South Africa both in the wake of Apartheid and during this ongoing period of economic, social and political transformation in Africa as a whole.


"The South African culture was enlightening and amazing. I love this place and I’m going to come back. I’ve made friends that will last a life time and am so glad I chose Cape Town South Africa."


Program Options

Students on the Lexia Cape Town Area Studies and Culture program can choose whether to study abroad for a semester or the academic year.  When deciding how long to study abroad, students should consult their academic advisor, financial aid counselor, study abroad office and their family.  Lexia staff can assist students with this decision.  A list of courses and course descriptions can be found below:


Semester Program

Students on the Lexia Cape Town Area Studies and Culture semester program take four courses for a total of 16 semester credits or 24 quarter credits. 

  • South African Area Studies and Culture Seminar
  • Afrikaans or Xhosa Language Course
  • Research Methods Seminar
  • Field Research Project 


Academic Year

Students on the Lexia Cape Town Area Studies and Culture academic year program take eight courses during two semesters for a total of 32 semester credits or 48 quarter credits. 

Students on academic year programs complete the regular semester program described above during the first semester. In the second semester, students continue language training and their Field Research Project and choose two Elective Courses to complete their academic program. Key to a second semester in Cape Town is designing a program of study that immerses the student in the local culture via language study, internship or volunteer experiences, course work, and independent study and projects. Students are also encouraged to consider spending the spring semester at a different Lexia site, conducting a comparative or complementary Field Research Project. 

Semester 1

  • South African Area Studies and Culture Seminar
  • Afrikaans or Xhosa Language Course
  • Research Methods Seminar
  • Field Research Project

Semester 2

  • Field Research Project
  • Afrikaans or Xhosa Language Course
  • Elective Course 1
  • Elective Course 2



South African Area Studies and Culture Seminar (Four semester/six quarter credits)

The South African Area Studies and Culture Seminar is designed to introduce students to a variety of topics in South African history, art, architecture, politics, society, and economics.  Class format ranges from lectures and discussions to the close reading of documents and art works, and incorporates several excursions within the city of Cape Town. Grades are determined on the basis of class discussion, participation in the excursions, and written work, including a midterm and a final examination consisting of extended essay questions. Classroom time totals approximately 60 hours, including instruction during excursions.


Afrikaans or Xhosa Language Course (Four semester/six quarter credits)

Afrikaans or Xhosa language courses are taught at the elementary, intermediate, or advanced levels at the University of the Western Cape with other international students.


Research Methods Seminar (Four semester/six quarter credits)

This seminar teaches a range of methods for engaging in sustained, original inquiry in the field and sets the framework for developing rigorous, individual projects. By exposing the students to the diverse environments of Cape Town and South Africa, this course encourages students to examine and revise their ideas of South African culture. By extension, students begin to question their own sense of self and to explore the culturally embedded nature of identities in general.

The course introduces a variety of research skills, methodologies and techniques including reading, listening, observing, choosing, questioning, summarizing, organizing, writing, presenting, and reflecting. A variety of techniques for collecting and analyzing data will also be examined.

Cape Town offers students a myriad of visual and cultural encounters, from architecture to the collections of images housed in museums, to the fascinating, often fleeting exchanges on every street corner and subway ride. Through a series of visual and writing exercises, students explore language ability, visual skills, ethical issues, theorizing about experience, and how to synthesize field knowledge into original work and/or formal academic writing.


Field Research Project (Four semester/six quarter credits)

The Field Research Project offers students the opportunity to pursue an independent, self-designed project in a specialized field of interest. A faculty member, professional, artist, architect, or other mentor serves as advisor for the project, meeting periodically with the student to provide necessary supervision and support. For academic year students, one topic may be explored in-depth throughout the academic year or different topics may be chosen each semester. Students are encouraged to use their language skills and knowledge of the local culture and subject matter to investigate their selected topic(s).

The range of potential projects is wide – from public culture and fine arts to urban life and business. The final product can take a variety of forms, but must express a rigorous, sustained inquiry into the chosen topic and demonstrate the student’s ability to engage with the resources available in Cape Town. Projects might range from a 20-25 page paper or summary of laboratory work to a collection of short stories or personal essays, dance performance, photo essay, or other project.

Students spend a minimum of 60 hours per semester conducting research for their project, meeting for a minimum of eight hours with their advisor and/or the Resident Director. A week at the end of each semester is planned for the synthesis of the students’ findings, writing, or other work, followed by the presentation and discussion of the projects in the group.

Grades for the Field Research Project are based on the required paper or project, meetings with the advisor and the final presentation. The faculty advisor and the Resident Director make final grade assessments. The final project must be submitted before departure from Cape Town. Late projects are not accepted.

Past Projects Have Included:

  • The Aftermath of Apartheid
  • Environmental Degradation in the Western Cape
  • Grassroots Activism Under Apartheid
  • Major Authors of South African Literature


Elective Courses (Four semester/six quarter credits)

Academic year participants take two elective courses during the second semester only. Below is a list of past electives offered.

  • Twentieth Century South African Economics
  • Political Transition in the 1980s
  • Minorities and Ethnic Groups in South Africa
  • The Legacy of Apartheid
  • Regional Music and Arts

Lexia will accommodate the student’s first choice for an elective whenever possible. Students are also encouraged to suggest their own independent studies topics.


Dates & Deadlines

Coming soon!


Homestays: To ensure linguistic and cultural immersion, students live in family homestays, situated in the Bellville area near the campus. The campus is situated in the suburb of Bellville, a 20-minute commute from the central business district of Cape Town. Homestay accommodations are clean, comfortable, and well-maintained. 



The program fee covers all Lexia excursions, which are designed to help students discover areas and aspects of culture that are typically less easily accessible to tourists and give a broad representation of the breadth of South African culture and its people. Excursions outside of Cape Town may include some of the following:

Robben Island: Tour of Robben Island and Nelson Mandela’s prison cell

Cape Point: Table Mountain National Park

Durban: The Golden Mile beaches; Crocodile Creek; Durban Botanical Gardens

Swaziland: Ngwenya Mine; Mantenga Cultural Village; National Swaziland Museum

Drakensberg Mountains: UKhahlamba/Drakensberg Park UNESCO World Heritage site

Cederberg Mountains: Rural Wupperthal village


At least one multi-day excursion, which introduces students to other areas of South Africa and its neighbors, is generally offered during each program. Such an excursion has one main destination, such as Durban, Swaziland, the Transkei, Oudtshoorn, the Garden Route, or the Drakensberg Mountains, with some stops along the way. The destination varies for each program. All of the Lexia program excursions are covered by the program fee excluding meals and are subject to change, depending on weather, accommodations, and local conditions. The program also includes cultural events, such as theater, musicals, and traditional meals. Students have the option of undertaking independent travel on their own account.



Semester: $15,950
Tuition: $12,600
Housing: $3,350

Academic Year: $28,950
Tuition: $22,250
Housing: $6,700

Summer: $5,950
Tuition: $4,750
Housing: $1,200


Program Fees Include:

  • On-Site Orientation (2-4 days)
  • All Tuition and Fees
  • All Scheduled Program Excursions
  • Housing Costs
  • Services of Lexia Resident Director and Program Staff
  • Comprehensive Medical Insurance Policy
  • International Student Identity Card (ISIC)
  • Official Transcript from Elizabethtown College



Not included in the Program Fee are the following estimated expenses based past students' experiences during the semester-long program:

  • Airfare Ranges from $1,100–$1,750
  • Meals not Covered $500-$700
  • Books & Supplies $200
  • Personal Expenses $800

Estimated Total Additional Expenses: $2,600 – $3,450

Students should also remember to budget for independent travel during the one-week break within the semester.  If desired, students may choose to remain in their Lexia accommodation in Cape Town during the break at no additional cost.


Instructors & Institutions

Hosted at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), located in metropolitan Cape Town, the Lexia program offers students opportunities to explore this historical region while confronting the daily challenges of a changing society. Though UWC was initially created under apartheid legislation as a segregated university for the “Colored” population group, it has a long history of resistance to Apartheid and was the first university in South Africa to declare itself “nonracial” in character.

One of the recognized strengths of the Lexia in Cape Town program is the strongly supportive faculty and staff.  The Lexia Resident Director provides students with all the necessary information about living and learning in South Africa. The faculty of the Lexia program consists primarily of South African professors from the University, supplemented with occasional lectures by professors from other universities and speakers from the community.  These faculty members can also serve as advisors for the Field Research Project and offer a link to local students.



The typical course load is four courses per semester. Students who successfully complete Lexia’s program requirements are able to earn the equivalent of one full semester or academic year of college/university level credit, pending approval from their home institution.

It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of the credit transfer policies at his/her home institution and department, including advising appointments, paperwork and pre-departure or re-entry activities. We strongly suggest that students contact their study abroad or other appropriate office early in the planning stage to ensure that they complete all requirements. 


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