A group of students overlooking Cape Town from Table Mountain

Solidarity & Community-Led Transformation in South Africa

  1. Program Details

    Global Seminar Winter Break 2019–20: Experience South Africa’s rich culture and community while examining societal challenges through critical education, witness, and immersive experiences.

    Location Cape Town, South Africa
    Term Winter Break
    Housing Apartment
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA 2.5
    Student Type UofM Students, Non UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  2. About Solidarity & Community-Led Transformation in South Africa

    The people of South Africa—through communal solidarity, struggle, and wisdom—have helped many to live from the inside out, to achieve a deep sense of meaning and a zeal for life. Their story of overcoming the brutal Apartheid era (1948–1994) is unfinished, yet their spirit to endure is essential to our understanding of human possibility.

    Though the magnificence of South Africa’s people and landscapes is vast, visitors often “ignore the view” by overlooking the juxtaposition between acute poverty in the townships and immensely affluent neighborhoods (built for and by the white minority during Apartheid). Mindful visitors often put into question the “free market” and recognize that Apartheid’s history of racism and classism still exists in all fabrics of life; and many Westerners try to assist through service or volunteerism without fostering real change. In Africa, “service” is a billion-dollar industry. Abuse by Western volunteer organizations and other programs has been overwhelming, which has included half-finished work, time and resources drained from communities, and unchanged “volunteers.” But, do we do nothing?

    For a more detailed overview of this course, see the Academics tab.

    Housing & Meals

    Live in shared student housing with other program participants. A welcome and farewell meal, as well as meals while on the three-day Educo Africa retreat in the Grootwinterhoek Wilderness Area, are provided. Take additional meals in the housing or at local eateries.


    Excursions will assist in illuminating the program coursework and take place in Cape Town, South Africa, and surrounding areas. Excursions include visits to Robben Island, Table Mountain, Iziko Slave Lodge, Saint George’s Cathedral Crypt Memory and Witness Center, a social community education project in the nearby township of Bellville South, and a three-day experiential learning retreat in the Grootwinterhoek Wilderness Area.


    All program participants will be taking the coordinated group flight to and from the program site. The cost of the group flight is included in the program fee that will be posted to your student account. Do not book your own flight, you will receive information from the Learning Abroad Center regarding your seat on the group flight once your participation has been confirmed.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Develop independence by challenging yourself in a new environment
    • Function as an effective team member by utilizing your personal strengths in a group setting
    • Explore a specific topic through experiential and interdisciplinary approaches

    Faculty & Staff

    This program is led by Nathan Whittaker, Senior Academic Adviser for TRIO in the College of Education and Human Development and Community Adjunct Professor in the Social Justice Minor. In the early 2000s, he lived in Cape Town, South Africa, where he worked with youth in a post-Apartheid context. He returns to Cape Town frequently. Today, he is the Director of International Programs for Building Bridges, an after-school program in Cape Town.

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  3. Program Structure

    Program Type Field Study, Study Abroad Center, Instructor-Led
    Program Level 3000 level coursework

    One 3-credit course

    Global Seminars are 3-week study abroad programs led by University of Minnesota faculty and staff that feature:

    • Intensive learning in a location that illuminates the topic
    • Small groups of 15–25 students
    • No prerequisites or language requirements
    • Included excursions and cultural activities
    • Instruction in English


    In this course, explore the dynamics of power, privilege, and repression through social justice advocacy and scholarly analysis of the “oppressive savior complex.” We will ask:

    • How do we take responsibility for global poverty and commit to abolishing the structures and paradigms that oppress others?
    • What are the rules of engagement to avoid the “oppressive savior complex,” “white savior industrial complex,” or the reproduction of oppressive discourses?
    • Using South African paradigms, how do we begin to transform our understanding of “community,” and the essence of what it means to be human, and attempt to heal ourselves from past wrongs in our own lives to become stronger agents of change?

    Engage in a social community education project with Building Bridges in South Africa. Building Bridges is an after-school non-profit organization (NPO) that provides psychosocial, educational, and skills-based support to youth facing extreme poverty and a lack of community programming in Bellville South, South Africa. Work under the direction of community leaders (youth and adults) in the development of Building Bridges, creating endeavors that tackle community and program needs.

    In this Global Seminar, you will participate in both scholastic and communal learning. Academic content includes pre-departure work to orient you to South Africa’s complexities; in-country student-led discussion on scholarly subject matter, including reflective writing assignments; and required attendance to program excursions. The community-learning aspects of the course include a three-day experiential learning wilderness retreat with the NGO, Educo Africa; community-led projects with Building Bridges; and talking circles.

    SW 3601 Winter Break 2020 Syllabus

    Receive credit for: SW 3601

    Liberal Education Fulfillment: Civic Life & Ethics Theme, Global Perspectives Theme

  4. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Term Program Dates Application Deadline
    Winter Break Dec 28, 2019  –  Jan 19, 2020 Oct 15, 2019

    Program dates are subject to change.

    If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Important Note: Enrollment on this program is limited to 25 students. Admission is granted on a rolling basis and applications are reviewed in the order they are completed. Some programs may fill to capacity prior to the application deadline, therefore applying early is recommended. Additionally, applying early will allow for more time to plan ahead and prepare for the program.

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.

    See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Winter Break 2020 TBD TBD
  5. Fees for Solidarity & Community-Led Transformation in South Africa

    Winter Break 2019-2020 Cost of Participation

    Program fees can vary widely due to location, cost of living, airfare, and program inclusions. The program fee generally includes tuition, group flight airfare, airport transfers, in-country program related transportation, housing, some meals, entrances to course-related excursions and site visits, program administration, and international health insurance. Generally, the program fees range from $5,500–$7,500. You must also budget for passport and passport photos, some meals, textbooks, independent travel, and miscellaneous living expenses.

    If you do not see a budget estimate for the term you intend to go abroad, the fee has not yet been finalized. We strive to post fees for this program at least 30 days prior to the application deadline. The Learning Abroad Center will delay the posting of some fees until enrollments, inflation and exchange rates are determined. Note the average increase in fees will be 3–10%. Program fees are based on estimates and may change depending on international economic factors.

    Billing & Payments

    Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.

    Bridging Loan

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
  6. Prepare

    Complete pre-application advising.

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.

    To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:

    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term Winter Break 2020
    Program Name Global Seminar: Solidarity & Community-Led Transformation in South Africa
    Track Name Solidarity & Community-Led Transformation in South Africa
    Country South Africa


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.

    Non-University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Once you submit your application, Learning Abroad Center staff will create a University of Minnesota student internet account for you. You will use this account to access the Education Abroad Application System, and other University of Minnesota services. You will be charged a $50 application fee for this program.

    Our staff will contact you within 2–3 business days with your internet account information, and additional application instructions.


    After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:

    • Application Essay

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.

    Next Steps

    After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned a confirmation checklist, which you will complete to confirm your participation in the program. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.
  7. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Oliver Ferguson or call at 612.626.1117.