South Africa: Leadership & Social Change

Peace, Politics, and Human Rights

Experience South Africa’s diversity, complex history, and modern life while exploring social change. Learn leadership and project planning skills to make a difference in your own community.


Community Service



Rugged Travel

Outdoor Activity



Program Description

Embark on your immersive journey at the southern tip of continental Africa in stunning Cape Town, where you will learn about South Africa’s complex past and explore breathtaking sights such as Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula, where you will spot penguins while taking in the views. Visit the country’s historical landmarks, such as Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison before going on to become president. You will also visit community organizations to learn about community building, witness social change in action, and interact with local youth.

Travel to either Kranshoek, an Afrikaans-speaking community, or Kwanokuthula, a Xhosa-speaking community, for a homestay with a South African family. During the homestay, you will work on a service project alongside members of the community, take Afrikaans or Xhosa language lessons, and participate in hands-on music and drumming workshops. Get ready for a safari adventure as you travel north! Visit Kruger National Park for a chance to spot giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, lions, and zebras in their natural habitat.

Your Experiment concludes in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, where you will intensify your focus on leadership and social change. Visit important historic landmarks and the Apartheid Museum to better understand the country’s transition to democracy, and explore the artsy and business-forward neighborhoods of modern Johannesburg. Your Experiment will come to a close as you complete your leadership training and design a project to create change in your community back home.


Program Availability:

Not Yet Enrolling



Sample Itinerary

    Days 1-5

    Orientation in Cape Town

    • Learn about the history and culture of South Africa through workshops and museum and site visits
    • Get to know other members of your group during activities and discussions
    • Go on a historical exploration of Cape Town and its diverse neighborhoods, such as Bo Kaap and District Six
    • Take the cableway to see the spectacular view of the Cape Peninsula from the top of Table Mountain
    • Take a ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years
    • See penguins at Boulder Beach, the mythical place where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at the Cape Point Nature Reserve
    • Take beginning Xhosa language lessons in preparation for your homestay

    Begin workshops on leadership and visit local organizations to see community building in action.  During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located guest house.

    Days 6-18

    • ExcursionTravel to Oudtshoorn for a visit to the famous Cango limestone caves in the Swartberg Mountains
    • Travel through the lake district of the Garden Route and visit the “Heads” in Knysna en route to your homestay.
    • Homestay in a Xhosa Community
    • Become fully immersed in the daily life of a South African family and community as you share meals and do activities with your homestay family
    • Explore your host community and the surrounding area with your group
    • Participate in a service project to benefit the community. Project vary
    • During this period, you will stay in the home of a family.
    Days 19-24

    Excursion across South Africa

    • Travel to the Drakensberg Mountain region and stay at the foot of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a world heritage site with its majestic vistas of the highest mountain range in the country.
    • Continue your leadership workshops with your group under the direction of your leaders
    • Spend two days enjoying various activities in the beautiful area, including, hiking, swimming in rock pools, and abseiling.
    • Drive through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands to Nelspruit, the Gateway to Kruger National Park
    • Travel through Mpumalanga and see Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third largest canyon, majestic waterfalls, and the incomparable view at God’s Window.
    • Spend two days at Kruger National Park experiencing the African bush
    • Go on a game drive in an open air vehicle, meandering along rivers and among the trees to look for resident wildlife such as crocodiles, giraffes, antelope, zebras, and wildebeests. Keep your eyes open for the more elusive wildlife such as lion, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, and elephant.

    During this period, you and your group will stay in lodges, inns, and camps.

    Days 25-29

    Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Johannesburg

    • Continue to learn about South Africa’s history and democracy by visiting important sites in the city, including the Apartheid Museum, Constitutions Hill, and Soweto.
    • Continue your leadership training, developing ideas and tangible skills to carry forward and apply at home.
    • Visit community organizations to learn about their models and missions for empowering the local community and its members.
    • Spend at least one night in a nearby camp to enjoy the typical South African tradition of talking and singing around a fire.
    • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program and prepare to return homes.
    • Do some final souvenir shopping and enjoy a final dinner and farewell celebration with your group.

    During the reflection period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located lodge.

    Day 30


    Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

Itinerary is subject to change.

Past Group Leaders

  • Kelly McNulty

    Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kelly McNulty graduated from Lafayette College with a BA in anthropology/sociology and American studies. Following graduation, she completed a teaching fellowship through Center for Inspired Teaching, in which she taught at a Washington, DC, public charter school. Kelly received an English teaching grant through The Fulbright Program in 2013 and spent a year teaching at a township high school in South Africa.

    Kelly’s experience with World Learning began in 2010, when she studied in South Africa on SIT Study Abroad’s Multiculturalism and Human Rights program. She has traveled extensively throughout sub-Saharan Africa and participated in service-learning programs both in the United States and Ecuador. Kelly holds a master’s degree in teaching, and after leading the 2013 Experiment program to South Africa, she recently joined the World Learning team in a new capacity, as a full-time program associate for the Exchange and Training Unit. Kelly enjoys learning about new cultures, planning new adventures, hiking, and playing soccer.

  • Katelin Ryan

    Born and raised on the east end of Long Island, Katie Ryan spent her childhood surrounded by farms, vineyards, and ocean beaches. She was only a train ride away from New York City, and some of her fondest memories include visiting museums and seeing Broadway productions with her family. From an early age her parents instilled in her a love of adventure, and it has inspired her to continue exploring our world.

    While earning her BA in cinema and cultural studies at Stony Brook University, Katie began to spend most of her summers volunteering and working abroad. Katie has traveled throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Croatia, Egypt, New Zealand, and several sub-Saharan Africa countries. She’s done everything from planting trees and working with orphan bears to constructing schools and leading after school-sports programs. Her travels have taken her glacier climbing, canyoning, sky diving, bungee jumping, and even zorbing! Katie spent three years working in South Africa, leading participants on conservation and community development programs before enrolling at SIT Graduate Institute to obtain her master’s in international education. After a summer leading The Experiment’s 2014 South Africa program, Katie began the practicum phase of her master’s program — which led her back to Africa once again, this time to help run the The Traveling School’s South-East Africa semester in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Student Voices

  • Between the beautiful hike to Cape Point, safari, and homestay with my new family I felt that I not only saw a nation but learned so much about the history and culture that I began to call myself a traveler, not a tourist. This has exposed me to traveling in the best way possible and I hope for the day when I can return to South Africa and see the nation I feel in love with.

  • We watched and listened to the sounds of South Africa and its people rather than our own. I fell in love with everyone we met, everyone was so incredibly smart and funny, eager to share their worldview with us.

  • Some of my favorite parts of the trip were hiking Lion’s Head in Cape Town, spending 10 days in an Afrikaans speaking community for homestay, and learning about sustainability at the Tlholego Ecovillage. There was always an activity or thematic workshop to do; the trip was never boring or too touristy.

  • My overall experience as an Experimenter this summer was one that I will remember for my whole life. I have learned how to adapt to new and uncomfortable situations. Besides a country’s complicated history I learned how to better myself as a person and be more open to new things. I will remember the things I saw, people I met and places I went forever.