Pitzer in Southern Africa

The Pitzer in Southern Africa program is a multi-country comparative studies semester program in Botswana and South Africa. Through the program, students will learn about the multiple ways governments, NGOs, and local communities choose to approach issues such as colonial legacy, development, power, human rights, big game conservation, tourism, health care, education, and poverty alleviation. Students live with host families, participate in community service projects, study local cultures and languages, and work with scholars and experts in each country. The program is affiliated with Botho University, a private university in Botswana committed to sustainability and social responsibility. The program is open to Pitzer College students and non-Pitzer undergraduate students.

View of a city
Photo Credit: Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo
View of Gaborone, Botswana

Program Information

Students will begin the semester in Botswana learning Setswana and living with host families in the village of Manyana. They also begin the first part of their core course learning about the history, politics, and culture of Botswana. Participants then move to South Africa where they live with host families in Soweto and continue with the second part of the core course learning about the anti-apartheid movement along with the history of South Africa. Students end the semester by completing their Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP offers students the opportunity to explore an issue or topic that is not possible on their home campus. Students may create a project that can count towards their major.

Sunset over a city view
Photo Credit: Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo
Sunset over Gaborone, Botswana

Program Dates

Fall: Mid-August to mid-December

Spring: mid-January to late-May

Eligibility and Preparation

Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale. Coursework in Development Studies, African Studies, Intercultural Studies, and/or Socio-Cultural Anthropology is encouraged



One of Africa’s most politically and economically stable countries, Botswana is home to 2 million people and 226,900 square miles of vast savannas, the Kalahari Desert, and world-famous wildlife parks. Botswana’s citizens, most of whom live in the major cities, towns, and villages along the eastern border, enjoy standards of education and economic well-being rivaled on the continent only by neighboring South Africa. Although Botswana shares many socio-cultural commonalities with the rest of the region, it is unique from a political and historical standpoint. It was never colonized and never had to fight a war of independence. As a result, Botswana has thrived, and students will witness first-hand how good governance and prudent natural resources management can have a positive effect on societal issues such as racism, poverty, and gender inequity.

Painted Towers in Soweto, South Africa


Since the overthrow of Apartheid and the historic 1994 election, the Rainbow Nation has tried to strike a balance between the expectations of the hitherto marginalized Black population and those of the white minority. A vibrant democracy and progressive constitution have resulted in a socio-economic and political transformation that has ushered in a new era of prosperity for the groups that were excluded by Apartheid policies. Nonetheless, after almost three decades of post-Apartheid efforts, the country still struggles with high unemployment and poverty rates, and with major challenges around issues of healthcare disparities, housing, and education. In South Africa, students live with host families in Soweto, the center of the anti-apartheid movement, which, in combination with a series of lectures, study trips, and community service projects, allow students to begin to unpack the complex issues behind South Africa’s recent history and transformative agenda.

  • Academics
    A photo of Botho University in Botswana
    View of Botho University, our partner university in Botswana
    Photo Credit: Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo

    Below are the courses offered in the program. Students are required to participate fully in all program components and are not allowed to withdraw from individual courses. Students must take all courses for a letter grade. Participating students from Pitzer College will have their grades from the program recorded on their Pitzer transcript and included in their overall GPA. Students from other colleges should check with their study abroad office for information about how grades from a semester abroad are integrated into their transcript.

    Students who wish to receive credit towards their major for a particular course should consult their academic adviser and major for guidelines. At Pitzer College, the field group decides which courses may be counted towards a major or minor requirement. Students from other universities should check with their study abroad office or registrar’s office about their school’s policy.

    Courses Claremont  Credits Semester Units
    Core Course: Continuity and Change* 2.0 8
    Intensive Language 1.0 4
    Independent Study Project 1.0 4
    TOTALS 4.0 16
    Poster from temporary exhibit at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa

    Core Course: Continuity and Change

    The course combines lectures, readings, discussions, and extensive writing with the more experiential components of family stays study trips, and field assignments. The course is designed to provide students with a broad overview of the region and each of the countries where the program operates. Major elements of the core course include the fieldbook, homestays, and study trips; these along with service-learning projects and a series of lectures given by university faculty and specialists provide a comprehensive look into the history, politics, culture, religion, and important current issues, within which students are asked to place and analyze their personal experience. Through community engagement and rigorous academic study, the course provides an opportunity for students to develop a comparative and regional perspective on important issues and topics covered in the course. Additionally, the course provides a focus on human development, with opportunities to learn how to understand, implement and evaluate effective community-based work in each country. *For Pitzer students, this course will satisfy Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement.

    Intensive Language

    The program realizes the importance of learning the local language to honor the host community, connect more deeply with locals, and open windows into the host culture. Students will study intensive Setswana during the first month of the program in Botswana. The course emphasizes proficiency in speaking and listening through a highly communicative, interactive language curriculum.

    Independent Study

    Pitzer students on a study trip in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo Credit: Mike Donahue

    The Independent Study Project is a chance for students to explore in-depth an aspect of Botswana or South Africa in which they are particularly interested. The weeks allotted for the project come at the end of the program allowing them to travel and do research independently as well as draw upon the cultural knowledge and information they have acquired throughout the semester. Students begin formalizing ideas for their projects during the second month of the program. These proposals are then discussed and refined in consultations and advising sessions with program staff and experts in the student’s field of interest. During the actual project period, students function independently, with program staff and advisers available for assistance when needed.

  • Student Experience
    Two women taking a photo together in front of a house
    Student with host mom in Manyana, Botswana

    Family stays

    Host families serve as important co-educators in the program, not only for language and culture learning but also to allow students to further explore ideas and issues that are presented in lectures and readings. Host families allow students to experience first-hand the concept and life of Ubuntu, an important cultural value of the region, embraced in local greetings that proclaim, “I am well if you are well,” and “My destiny is intricately intertwined with yours.” This idea was at the heart of the post-colonial reconciliation process of Zimbabwe that became a model for South Africa’s post-Apartheid government strategy and its celebrated Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Students have two main homestays on the program. One in Botswana and another in South Africa. Homes have all that students need but may be more modest than homes in the U.S. Students often consider family stays to be the most meaningful dimension of the program.

    Study Trips

    View of zebra on the Chobe River
    Chobe National Park, Botswana

    To better understand important local and regional issues, students participate in study trips while in each country. While locations may vary slightly from semester to semester, study trips in Botswana include visits to cultural and historic sites to study wildlife conversation, environmental issues, and tourism. Past trips have included Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, and smaller villages to experience rural development and the linguistic diversity of the country. In South Africa, students explore Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. They study race relations, reconciliation, and post-Apartheid South Africa through visits to Soweto, the Apartheid Museum, the Voortrekker Monument, and Freedom Park, and attend a rugby or soccer match (schedule permitting). Lastly, students typically visit Kruger National Park and/or Madikwe Game Reserve to study contrasting styles of big game management.

    View of Cape Town, South Africa from water
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Freedom Park Museum in Pretoria, South Africa
  • Next Steps
    Photo Credit: Kebokile Dengu-Zvobgo
    Gaborone, Botswana

    Next Steps

    Interested in the Pitzer in Southern Africa program? Great! Learn more by attending an information session, scheduling a meeting with a study abroad adviser, and connecting with program alum.

    How to Apply

    Application Steps and Deadlines for Pitzer College Students:


    Application Steps for Non-Pitzer Students:


    Photo of Victoria Falls waterfall
    Victoria Falls, between Zimbabwe and Zambia

    Before You Go

    After students apply and are accepted into the program, they will participate in a program orientation before leaving for Botswana and South Africa. Orientations provide cultural context, health and safety information, and academic guidelines. At orientation, students will receive details specific to the program including program dates, flight arrangements, immunization documents, safety guidelines, and the handbook.

    Students are responsible for researching country-specific information and the visa process. Everyone on the program needs a passport. Check the expiration date. If you do not have a passport valid for six months after your planned return from study abroad, then you will need to renew your passport.

    Photo of city skyline in Johannesburg, South Africa
    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Typically, students traveling with a U.S. passport will receive their 90-day visa for Botswana upon arrival at the airport. They then receive their 90-day South African visa during the transition between the countries. Students will receive additional details a few weeks before leaving for their program. However, the visa process can change at any time, students can stay up to date by regularly checking the State Department for Botswana and for South Africa.

  • Meet the Director

    Batsirai Chidzodzo
    Director, Southern Africa Program

    CL 10MA15 LB Batsirai Chidzodzo (4)
    Batsirai “Batsi” Chidzodzo

    Batsirai (“Batsi”) Chidzodzo received his BA from the University of Zimbabwe and an MBA from De Montfort University, where he was recognized for his thesis focusing on the flight of intellectual capital from Zimbabwe. He also holds a diploma in Personnel Management from the Institute of Personnel Management of Zimbabwe.

    A native of Zimbabwe, Batsi has spent over twenty years working with US study abroad programs in Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Batsi’s research interests include the history and politics of Southern Africa in relation to global political history.