Programs by Region

Print this page

Durban, South Africa

This program has rolling admissions. Students are encouraged to submit applications well before the posted USC Overseas Studies deadline.

Program Site: The Community Health and Social Policy program is based in Durban, South Africa, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is administered by the School for International Training (SIT).

Eligibility: Minimum 3.0 cumulative USC GPA and completion of one year of college before the start of the program. Previous relevant coursework in a health related discipline is required.

Description: Durban is a vibrant and multi-cultural coastal city perched on the Indian Ocean and known for its surfing and subtropical climate.Beyond its idyllic landscape, however, lies the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa.  Situated in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban serves as a nexus of health teaching, research, and practice in both Western and traditional healing systems.

Program provider SIT is a pioneer of experiential, field-based study abroad. Students learn from a variety of sources including small seminars and discussions, lectures from academics, policymakers, and healthcare practitioners. Through numerous field visits throughout the semester, students investigate health complexities within Durban and KwaZulu-Natal. In small groups, students visit public and private hospitals and clinics, health-focused NGOs, and schools for children with special needs. A major highlight of the program is the opportunity to shadow a community health care worker in a rural village outside of Durban.

The program offers the opportunity to conduct an independent research project. Students considering health-related careers are especially encouraged to take part in this program, as it offers unique academic opportunities at the undergraduate level.  

Academics: The program is modular in nature, and some of the modules overlap. Through the interdisciplinary coursework in this program, students investigate contemporary public health issues in South Africa as well as analyze the historical, political, economic, cultural, and geographic forces that shape the history of public health interventions in South Africa.  

In the first ten weeks of the program, students take intensive Zulu (3 units), Approaches to Community Health in South Africa (3 units), and Practice and Provision of Community Health in South Africa (3 units). Later in the program, students take Social and Community Health Research Methods (3 units) and complete an Independent Study Project (4 units).

Students take intensive Zulu in the first part of the semester to prepare them for daily social demands and to provide access into the host culture. Students practice Zulu with their host families and utilize it in Durban and especially in rural communities.

The Social and Community Health Research Methods course teaches students how to be critical consumers of medical research papers and media reports on health, to gather primary data on health issues through questioning and observation, and to conduct ethical, culturally appropriate research in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP is completed during the last month of the semester in which students have the option of participating in a practicum or writing an extended research paper. Practicum options include working at a health facility or on a social-science study project in a community. Students work with an advisor and Academic Director who supervise their research of the ISP. Extended research ISPs vary across the field of public health. Sample ISPs can be found here.

Course Load and Credit: Students take four courses and complete an ISP for a maximum of 16 USC units per semester.

Activities and Other Program Features: The semester begins with a three-day orientation in Johannesburg where students visit historic sites such as the Hector Peterson Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto. For the rest of the semester, Durban serves as the program base but students will travel throughout the KwaZulu-Natal region to gain a wider cultural view on health and the varying levels of wealth and education that influence access to and acceptance of public health services.

Accommodations: Students live with South African host families in Durban as well as three selected rural communities to gain a better sense of health care in specific communities. Other accommodations during the semester may include small hotels, guest houses and hostels.

Dates: Fall or Spring. Fall semester runs from mid-August to early December and Spring semester runs from late January to early May.

Estimated Semester Cost:
Tuition..............................$17,670
Additional Expenses*.......... $10,582
Total.................................$28,252

Cost Updated: 4/17/14
Text Updated: 06/26/12

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for airfare, room and board, books and supplies, health insurance, and personal expenses (which can vary greatly from student to student). USC financial aid, scholarships, and tuition remission may be applied to program costs. Please visit the Office of Overseas Studies for more detailed cost information.