More than 1 000 students came from abroad to study a semester at the University of Cape Town (UCT) last year, collectively undertaking almost 150 programmes. Some came for the sunshine, sea and mountains, while others came for the academic reputation, but many came to gain a uniquely African perspective on some of society’s greatest issues. You may well want to follow in their footsteps. But with hundreds of courses offered across the fields of engineering, commerce, science and the humanities, how can you be sure you’ve selected the perfect one for you?
Luckily for you, we’re here to help! Read on to learn more about Cape Town’s top degree picks…
So, you’ve decided to spread your wings and seek out an international study experience that guarantees new perspectives and lifelong expertise. At the same time, you know that in between your studies, discussions and debates, you’ll want a location that offers you a touristy experience that doesn’t break the bank.
Now you’ve selected the University of Cape Town (UCT), ranked the best in Africa and holding steady in the top 200 universities round the world. It ticks all the boxes: lifelong learning, the opportunity to gain new perspectives, globally-recognised, and perfectly located in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
All that’s left to do now is find the right course that will guarantee you that uniquely South African experience.
Fortunately, semester study abroad (SSA) alumni have already come up with their pick of the top six courses you can take as an international student (SSA or international full degree) during your time at UCT:
Gender, Sexuality and Politics
Camryn Hicks from Boston College said Gender, Sexuality and Politics was her favourite course: “It asks very provocative and important questions, and as an international student, I appreciated the new, culturally appropriate perspective I have gained on African issues.”
Gender, Sexuality and Politics, lectured by Professor Jane Bennett, explores debates around gender and sexuality, including an examination of how sexualities were transformed in the wake of colonial conquest, as well as the (de)criminalisation of sex work, culture and sexuality, reproductive health and sexual rights, and gender and the media.
Hicks says Bennett succeeds in creating a welcoming space for students and adds that Gender, Sexuality and Politics “does a fantastic job of contextualising African issues in African contexts”.
“For example, back in my philosophy classes at home, the topic of female genital mutilation infallibly arises. But it was not until I took the course that I learnt about the history of the cultural practice and the subsequent colonial campaign against it,” said Hicks.
Race, Class and Gender
Another popular course that looks at gender but in relation to class and race is Race, Class and Gender. Lectured by Dr Asanda Benya, Race, Class and Gender introduces and critically examines various understandings of the concepts of race, class, sexualities, and gender.
And the particular history of South Africa gives this class a unique lens: “It explores ways in which these categories intersect to shape experiences of inequalities and oppressions in South Africa and outside, both historically and in the present,” says Benya.
Previous international students agree, describing the course as “an opportunity to see the world in a new way”, “highly enlightening and academically stimulating”, and rich in debates and discussions. You will, as at least one student put it, leave the course feeling “awake”.
“I think their quotes capture what we’re trying to do in the course, which is ‘to awaken them from their innocence about very contentious concepts, processes and realities’,” says Benya.
She adds that the course gives students many different sets of glasses with which to see, as well as to make sense of and critique their worlds. During class, Benya emphasises critically engaged discussions and implores students to interact with texts and bring their experiences to the classroom.
African Dance 1
Offering another uniquely African experience is the course lectured by Mr Maxwell Rani, African Dance 1.
This beginners’-level course covers the fundamental principles of African dance and music. It is located in Intsika, an open-ended Pan-African dance technique that was developed by Rani in 2002, combining techniques from west, east, central and southern African dances.
“Students should enrol because they are offered a great African experience, an opportunity to go to theatres and watch dance productions, and a chance to perform in theatres and present African dance works,” says Rani.
He adds that, as the course has a strong community feel, students share experiences and knowledge and end up forming friendships. The course also presents the opportunity to understand the complexities of African dance in relation to gender, race, culture, and tradition.
Images, languages and sociology
There are three more courses previous SSA students think you should try out.
Images in Conflict: Politics, Power, Propaganda considers the social and political power of the visual, as well as the capacity of art and visual culture to engage historical events and influence behaviour.
“Typically, it considers a range of visual media, from photography and other two-dimensional media, to installations and performance art, and it explores commercial images as well as those derived from the art world,” says course convenor Anna Tietze.
“It analyses issues particular to South Africa but also ones of global reach, and this year will include a section on environmental questions and the ways in which contemporary artists are engaging with them.”
African Literature & Language Studies
The course explores a range of South African texts that can include poetry, prose fiction, drama, essays, literary criticism and theory. This course takes students from early to contemporary South African literature and literary debates. It also allows students to explore in more depth a subfield of South African literary studies with a leading or emerging expert.
Poverty, Development & Globalisation
Finally, there is Poverty, Development & Globalisation, convened by Dr J de Wet.
Here, students examine the great contemporary problems of poverty and inequality within the context of a globalising world. Sources and selected empirical cases of poverty and inequality are explored and related development theories and policies are examined.
To spend your semester abroad at UCT studying one of these popular courses, visit the study abroad website for the next round of applications. You can also begin your journey as part of the international community at UCT by liking them on Facebook and following them on Twitter.