For the first time ever, UB students have the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program in Africa. The proposed program will take students to the University of Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town, South Africa, from May 20 to June 14 this summer.
"South Africa has undergone epochal changes in the last 12 years. It's a wonderful opportunity for students to see and learn about the country, its turbulent past and promising future," said Claude Welch, distinguished service professor in political science.
Liberated from apartheid in 1994, South Africa has been dubbed the "rainbow nation." Since the installation of a black majority ruled government in 1995, one of South Africa's goals has been to harmonize peoples of African, Indian and European descent into one common culture, quelling the violent history left behind by racial segregation.
"Students will learn of the richness and diversity of African society, specifically of South Africa. It is an amazing time to visit South Africa because it's emerging from three centuries of European colonialism," said Shaun Irlam, associate professor in comparative literature, and director of the program.
The program, "South Africa: Political History and Contemporary Culture" will consist of two intensive, two-week courses each worth three credits toward 300-level courses. The first will focus on South Africa's political history of the last four centuries and the second on contemporary culture by studying literature, media and film.
"This program will introduce the students to Africa, providing an adequate background to learn while they're understanding, interpreting and analyzing the country," said Irlam. "Hopefully it will be the first footsteps in encouraging the students to return and develop a lifelong interest in South Africa and the rest of the continent."
Besides visiting UWC, participants will also take several fieldtrips to surrounding locations, including the Cape Point Nature Reserve, a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Winelands and Nelson Mandela's former prison cell on Robben Island. The students will also take tours of townships, where, according to Irlam, the revolution against apartheid was born and traces of the movement still heavily exist.
There will also be two larger excursions, one consisting of a weekend of hiking and climbing in the Cederberg Mountains, and the other of a four-day road trip visiting the Cango Caves, the colonial Victorian town of Prince Albert, and other key spots.
After the four-week program in Cape Town, an optional weeklong safari in the neighboring country of Namibia is available to a limited number of participants, who will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"It's part of experiencing rural Africa. If you were interested by the recent "Survivor" television show, this safari might be for you," said Irlam.
According to Irlam, the agreement between UWC and UB is unique because most institutions operate through the larger and historically white-populated University of Cape Town.
An act of the South African Parliament in 1959 established the University of Western Cape as an ethnic college for 'colored' students. Irlam said many past faculty members and students of UCW played a significant role in the anti-apartheid movement.
After the dismantling of apartheid, UB approached UWC to set up an exchange agreement. The agreement was reached on paper, but lay dormant until now.
"We're attempting to cement the agreement that was made on paper, and bring as many students as possible to the University of Western Cape," said Irlam.
The program fee is $900, not including tuition charges, airfare and meals and spending money. The optional safari is another $900. Applications will be accepted at the Study Abroad Programs Office of International Education until April 1. A Web site guide to the program is available at http://wings.buffalo.edu/academic/department/AandL/col/faculty/irlam/capetown.html.