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Programs : Brochure
This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
UVA in South Africa: Cape Town: Public Health Sciences
Cape Town, South Africa (Education Abroad Programs Program)
Program Terms: Summer
Budget Sheets Summer
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2018 01-FEB-2018 10-FEB-2018 26-MAY-2018 30-JUN-2018
NOTE: Students who are accepted to this program must commit to or decline participation by February 15. Students will need to depart the US May 24 or 25 to arrive in Cape Town May 26. Do NOT purchase flight tickets until instructed to do so by the ISO.
Fact Sheet:
Class Status:
2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year, Graduate student Minimum GPA Requirement: 2.5
Language Requirement:
Open to Non-UVa Students:
Housing: Homestay, Hotel Language Courses Offered: No
Language of Instruction: English
Credit Type:
Direct Credit
Program Type:
Faculty directed, Faculty led
Tuition Payments Made To:
Education Abroad Advisor:
Margaret Walter
Application Fee:
Study Abroad Administrative Fee:
Subject Area:
Public Health
Program Description:

The aim of this program is to provide students a mentored experience in the practice of community-based field research for public health. While many students have the chance to take research methods courses on Grounds, there are often limited opportunities for in-depth, practical experience with the real craft of research. This program introduces students to public health research practice by giving them a hands-on opportunity to carry out small mentored research projects in a community setting in Cape Town.

Students will work in groups with other students and will be supported daily by both teaching staff as well as local field guides/translators. Participation in the program will help students develop valuable skills in study design, data collection and analysis, and reflection on the ethical challenges of research.  While research activities will be carried out primarily in English, the program will also provide students with a rapid but intensive introduction to isiXhosa, one of the local African languages in Cape Town.

The research projects that students will be engaged in for this program will be informed by the ongoing research initiatives of the program instructor, Christopher J. Colvin, a medical anthropologist and epidemiologist working at the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town (see bio below).  The focus will be on the use of qualitative health social science methods, though smaller-scale quantitative methods may be incorporated.  While the broad research topics for these group projects will be set out from the beginning, students will have ample opportunity for designing the scope and focus of the project, the particular methods to be used, and the format for presenting findings.

South Africa PHS

Courses and Credit
The program is composed of two closely related courses. The first course, "Ethical and Methodological Issues in Public Health Research", will be a reading and discussion-based seminar where students will both a) review some of the basic methodological and ethical issues in field research and b) reflect on how they are engaging with these ethical and methodological challenges in their own research experiences. The second course, "Practicum in Public Health Research", gives students practice in conducting their own research projects by placing them into existing projects and mentoring them as they participate in the collection and analysis of data.

South Africa PHS


Cape Town will make an excellent setting for your study of public health research because it so clearly demonstrates in one location the many frictions between the local and the global, between the North and the South, between some of the richest and some of the poorest. This is the city, after all, that performed the first heart transplant forty years ago and continues to innovate in high technology biomedicine but also suffers from severe malnutrition and one of the worst HIV epidemics in the world.

Cape Town is not only the story of the struggle between rich and poor, though.  The city also has a fascinating and complex array of cultures, ethnicities, languages, arts and architecture, from Dutch colonial to "shack chic", from the Malay Quarter to the cricket stadium, and from the Holistic Lifestyle Fair to the charismatic Brazilian megachurch.

While most of the program will take place in Cape Town, you will also spend a weekend visiting the town of Worcester. Worcester is a small farming community about 90 minutes outside of Cape Town. Set in an idyllic rural landscape, the pace of life in Worcester contrasts strongly with the active, urban lifestyle in Cape Town. Many of the same social and health challenges can be found here as well, though, and rural poverty and long distances can make many of these problems even worse. During our weekend there, we will stay with local families and explore how rural communities experience and address these many health challenges.


Lodging in Cape Town will be a shared room in the student neighborhood of Observatory, close to the University of Cape Town's campuses and to the downtown city center of Cape Town. Internet may be available on site or will be available in Internet cafes very close by.

During the weekend in Worcester, students will stay with local families in the township community of Zwelethemba. You will share a room with another student and have access to electricity and running water in the house. Meals will be provided by the family.


Field School for Public Health Research
in South Africa

Ethical and Methodological Issues in Public Health Research
(PHS 5820; 3 credits)
Practicum in Public Health Field Research
(PHS 5821; 3 credits)


South Africa PHS

Program costs for 2016 are listed in the "Budget Sheets" link at the top of this page.

Accessibility Statement
The University of Virginia believes in providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities on an individual and flexible basis. If you believe that you would require adjustments in order to fully participate in this program, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at 434-243-5180 as early as possible in order to begin this dialogue.

Passport and Visa Information
All participants will need a valid passport in order to participate in the program. Students must ensure that their passport is valid at least six months past the program return date. US passport holders will not need a visa to participate in this program. International students should meet with their International Student Advisor and Education Abroad Advisor in the International Studies Office as part of the application process.

Faculty & Staff
Program Director Christopher J. Colvin,, is a cultural anthropologist living and working in Cape Town, South Africa and Charlottesville, Virginia. He has a PhD in anthropology from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Public Health from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in epidemiology. Over the last 13 years, Chris has conducted extensive inter-disciplinary research in the fields of medical anthropology and public health in South Africa.

His background in experiential and classroom-based learning includes teaching at several U.S. and South African universities and directing numerous study abroad programs for US undergraduates for the last 10 years.

Dr. Alison Swartz also works closely with Chris on the program. She is a Lecturer at UCT and her PhD research was set in the community where the program is based. Monwabisi Maqogi, an activist and community organizer, serves as our local coordinator. He manages relationships with the community and oversees the Field Guides who work with students.

South Africa PHS