Cape Town, South Africa

Leadership Through Mandela's Example

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Spend six to 12 weeks working on projects that bring Nelson Mandela’s legacy to life

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, is famous for his leading role in ending South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation. He was elected to office after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. But his legacy did not end there. During his five years as president (1994–1999), he also introduced housing, education and economic development initiatives to improve the living standards of the country’s black population.

Although Cape Town has come a long way, it’s clear there’s still much work to be done. Today Mandela’s mission continues through a variety of NGO service initiatives that address the inequality and economic disparity evident throughout the city. Ready to join in? This fall you can spend 6 to 12 weeks doing meaningful work where it matters most.

What will you get up to? It depends on the local communities’ needs, so no two blocks are alike. You might be tasked with helping with a mural painting, gardening or doing maintenance projects at a local hospital or library; working with a service group that provides shelter and support for homeless people; or planting a community permaculture garden in a local township.
Your actual service experience will be enhanced by the service-learning workshops that you and your peers will participate in over the course of each block. CIEE recognizes the importance of framing the service experience and the value of increasing participants' leadership skills, ability to problem-solve, build community relations and initiate change. Spend a few hours per week focused on these complementary skills to make your service experience even more impactful for you and the community! 

You will also take part in our Global Competence Course. This online course will allow you to connect and collaborate in real-time with our entire cohort of Gap participants worldwide, through interactive workshops and discussions. Reflect on your own cultural biases, share insights about your experience and learn about topics ranging from cultural identity and leadership styles to how to work and live sustainably or develop communication skills.

Back at your home base, you’ll bond with peers at the CIEE Global Institute, where you’ll live and share meals. On group outings you can grab street food favorites like koeksisters (donuts) and boerewors sausage rolls. Cooking classes will give you a taste of Cape Malay curries and other regional cuisines. Field trips get you out and about to experience the full gamut of South African culture.
Once-in-a-lifetime excursions include a trip to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned from 1964–1982 for leading the resistance to apartheid. Other trips take you to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. At the end of it all, you’ll take time to put the history you’ve absorbed into context and reflect on a global experience you’ll never forget. Get back to the U.S. with lifelong memories, focus for college, and a new-found drive to invest yourself in your own community.

The Take-Aways


    CIEE is committed to developing young leaders through our Gap Year Abroad programs. Return home with a new-found confidence and the ability to work across cultural lines.


    Develop an appreciation for South Africa’s progress in expanding access to education. Come home with the motivation and skills to drive meaningful change in your own community.


    A Certificate of International Service Learning

  • of alumni said their skills improved

  • said they learned to interact with different cultural backgrounds

  • said their level of independence increased


Location & Culture

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Cape Town is a multicultural city with many outside influences and a history as a trading city.

This harbor city boasts many natural landmarks such as Table Mountain and stunning beaches; it is no wonder that Cape Town is Africa’s number-one tourist destination. Cape Town offers much to do: hiking, museums, shopping at markets, and restaurants, and plenty of opportunities to interact with Cape Town's diverse population. As a microcosm of many African countries in transition, Cape Town illuminates the issues of joining the global economy while grappling with vast socioeconomic inequalities born from its colonial and apartheid past.

Daily Life

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Daily Life

A succesful Gap service experience achieves the right balance between hands-on learning opportunities, structured moments of instruction that can put your experience in context, and cultural activties or excursions that fully immerse you in the local culture.

Here's how a typical week goes on a CIEE Gap Service & Leadership program:

  • 15-20 hours of service project and/or service learning discussion with your CIEE facilitator and peers
  • 1 hour of the CIEE Global Competence Course (online with global community)
  • 2 cultural activities
  • Free time to explore and have fun!

Weekends are for group excursions (two per 6-week block) or personal travel and exploration.

  • Dormitory

  • Local Support

    Local CIEE Center staff available 24/7


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Sample Activities

  • Take a bike tour around the most southwesterly point of Africa. 
  • Observe penguins and ostriches! Visit Table Mountain, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. 
  • Hike up Lion’s Head during a full moon. 
  • Visit landmarks that help define Mandela’s life – the Apartheid Museum, Mandela’s home, and the prison on Robben Island.
  • Walk the route of the June 16, 1976, student uprising in Soweto. 
  • Play rugby or cricket and enjoy downtime with local peers. 

​​Please note this list of activities is based on past programs and subject to change at CIEE's discretion to both adapt to local circumstances and participant feedback. Our goal when revising itineraries is always to enhance your experience. Every activity is designed to provide you with a deep immersion in your topic, local culture and sights. Get ready for maximum fun!

Eligibility & Fees

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Eligibility & Fees


  • High school graduates in good academic standing.
  • Students must demonstrate, through the application and interview process, flexibility and maturity.
  • Students must be 17 years or older at the time of their departure.



Apply for one or two 6-week blocks. Combining blocks in two different locations is not yet available.

Program fee includes iNext travel insurance. Full inclusions are found online.

Ready to change your life?