cape town aerial view of coastline sunny day
Cape Town, South Africa

Leadership & Service Through Mandela's Example

Summer '25 Applications Open




3 weeks

Application Deadline

Enroll Now

Request Information



3 weeks

Application Deadline

Enroll Now

Request Information

Program Overview

Take action with community leaders to bring Nelson Mandela’s legacy to life. 

Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, is famous for his leading role in ending the cruel apartheid system of racial segregation in the ‘90s. Elected to office after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he introduced housing, education, and economic development initiatives to improve the lives of the black population. His mission continues today through a variety of NGO initiatives, so roll up your sleeves and join in!    

How will you contribute? It depends on local community needs. Alongside community leaders, you might serve in a project that supports the unhoused, hospitals or schools, or vulnerable children. Learn basic isiXhosa language to connect with the community. Investigate and reflect on how the country addresses inequality and economic disparity in underserved communities and how leadership skills intersect with identity, power, privilege, and opportunity.   Soak in the rich culture of Cape Town and meet local teens, too. Experience once-in-a-lifetime excursions, like a safari, nature hikes, and a boat trip to Robben Island where Mandela spent much of his 27 year prison term for leading the apartheid resistance. 

The Take-Aways

Real-World Experience

Join local NGOs to support the community through service initiatives. Come home with a greater understanding of your leadership style and societal issues in South Africa. Be prepared to take action in your own community.

Credentials for Your Future

Topics for your college essays; experience to inform your future career; a Service Reflection Presentation documenting how you investigated needs, resources, and perspectives during your service; and a record of your service-learning hours.

Life Skills and New Friendships

Return with greater self-confidence, independence, and improved leadership skills. Enjoy a broader worldview and friends of different backgrounds from across the U.S.


Hours of Service-Learning


Weeks of Community Engagement


Life-Changing Experience

The Destination
  • city shot
  • city shot
  • scenic shot

The Destination

Welcome to South Africa, a land of breathtaking natural beauty and a microcosm of African countries in transition. 

Cape Town, a port city located on the southwestern tip of South Africa, attracts visitors from every corner of the world.  It offers stunning beaches and views from the flat-topped Table Mountain, a World Heritage site that towers over the city and its busy harbor. Nicknamed “The Mother City,” Cape Town is modern and sophisticated. It’s known for its diversity in art, dance, music, food, and culture—12 official languages, including South African Sign Language, are spoken here. The city continues to grapple with vast socioeconomic inequalities inherited from its colonial and apartheid past. It has progressed, but NGOs are still hard at work promoting equality through community projects.  

Cape Town is bursting with energy. Its shops, food markets, and the lively waterfront on the edge of the city’s harbor are the places to be when you’re not out on the water or exploring the nearby Cape Peninsula to catch a glimpse of African penguins. 

Cultural Awareness

CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. Local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter in Cape Town. 

Weekly Learning Goals

Johannesburg orientation and travel to Cape Town. Investigate a community-identified need and prepare to participate in your service project. Start a Reflection Journal and deepen your understanding of South Africa’s history and the different ways that Apartheid impacts society today.

Begin your hands-on service. Learn basic isiXhosa language to support community interaction. In your Reflection Journal and debriefs, write and talk about what you are learning, the impact you are making, and how the experience is changing you.  Start working on your Service Reflection Presentation.

Continue to reflect on your experiences through journaling and debriefs. Complete your service and celebrate with community members. To demonstrate your learning, share your Service Reflection Presentation and deliver a presentation on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown as a leader, and how you’ll apply your skills back home.

Daily Life

Daily Life


Each day offers a balance between interactive instruction, service-learning, and cultural activities with time on your own, too. 

  • Breakfast at the hostel 
  • Hands-on learning with local instructors and NGO workers and/or service in community projects  
  • Lunch in the community with your fellow Global Navigators  
  • Out and about for a Cultural Activity or more service in the community  
  • Time to write individual reflections on your service and for holding group debriefs  
  • Dinner at the hostel or out in the community 


  • Overnight or day excursions to top sites  
  • Quality time with friends 

Check out the blog posts to discover more about daily life and excursions on program. 

Note: Before beginning your program in Cape Town, you’ll spend 3 days in Johannesburg where you will have orientation. You’ll participate in workshops on culture, language, social norms, and current events and visit historical sites to learn about Mandela’s life.


Hostel, shared rooms with other Global Navigators

24/7 Support

1 Program Leader for every 12 students and support from local staff

Program Blogs


Featured Blogger: Patrick Wanamaker

By Julianne O'Connell at CIEE

I am happy to bring you a blog post from Patrick Wanamaker, one of our Session II students. Patrick is from Seattle, Washington and shares his thoughts on the school... keep reading


Featured Blogger: Virgenya Zhu

By Julianne O'Connell at CIEE

I am happy to share a blog post with you from Virgenya Zhu, a Mandela Leadership Student from Session II. Virgenya is originally from New York City and she shares... keep reading


Student spotlight: Theo recaps our safari at Aquila

By Stephanie Humphrey at CIEE

Beautiful is the best way I can describe South Africa. Thursday afternoon, we went to Aquila Game Reserve and Spa about 2.5 hours away from Cape Town. The place we... keep reading


Sample Activities

High school students posing with Nelson Mandela mural in Cape Town

Just Imagine All the Fun You’ll Have!

  • Go on a game drive outside Cape Town and try to spot the Big 5: lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo, and African elephant.   
  • Summit Table Mountain by cable car and hike up Lion’s Head by sheer willpower. From the rocky perch, feast your eyes on Robben Island in the distant bay and Cape Town below.  
  • Connect with local teens as they share their experiences growing in Cape Town and play a game of rugby.
  • Explore the magnificent Cape Peninsula! Go by boat to Seal Island and on foot down the boardwalks of Boulders Beach for a close-up look at African penguins.   
  • Tour Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned. Hear from others who survived their time there and see the Stones of Remembrance, a symbol of the South African people’s struggle for freedom, dignity, and human rights. 

 Please note activities are based on past programs and subject to change at CIEE's discretion to adapt to local circumstances and participant feedback. Our goal when arranging activities is always to enhance your experience. 

What Students Are Saying

  • "It was amazing getting to make real connections with people from my own country and the people of South Africa. I got to explore Cape Town and its places, not just the touristy parts of it." 

    Lila M., Global Navigator Alum

  • "Our spontaneous hike to Lion’s Head gave me a little bit of closure of my time in Cape Town. I truly didn't want to leave, so having a few quiet minutes to look out at the whole city was an experience in itself! Another memorable time was Food Jams, where we all just cooked, laughed (too much!), danced, and sang!" 

    Menatallah B., Global Navigator Alum

  • "I loved our trip to Soweto in Johannesburg. It was amazing to go there and everyone on the program enjoyed it." 

    Owen H., Global Navigator Alum

  • "The best thing was interacting with and learning from the local children. This allowed us to grasp a deeper understanding of their culture, and I really enjoyed it." 

    Alana S., Global Navigator Alum



  • Participants must be 14 years old and above.
  • Program open to all current high school students: Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.  
  • For scholarship eligibility requirements, please check our Scholarship page.
  • This program involves engaging in moderate to high intensity physical activities, such as hiking and extended observational time outdoors. 

For more information, refer to the detailed Program Essential Eligibility Criteria.

Dates & Fees

Dates & Fees

Application Fee


Program scholarships and tuition include iNext Travel Insurance, but do not cover the cost of flights. Find additional details about what’s included with your tuition.

More questions? Find answers, get application support, sign up for virtual presentations or contact us.


Application Due

Start Date

End Date


Program Summer Session I 2025 3 weeks Start Date End Date
Program Summer Session II 2025 3 weeks Start Date End Date

What's Included

Interactive Classes


3 Meals/Day

(Dietary Needs Accommodated)

All Ground Transportation

(Once In-country)

Optional Flight Chaperone

(Flight Cost Not Included)

Pre-departure Advice and Orientation

Access to Local Phone and WIFI

All Cultural Activities and Excursions

Comprehensive Medical and Travel Protection

24/7 Emergency On-site Support

Our Staff

Our Staff

Nompilo Ndlovu

Center Director

Dr. Nompilo Ndlovu has over a decade of experience working within the academic, policy and non-profit sectors, focused on the African continent.

Ready to change your life?

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