Litigating for education reform in Mthatha, South Africa

Katie Joh, ’17, recounts her experience with the Legal Resources Centre in Eastern Cape, South Africa. She coordinated with schools, administrators, and parents in support of education reform litigation...

Katie Joh, '17, stands with her South Africa externship colleagues, one of whom shows an iPhone app.

Advice From Our Fellows

The best way to understand what the South Africa Externship is like may be to hear about it directly from our fellows.  Browse In Their Own Words, a collection of tips, advice, and feedback from past participants.

"In Their Own Words: Advice From Past South Africa Fellows"

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Since 1996, Michigan Law has sent more than 100 students to live and work in South Africa at both non-governmental and governmental agencies around the country, particularly in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.

We hope you’ll consider applying. Please submit your application through MCompass, and make sure your application package is complete before you submit. 

What You’ll Need

  • A cover letter 
    • Address letter "To whom it may concern" and leave the address blank
  • Your resume
  • A statement of interest 
    • There are no length requirements, though most are around three to five pages, double-spaced.
  • If you are doing an externship in your final semester, please review your graduation requirements to ensure any remaining requirements will be satisfied by the externship. Please consult the registrar if you have any questions regarding graduation requirements.

Externship Details

Students, before you proceed, be sure to read the policies and regulations governing Michigan Law externships. 

Externship Program Policies

  • Student Eligibility

    The externship program is open to second-or third-year law students who are in good academic standing at the Law School. 

    Students are not permitted to participate in an externship with more than one incomplete grade on their transcript at the time of their departure.

  • Credits

    Students will earn between 12 and 14 credits for completing the South Africa Externship Program.

    Constitutionalism in South Africa, taught by Professor Karthy Govender, ‘88, is offered when Professor Govender comes to Michigan Law. To take advantage of this extremely relevant class, the South Africa Program will be different based on whether Professor Govender is in residence or not.

    In years when Professor Govender comes, a student will earn a maximum of 14 credits by:

    1. In January, staying in Ann Arbor and enrolling in LAW 680, Constitutionalism in South Africa (3 credits, graded), and a companion South Africa seminar (1 credit, graded)
    2. For the rest of the semester, leaving for South Africa in February and completing 12 weeks' work at a South African organization (10 credits, ungraded). 

    In years when Professor Govender does not come and Constitutionalism in South Africa is not offered, students will leave in January and work 12 weeks in South Africa (11 credits, ungraded) while taking a contemporaneous companion seminar (1 credit, graded).

    Students who propose a final semester externship must also include in their application packet a completed Registrar Checklist showing that at the end of the externship all requirements for their degree will have been met.

  • Prerequisites

    For South Africa, there are no required classes in the fall, but if it is a year when Professor Govender is visiting U-M to teach Constitutionalism in South Africa, you take that short course in January before leaving for South Africa in early February.

  • Tuition and Living Expenses

    Externs pay their regular tuition, and their regular aid package (loans and scholarships) applies. 

  • Placement Sites

    Placements may be available for the following locations, though we are happy to work with you to create placements at other sites based on your interests:

    Center for Applied Legal Studies 

    Community Law Centre 

    Constitutional Court 

    Human Rights Commission 

    Lawyers for Human Rights 

    Legal Aid of South Africa 

    Legal Resources Centre 

    Refugee Clinic, University of Cape Town  

    Southern Africa Litigation Centre 

  • Details About the Application Process and Timeline

    You must submit a complete application by April 1.

    It is your responsibility to make sure that all parts of the externship application package have been received by the deadline.

    You may submit an application without being fully committed to the South Africa Program. However, once we agree on a placement and send student materials, you must be fully committed to completing an externship in South Africa if accepted by the organization. 

    After the application deadline, Professor Sankaran will be in touch for a brief meeting to talk about your materials and interest.

    At that meeting, she will have an idea of who else might have applied to your top sites, if anyone.

    Shortly after those meetings, she will notify you of your nomination.

    In June and July, you will work collaboratively with Professor Sankaran to get your materials sent to your site. We usually hear back relatively quickly, but sometimes, it can take a while longer.