Final Impressions of SFS Tanzania

Posted: May 7, 2012

Name: Asha Misra
School: University of Rhode Island
Major: Wildlife Management
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Kenya & Tanzania

 

What did you like most about the SFS experience?

This seems like an impossible question to answer! I think that my favorite part of this experience has been spending time in two different countries. Upon entering the program, I had no idea how different my experiences in Kenya and Tanzania would be, but they really are like different worlds. Having the opportunity to get to know both places so well has been truly amazing.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester-  tell us your impressions of it now.

Kenya was the epitome of my mental image of Africa. The vast, open, flat plains and towering Acacias were exactly how I pictured them. In my first impressions of Kenya, I wrote about how friendly the people were. From the first to the last minute of my time in Kenya, absolutely everyone I encountered wanted to chat with me and shake my hand.

The second half of the semester has been very different, but equally as beautiful. As we crossed the border into Tanzania, the flat plains were replaced with rolling hills; the Acacias with baobabs and other broadleaf trees, even conifers! The people here have been just as friendly, and as they are more attached to their Kiswahili here in Tanzania, I’ve gotten a lot of practice on my many walks into the town near camp.
I have really become attached to these two incredible places, and I know that someday I’ll return.

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?

Life at the field stations has, overall, been great! Sharing every living space and every meal with my peers has really become a norm. That said, I think that sharing close quarters at all times has been the most challenging part. However, this has given me opportunities to get to know my peers, and even the staff members, so well, and has brought us all so close. For that reason, I think that living so close together is also the best part living in such remote locations.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester, both academically and culturally?

My biggest challenges have definitely been Directed Research and the homestay experiences. Going into both of these experiences, I didn’t really know what to expect. Directed Research was challenging because some things, like heavy rains before a day of research in an area with no roads, and then getting stuck in the mud for three hours, you just can’t avoid or plan ahead for. However, with the unceasing kindness of seemingly every East African, we always had help finding our way out of these “sticky” situations. Designing my own project and interpreting the results for my DR write-up was definitely challenging also, but with guidance from the most knowledgeable, patient, and understanding faculty, the end result was fantastic.

The homestays, with the Maasai in Kenya and the Iraqw in Tanzania, were challenging purely because of the huge “unknowns” involved. I didn’t know what my family’s home would look like, what every-day tasks they would ask me to help with, what the food would be like. I knew what past students had said about the homestays. I knew they had raved about them, even asked if more could be squeezed into our schedules. I still went into my first homestay a nervous wreck, thinking I would be miserable. Boy, was I wrong! Spending a day with families from these two tribes taught me something very important: even though they live differently than me and my family, face different challenges than we do, they are not very different. They loved to play, and laugh, and learn, and help one another, just like my family does.  Although they were challenging, these experiences were also some of the most rewarding I’ve ever had.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.

Another seemingly impossible question! Pretty much every memory I have from this semester is the best. Some highlights, though, were the two week-long expeditions in Lake Nakuru and Serengeti National Parks. Taking day-long game drives in the vast Serengeti, never seeing the same spot twice, and exploring every corner of the small, fenced-in Lake Nakuru National Park are just a few of the memories that will be with me forever.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.

Fulfilled. Ready. Grateful.