It’s hard to believe how fast this semester has flown by. It feels like just a few days ago that I was finding my way through the Nairobi airport, looking for any sign of SFS. The semester has been the gift of a lifetime, and I truly mean that. I think my favorite thing about the experience was learning about people. That may sound funny coming from a science major, but this semester made me think hard about relationships and connections between people everywhere. My neighbors in both Tanzania and Kenya were the most welcoming and friendly people I have ever met. I discovered that even with a massive language barrier, the same thoughts and emotions can be communicated. This is truly special. We’re not quite as different as you may think.
After spending the semester in East Africa, I can tell you that these countries and the people who live here exceeded my expectations. To start, the landscape is breathtaking. In Kenya, the barren desert is beautiful in an empty, vast, and impressive sense. In Tanzania, the green, lush mountains sprinkled with farms made me fall in love. I also now have a sense of how hard the people work. Yet to me they always seem positive and upbeat, no matter what troubles they face.
Life at the field station also exceeded my expectations. The staff and other students become family. We ate more than 200 meals together throughout the semester as well as spent every day side by side. You start to know a person from every angle, which is something rare that I will always cherish. It’s a pretty easy life overall. I spent more than a few hours lounging in my hammock during our free time. However, I think the best part is how close you become with your new family. In Kenya, the lack of an internet connection was fantastic. We were able to be totally present during our time there. The most challenging part of living at camp might be the lack of personal space, but it’s not too bad because you know that you’ll get it back eventually.
My biggest challenge academically was definitely Directed Research. It took a lot of strength to work on the same project for such a long time. There were long days when I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep working, but in the end, it was a very rewarding experience. My biggest challenge culturally was definitely going to market. I felt very overwhelmed by the Maasai mamas and salesmen following us around, grabbing us, and shouting prices at us. However, it made me a very good bargainer and always ended up being fun.
I definitely can’t pick out a favorite memory from the experience. Any time spent dancing and singing with others, any hikes, any scenic walks, any game drives on expedition, they all qualify as favorite memories. When it hit me that I was going to have my last dinner at camp, for the first time I felt pretty sad. However, I am extremely excited to travel with my mom after the program, sentimental about leaving these wonderful people, and proud of the incredible semester we’ve had together.
I think the best way to leave the semester is with this quote in mind:
“You were born in America, but you were not born for America. You were born for the world.”
— Moses Okello