Final Impressions of SFS Kenya & Tanzania

Posted: May 13, 2014

What did you like most about the SFS experience?
Everything. I’m in East Africa, shooing baboons with my slingshot every morning, waving to the Maasai children on my run, pulling Acacia thorns out of my shoes, and eating lunch on the balcony of a local restaurant with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. I don’t think that there’s one aspect of the program I liked more than the others because everything goes together and fits.

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?
Essentially, the field station is like one big summer camp with homework. You get to see your friends every minute of every day, which is the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of the field station. It’s truly incredible how much we have all experienced together, from seeing the magnificent wildlife and landscapes to trying to figure out simple things like how to team up and bargain for the best deals. It can also be the most challenging though, because it’s difficult to get your own space and have some real free time when everyone is always around. Even so, it was definitely worth living at the field station. We have all become so close because of the things that we experienced together, and we’ve also been able to bond with the staff that truly made our time here amazing.

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester, both academically and culturally?
Academically, it was just as I expected, and that was simply doing homework and studying. East Africa is such a vast, beautiful place that it’s hard to actually sit down and focus when you could be out exploring or even just simply basking in the warm sun.

Culturally, I think it was adapting to the small tendencies of the culture. It’s difficult to switch between the more open-minded, fast-paced American culture to the conservative East African culture. It was the small things, like talking too loud, being frustrated with how long it takes to get our food at local restaurants, or having to wear skirts in the extremely hot weather. It’s hard to change habitats, but I think that it was really great for me to see how the people of East Africa really live. It also opened my eyes to things that we may consider normal in the U.S., but is not acceptable for the rest of the world. Luckily, the adjustment wasn’t very difficult once we understood the small rules of life here.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
Well…how can you sum up an entire semester and only pick a few memories? It’s difficult, because I have made so many incredible memories here that I will cherish throughout the rest of my life. Definitely one of the main highlights was our expedition to Serengeti. Never in my life have I been in a place so large and where you could see so far. It made me feel so small, but it was absolutely incredible. It’s difficult to describe, but when we just simply drove around and looked at the scenery, I was awestruck. It just showed me that nature was here before humans, and it will prevail long after we are gone. That being said, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the spirit of the wilderness because it’s often lost in our fast-paced culture.

Other highlights included reading to the kids in Tanzania, star gazing in Lake Nakuru National Park, getting the jeeps stuck on multiple occasions, doing field work next to zebras and giraffes, almost stepping on poisonous snakes, and the birthday celebrations that the staff threw for us. The thing I will remember the most though is the people and the relationships that I have made here are some that I will cherish forever. It breaks my heart to realize that tomorrow, we have to say goodbye again to our staff and not only that, but to our fellow students as we all head back to different parts of the U.S. When you have become so close, it’s hard to imagine going back to reality in America without these people at your side. When the pictures fade, and my memory starts to wear out, it’s the people that I will always remember from my time in East Africa.

Give three adjectives that best describe how you feel right now.
Blessed, heartbroken, inspired