First Impressions of SFS Tanzania

Posted: September 8, 2014

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I always knew I wanted to study abroad, and knew that I was not really interested in a semester abroad that felt more like a vacation.  The programs offered by SFS (speaking especially for this one) are more of educational adventures.  Not only is this a great life experience, but I also get the opportunity to further my education. I get to go on great excursions, stay at a base camp, and really experience life in Tanzania. On top of all that, I get the opportunity to meet students of diverse backgrounds and engage in community life and community service, which encompass the perfect study abroad opportunity for me.

What are you first impressions of the country?
I was extremely overwhelmed at first, mostly with excitement to experience it all. There is a definite contrast between Tanzania and home, but at the heart of it all, I have noticed such a welcoming spirit. Our first day we spent in town (Rhotia), even though we totally looked like tourists and knew zero Swahili, the welcoming nature of the townspeople was stunning. If you get lost people always point you in the right direction, and you cannot walk by anyone without a simple greeting at the least. Most heartwarming of all are the children, running up to say hello, or hold your hand. It’s these kinds of interactions that become less and less common stateside. Even the staff at Moyo Hill, our camp, are so friendly and interested in getting to know us. I think it goes without saying that I will be living without the luxuries of home, but there are some things that money cannot buy, and I am excited to integrate myself more into Tanzanian life and culture.

What are you first impressions of the field station?
I had no idea what to expect in terms of the field station, in my head I was almost imagining bare minimums. Coming through the gate the first day at Moyo was so amazing. It is honestly a beautiful campus. The bandas where we live are a little tight of a fit, but pretty comfortable at the end of a long day. There are so many great places to hang out, my favorites being the fire pit and the gazebo (from which I am currently writing). In addition to this, having my academic classroom for the semester be a 2 minute walk from home is super convenient. The staff here are excellent and friendly, and I am appreciative that we are given the opportunity to help out with cooking and other chores around the field station.  It teaches you a sense of appreciation and community that helps bring all the students, staff, and faculty together.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Honestly, I am looking forward to a few challenges along the way this semester. Smooth sailing sounds a little too boring to me. Academically, the biggest challenge I can foresee is accurately designating time for work and time for play. There is always so much stuff to do around the field station and town that I will have to work hard to accomplish the work I want to as well as go out and have fun playing soccer, or hiking up Moyo Hill or any of the other fun activities going on.

Looking from a cultural sense, the biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge of Swahili. I love learning about other cultures, so I have no problem integrating into Tanzanian life, the problem is learning the language. We have a class helping to teach us, but we are thrown into the language as we are learning. There are a few awkward interactions and misunderstandings, but as the classes progress I hope that the language barrier will slowly disappear and be replaced by genuine and meaningful relationships with the people in and around our field station.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
There are so many experiences I am looking forward to.  I am really excited to learn more language and spend more time in the cities. I cannot wait to do community service and overnight stays, but obviously very excited for our overnight stays in some of the large national parks of Tanzania including Serengeti National Park.  There is so much wildlife to see, and so many experiences to look forward to. I am not sure what is going to happen, but I know that I am going to have an extremely exciting semester.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Hyped, Overwhelmed, Humbled