What did you like most about the SFS experience?
I really loved exploring a new country academically and culturally. We learned a lot in class about Tanzania but the real learning, I think, came when we were out in the community doing interviews, exploring the national parks, participating in cultural experiences like the homestay and the Maasai cultural boma, and doing field research. We got to experience what life is like for the people in the area and it was very humbling.
You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
My first impression of this country was that it was beautiful and now I have found that “karibu,” or welcome, is the essence of Tanzania. When we first got here people welcomed us to the country, and then we were welcomed to Rhotia, and then we were welcomed into dukas, and shops, and homes, and we were always welcome again. The friendliness and over all hospitality of Tanzania is just incredible.
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 station feels a lot like summer camp. The best things about living at camp are being near enough to the small town of Rhotia to make frequent visits, and since we are in the highlands the weather stays nice and cool and the scenery is incredible. The hardest thing about it, though, is those consecutive days when you’re stuck in camp doing work. I know I went a little stir crazy, but it was always nice to go into Rhotia for a bit to get a rest from camp.
What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
The biggest academic challenge for me was our Directed Research fieldwork and subsequent paper. I’ve never done fieldwork before and hardly ever had to write a research paper so it was a difficult but needed learning curve. The biggest cultural challenge is having everyone stare at you almost all the time. Another challenge is salesmen’s persistence in trying to get you to buy things from their shop. It is very different than in the states when you are left alone the entire time. Speaking of salesman, haggling was also really hard for me. I am absolutely useless at haggling.
What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
There are too many good memories to count! I think my favorite memories are those times after hikes or doing Directed Research fieldwork when you’re finally on the top of a mountain (because somehow we were always climbing mountains no matter what we did) and this amazing patchwork of land is laid out before you like a painting and it feels like it’s just for you. No picture can ever capture some of the things I’ve seen.
Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
There are too many emotions and too many feelings this experience has given me to be summed up in merely three words. So I will just say that this trip has shown me many things; I have learned about this amazing country but it has also forced me to learn a lot about myself, and I am eternally grateful for the privilege of being here.