At the beginning of the spring semester, we asked student Michelle Zhou about her first impressions of Tanzania. Now, as the semester comes to a close, she shared her thoughts with us again.
What did you like most about the SFS experience?
I love how we could interact with the local community and work together to provide these communities with better knowledge of environmental issues. Learning about wildlife was something I was looking forward to in the program, but I think learning the effects of tourism on wildlife and on the community was a new and interesting perspective on conservation.
You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
Tanzania is an amazing country with a very different culture than that of the United States. I think it’s important to learn about the different cultures around the world. Getting to interact with our genuine and friendly neighbors in Rhotia has made this place feel more like home.
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 is amazing! The students and staff act as one family and we all work together to make camp and the community enjoyable. The best part about living in a remote field station is separating ourselves from a society that often revolves around technology. I have come to know and utilize so many more practical and ecologically beneficial ways to perform simple, daily tasks. However, this can also be a challenge, as this means an adjustment from the lifestyle I am used to back home.
What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
Academically, our recent directed research project was at times challenging because there were many obstacles that needed to be resolved. But this experience was also one of the most rewarding. Culturally, the biggest challenge was arriving and leaving. I feel like change is always difficult, and after living here and being so immersed in the culture, it feels as if I’m leaving my home.
What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
Picking one memory is hard when everyday seems like a highlight—but some of the best memories I have had from this semester were the interactions I have had with the local staff at our camp. The laughs and conversations shared over chai and “cardi moja” (a Tanzanian card game) are some of my most fond memories. Even going into town was an adventure itself, and I always felt a sense of accomplishment after being able to converse in Swahili with a local resident.
Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Motivated, inspired, grateful