Posted: July 31, 2017

Mambo! These past few weeks in Rhotia, Tanzania have flown by with the blink of an eye. There’s a simultaneous feeling that we’ve been here forever, and that we’ve just arrived—how could we be getting ready to take our final exams and leave already?

Looking back on my time here, the overarching feeling has been gratitude, or ushukuru. During our nightly reflection, as we wind our way around the dinner table and share the highlights of our day, not a single day has passed without an outpouring of the gratitude we all feel for this unbelievable opportunity. For me, there are so many aspects to feel gratitude for, but let me start with—

Gratitude for the opportunity to learn from such knowledgeable and experienced professors, who approach complex issues in a multifaceted manner and engage with the many different perspectives involved in wildlife conservation. The emphasis on community-based conservation is refreshing and reassuring in the possibility that wildlife and developing, rural populations can coexist in a symbiotic, not antagonistic manner.

Gratitude that in addition to conservation, we are also immersing ourselves in the equally fascinating culture of the surrounding region. During our homestay, where local households graciously volunteered to host pairs of SFS students for a day, we were able to experience a typical day in the life of a Rhotia villager. My host family was so kind, warm, and welcoming, opening up their home and lives to our curious eyes for a day.

Gratitude for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Serengeti plains I’d only ever seen in my dreams or on screen. I don’t believe anything can truly capture the vastness, flatness, or endlessness of the golden plains of grass stretching beyond the horizon, no matter which direction you gaze. The first night of our expedition, I was nearly moved to tears when we witnessed our first Serengeti sunset from the roofless land cruiser, the wind buffeting my hair as we flew through impossible shades of pink, purple, and orange in the sky.

Gratitude for the staff of Moyo Hill camp who always greet me in the morning, yawning and nearly sleepwalking, with a bright smile and habari ya asubuhi? (how is your morning?). I’m amazed by how tirelessly they work to facilitate the best experience for us here, and they are always encouraging as I stumble through my rudimentary Swahili from class. Their radiant presence has been a surprising and serendipitous aspect of this experience, transforming our camp into a home.

Gratitude for all the other SFS students who have bonded together as a community through our incredible experiences and united in our love for the environment and conservation. The combination of kindness, passion, enthusiasm, and care has been truly inspiring to me.

This experience has surpassed my wildest expectations in every way. I imagine it will take weeks to sort through the melting pot of emotions I feel, but surely, above all else, ushukuru as vast as the Serengeti plains has permeated every second of my time here.

→ Wildlife Management Studies in Tanzania