Posted: September 19, 2017

As the Fall 2017 SFS students begin to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Michelle Latzer had this to say about SFS Tanzania:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
When I decided to study abroad, I knew it was supposed to be a once a lifetime opportunity. I firmly believe that should be the description of all SFS programs. Not only would I have the ability to completely immerse myself in a foreign culture, I would also learn valuable research techniques and strategies that could be applied to my career in the future. It was definitely an easy decision to make.

What are your first impressions of the country?
I was absolutely amazed by the beautiful landscape of Tanzania. All of the National Geographic articles and pictures couldn’t compare to the beauty of the mountains and landscapes Tanzania has to offer. I was also astounded by the beautiful patterns and colors seen all over Arusha when we first arrived. I was impressed with the skills women had running their daily errands and the discipline of the children and men herding livestock along the roads waving to us as our cars drove by. I knew I was going to learn a lot right from the moment I saw the interactions of others around me.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
The field station has elements of a fun summer camp and a warm community home. Right away we were greeted by a long line of smiling staff eager for our arrival. The warm gestures and jokes made put me at ease right away. I was very surprised to see that Moyo Hill Camp is right smack dab in the middle of Rhotia village. It was quickly apparent that we were as immersed as one could get while visiting Tanzania. The facility is colorful and filled with beautiful artwork made by past students and has many open spaces for one to study outside. I immediately felt at home and could tell that it was a well loved station by many.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
I believe the biggest challenge for me will be learning Swahili. However, I am very glad that this is the most challenging aspect of the experience. Everyone around camp, as well as in Rhotia and other communities around the area are quite helpful and help us practice every day. Even the children we play soccer with have been helping me learn phrases and practice my vocabulary whenever we see each other. The staff also works with us all the time on our Swahili, so although I am nervous, I am also confident that there are enough resources here to help me succeed. Culturally the only other challenge I foresee is understanding the role women play here. It is quite different than how I was raised, however, it is also vital to the family dynamic and I know I will have a lot more to learn before I come to any conclusions. Thankfully we have a homestay coming up where I will see first hand how this dynamic works with my own eyes.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am very much looking forward to the expeditions we have coming up in September and October. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like to actually be camping out in the homes of animals I have grown up dreaming about seeing. Seeing lions or hopefully even a cheetah or leopard would actually be a dream come true. Especially after learning more about these species in our classes will make me grasp the gravity of my experience so much more, as well as sharing the moments with students who will appreciate it just as much as I do.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Thankful, open-minded, zealous

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