Today, students Emma Dombrow and Conner McCarthy gave us their top 5 reasons to study abroad in Kenya!
1. Proximity to Wildlife
The number one reason we decided to study abroad in Kimana, Kenya was the proximity we have to the amazing wildlife and nature here. So far, we’ve been on one major expedition, where we went to Amboseli National Park and saw wildlife every day. Each of the four days we were there, after classes, we would go on game drives for a few hours, where we saw the most incredible wildlife, scenic landscapes, and natural wonders. From a family of elephants crossing a dusty road at sunset, to a cackle of hyenas returning to their den for the night; from flamingo wading in the shallow waters to hippos emerging from the waters as dusk quickly approached – the large mammals were stunning, the birds were breathtaking and the landscapes left us speechless. From the game drives, we would return to our campsite inside the park, enjoy the delicious dinners, and play games and sing songs around the campfire. We’ve only just begun our time here, but our time spent in Amboseli alone has made this program unforgettable.
2. Uniqueness of Maasai Culture
The SFS Kenya center is located within the former Kimana Group Ranch. The surrounding areas are home to Maasai communities, which we get the privilege of interacting with. We have gotten the chance to visit several different Maasai homes, known as bomas, which gave us insights into a unique and beautiful culture. We have gotten the opportunity to participate in traditional dances, be greeted by songs, and study the important traditional aspects of their culture, including their knowledge of the environment. For one of our recent field lectures, we were given the opportunity to interview various community members on their natural resource usage, interactions with wildlife, and views on tourism. This was such an amazing opportunity because it allowed us to more fully understand complex environmental issues in an area where communities have vast knowledge of the natural landscape.
3. Learning about Community Interactions with the Ecosystems
One of the coolest parts about this program is all that we get to learn from the community here. Our classes help facilitate a learning that helps us understand the importance of local community’s role in conservation, resource use, and sustainable living. In addition, we have learned about community members’ attitudes toward land use and tourism, including the conflicts they face by living so close to wildlife. These are the people who live here and experience both the wonders and hardships that this land offers; the Maasai community especially, a community that has lived sustainably alongside the landscape, wildlife and natural resources for centuries, can teach us so much about sustainability. As we take classes such as Natural Resource Management and Human Dimensions of Conservation, we are learning the importance of including both local concerns in important, science-based policy decisions and the indigenous knowledge that the community has to offer on Kenya’s journey to coexist peacefully with the wildlife and natural resources.
4. A Welcoming Environment
Another reason to study abroad in Kenya is the friendly staff that work here on campus. When we first arrived, we were greeted with a line of smiling staff members who were very eager to welcome us to our new home. That moment has been reflective of the overall atmosphere and kindness of each individual that works here. From helping us improve our Swahili skills by patiently repeating the Swahili words when we have difficulty remembering them, to playing volleyball games with us at night, they have made each one of us students feel completely welcomed. Whenever we need help with little things such as building a fire to hang out around after a day of classes, there is always a staff member more than willing to help us out. Additionally, the professors here are not only very kind-hearted and dedicated to our learning, but they also are extremely knowledgeable in their fields. We have already learned a vast amount of information about relevant topics, such as climate change impacts and natural resource usage, in the short amount of time we have been here.
5. Group Games
Something that was very unexpected for this program, but has come to be one of our favorite parts, has been our fun times and activities together as a group. Sometimes we’ll organize movie nights, or board game nights for whoever wants to join, and it has turned into a great environment to kick back, relax, and bond with each other. We play Bananagrams and Codenames and all these great card games. Sometimes after class too, we’ll gather with some of the staff and faculty to play a game of volleyball or soccer, which is a great chance to bond with the staff as well as the students. The general atmosphere created by the campus has helped us to spend a lot of time together and grow as a tight-knit group. All-in-all, this Kenya program has provided a great atmosphere for us to connect – with each other, the community around us, and the wildlife that dominates the beautiful backdrop of this diverse ecosystem.