At the beginning of the spring semester, we asked student Makenna Kull about her first impressions of Kenya. Now, as the semester comes to a close, she shared her thoughts with us again.
What did you like most about the SFS experience?
My favorite part about SFS was getting to experience a country beyond those of a traditional tourist or study abroad student. When traveling, I don’t often get to venture outside of the confines of tours or hostels. Through the SFS program we had frequent interaction with community members. We were a part of the rural Kenyan lifestyle, something I would have never been able to do otherwise. SFS also allowed me to explore a region of the world not well populated with study abroad students, which was very unique.
You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
Kenya, and the Kimana area, has such beautiful landscape and amazing culture. The people are so generous and welcoming. I loved getting the opportunity to explore and become a part of the nearest community. Furthermore, the national parks in Kenya are unparalleled. They offered a serenity from our rigorous class schedule and allowed us to see incredible wildlife.
What is life at the Center really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts?
Living at Kilimanjaro Bush Camp for the past few months has been an absolute pleasure. The staff is extraordinarily helpful, generous, and friendly. Our Student Affairs Manager has been a vital part of the experience as she ensures that we always know the schedule and are getting the most out of our time abroad. The camp itself is simple and yet very stunning. From washing laundry next to Mt. Kilimanjaro to playing soccer at sunset, the beauty of the camp is never lost on me. The most challenging part about living at the center is being isolated from the nearest town. Though it has been difficult, SFS has worked with us to make sure that these challenges are resolved. I am sad to leave my second home and cannot wait until I get the opportunity to come back.
What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
Academically, the program actually ended up being a lot more rigorous than I had originally anticipated. We attended classes or field lectures 6 days a week for a majority of the day. Even though these experiences were amazing, they differed significantly from the traditional classroom setting and were often much more exhausting. SFS did a good job, however, of recognizing how exhausting these experiences were and altering our schedule to make sure that we had enough free time and off days. These times were a lot of fun and ended up being a great stress reliever.
Due to the nature of the program, I felt that adjusting to Kenyan culture was fairly easy. The staff, and the Student Affairs Manager in particular, were helpful on informing us about Kenyan values and lifestyle. The hardest part was being obviously different from community members based on my ethnicity. People within the communities often stared at us and asked us questions. Though most people ended up being extremely nice and were just curious, this was definitely something we had to adjust to.
What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
My favorite memories from the semester were those when my friends and I were together after a long day of work, playing board games and laughing in the chumba. It was in these moments where I felt most at home and really a part of something special. Though experiences such as driving through national parks or interacting with the Maasai were both extraordinarily special, it was these simple, unexpected moments that defined my time here at Kilimanjaro Bush Camp. I would not have had such an incredible experience had I not been able to live it with all of my wonderful new family.
Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Educated; Before coming to Kenya, I feel like I had a lot of misconceptions about East African culture and lifestyle. I am enthusiastic to go home and teach my family and peers what I have learned here and even more excited to come back and learn more!
Nostalgic; I am preemptively nostalgic for my Kenyan lifestyle and family. I am going to sincerely miss everyone that I met here. I am a different person than I was than when I left the states. Not only do I feel like I have a better understanding of cultural perspectives, etc. but also of myself and my personality. I feel like I matured significantly in this environment. I already cannot wait to reconnect with everyone who has been such a prominent influencer on my life these past months.
Excited; Though I am sad to leave this beautiful country and my new family, I am excited to head back to the States and utilize my new skills to help further my career, meet new people, and plan new adventures. I will forever remember my time here in Kenya and I am thrilled to start the next leg of my life.