As the Summer 2019 SFS students began to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Kaileen Mayoh had this to say about SFS Kenya:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
When I decided to study abroad, I was overwhelmed with programs to choose from. I knew that I wanted a program that had a combination of cultural emersion along with rigorous academics that was going to challenge me in my studies. Since I am a student of the environmental sciences, I also wanted a program that would take me to a place that I could learn hands-on in the field. After talking to some of my fellow students that had attended and spoke very highly of SFS programs and doing some research with my counselor, I decided that SFS was the perfect combination all the attributes I had been searching for.

What are your first impressions of the country?
Prior to coming to Kenya, I had never been to Africa before. I had seen pictures and taken classes on the history, but nothing could prepare me for what it really is like. Physically, the beauty here is indescribable. From the massive quantities of acacia thorns to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, everything here exists in such a naturally beautiful way. The people here are also quite amazing. Everybody that we meet are so excited to help teach us Swahili and answer any questions we may have. I am grateful to spend the next month in a country that is so gorgeous, kind and welcoming to my fellow students and I.

What are your first impressions of the Center?
On my first day arriving at the Center, I got out of the truck and was immediately greeted by all of the Center staff. Everyone was visibly excited to meet my fellow students and I, which made me feel very welcome. After meeting all of the staff, we had a chance to take a tour of the Center, and it is hard to describe how beautiful it is. All of the buildings are made using materials native to the area, and every day I wake up and am surrounded by native plants and wildlife. On my second day, the sun came out, the clouds opened up and revealed our view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The surroundings and the people can be described as nothing short of beautiful.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
I think the biggest challenge for me academically will be learning how to properly use field-work to my advantage. Field-work is especially important in the environmental sciences because most everything we want to know more about is in the field. Interpreting the things I am seeing in the environment and making conclusions based on those observations is something I don’t get much practice with so it will be a challenge, but one that I am excited to take on. Culturally, I will be living in a culture completely different than my own for an extended period of time, so there will probably be things I do not understand fully which could become frustrating. It is important however, to take this amazing opportunity to turn this frustration into a desire to learn more and attempt to understand.

What are you looking forward to the most about the program?
The thing that I am looking forward to most this semester is getting out of my comfort zone. Academically, I have become used to the traditional classroom setting back home. I am thrilled to figure out the best way to observe and interact with the things that I am studying, so I can take the things that I have learned back to my home institution. Culturally, I have only ever been outside the United States a couple times, which makes it extremely exciting to fully emerse myself into a completely different culture and lifestyle and attempt to understand it better.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Excited, Anticipating, Awestruck

→ Primates of the African Savanna in Kenya*