As the Fall 2019 semester comes to a close, we asked some of our students to reflect on their experience abroad. Here’s what Kayleigh Limbach had to say about SFS Tanzania:
What’s the first story you’re going to tell your friends and family?
Probably how exciting our first expedition was; what it was like when we arrived at Lake Manyara National Park, simultaneously filled with expectations and not knowing what we were going to see at all. I could tell how thrilled everyone was when we popped open the roofs to our cars for the first time, and I’ll always remember how we all were smiling when we drove in standing up. Everyone was so stoked to spot animals, and there was a quiet intensity every time an elephant passed by us, or we stopped for a while to watch a group of baboons or zebras. Seeing all those wild animals for the first time with my own eyes is an unforgettable experience, and that’s the first thing I’ll tell my friends and family.
Expectations vs reality: What were you surprised by?
I was surprised by just how much we got to do in Tanzania (and in our visit to Kenya!). So many treasured national parks, incredible cultural visits, and many more meaningful experiences I got to have with my new group of friends. I was surprised by the fact that in a semester we got to visit so many people dream their whole lives of visiting. And, I was surprised by how amazing our directed research experience was; very few people get to be the first scientist to conduct a study in an area, or even help discover a new species! It was very unexpected how much we had the chance to do in just three months.
How has your perspective of the country changed over the course of the semester?
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Tanzania before arriving. But, I had the perception that conservation in East Africa was a people vs. government kind of issue: that the government created national parks, and that people didn’t care about conservation and poaching happened frequently. Throughout my semester here, I learned that Tanzania protects lands and animals in so many ways, and many of these methods try to incorporate benefits for the local people. And, plenty of Tanzanians care about conservation and climate change, even if they don’t understand it fully.
What unexpected challenge did you face, were you able to overcome it, and what did you learn from that experience?
I was very lucky to not experience too many personal challenges here, but the most difficult thing I did was deal with my FOMO (fear of missing out). At the beginning of the semester, I tried to spend lots of time with a lot of people, and do lots of things, because I was worried I wouldn’t make the most of my three months here. I overcame this by realizing that three months is both a very short and very long time, and I had countless chances to have incredible experiences with my classmates and in nature. I learned to live day by day here, and taking things as they come was the best way to do as much as I could here.
How have aspects of your identity influenced your experience studying with SFS? Did any of those surprise you? Has your experience with SFS influenced your identity?
Studying abroad in Tanzania has helped me realize how little I need to be happy. I lived here with very little clothes and just the essential supplies, and I have been happier here than I have been in a lot of other places in my life. Going forward, I think I will try to be less material, and try to enjoy experiences more than I enjoy things.
What are you most excited about doing when you get back home, and what will you miss about SFS?
I’m definitely excited about the food when I get back home, and to spend lots of time with my friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long time. But, I’ll always miss the people I met at SFS: the students and the staff. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to go to so many beautiful places and to conduct research with an amazing group of people.
What piece of advice would you share with a future SFS student coming to your program?
In group settings, people will always wait to commit to an activity or plan until a large enough group of people is going. I encourage future students to independently choose what they want to do with their time abroad, and to go and do it.
What three adjectives best describe how you are feeling right now?
Bittersweet, grateful, and excited!