When someone begins their journey of applying and preparing for study abroad, there are many things that study abroad advisors tell you. They tell you what to pack in your bags, what classes you are going to take, and the paperwork you have to fill out. Alternatively, when planning for studying abroad in Kenya, there were many things that they couldn’t have prepared me for. No one could have told me that I would be holding hands with and making beaded bracelets with Maasai women whose language I only knew five words of. No one could have prepared me for sitting around a fire that is roasting a freshly slaughtered goat after watching a cultural dance performance, with students who have somehow become some of the most important people I know, in only four short weeks. No single slide show presentation could have prepared me for standing in a safari vehicle watching a wild lion groom himself ten feet away.
To try and understand what it is like being a student at SFS Kenya, step into my shoes for a day. You wake up early in the morning to a rooster crowing, songbirds singing, and the sun rising behind the Acacia trees. You walk a couple of feet away and brush your teeth with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro. You then have breakfast and start your day with either a class in the open air Chumba or a field lecture given in a Maasai boma 15 minutes away. You’re back in time for lunch. In the two hour break before the last class of the day, you lay out in your hammock, feel the cool breeze, and watch the Vervet monkeys playing in the trees. Finally, you finish your last class, play some volleyball with your professors, or set out to town to visit the market. There, you meet Mamas selling beads, practice your Swahili, and buy some snacks from the supermarket. Your evening winds down with dinner, a discussion, a presentation from a fellow student on something that interests them, and then free time to sit around a fire, watch a movie, or play some cards. Finally, you fall asleep to the sounds of owls, crickets, and frogs, just to wake up and do it all over again.
Nothing could have prepared me for all of the things I have experienced in these four weeks, but I sure can’t wait to be caught unprepared again and again in the next 11 weeks.