There is something that bonds you with others when you have an experience that is so beyond anything that you have seen before.
More than anything, you are going to miss the people. The SFS Kenya staff, the locals you meet, and your peers are going to have such a big impact on you, no matter how long you are here. There is something that bonds you with others when you have an experience that is so beyond anything that you have seen before. You might think seeing a cheetah or a zebra that you could possibly reach out and touch will be what changes your life, but in all honesty it’s who you meet. It is going to be hearing all about Okello’s experiences in Idaho and Kiringe’s Lion story (seriously you should ask about it). Sitting around the campfire in Tsavo West National Park telling ghost stories and talking about life was absolutely one of my favorite moments (also singing ‘Circle of Life’ in our Land Rover driving through Chyulu hills was a moment I’ll never forget).
Students in Tsavo West National Park. (Photo: Moses Okello).
Kenya is a beautiful, wonderful place and it is going to exceed all of your expectations, but more than that, you are going to learn so much. I cannot emphasize it enough–any question you have, ask. Even if you think it’s silly or you have no idea how your inquiry might be answered. When we left a traditional Maasai Boma and I realized I still had questions, one of our professors, Richard, helped me answer every single one. This is not a singular experience (and note the question asking goes both ways!), so when it comes to curiosity, have so much it overflows your cup of joy. You might be wondering what it means to overflow your cup of joy, but that’s a secret you will have to learn once you get here.
Zebras photographed during a field exercise in Kimana Community Conservation. (Photo: Lauren Beasley).
On that note, to close out my recap of my experience in Kenya, I want to let you know that I am not a STEM major. I had never taken an environmental science course before, and I think more than half of the 20 students in our cohort had never been camping. Regardless of these things, we all had a phenomenal time. If you have worries about being a fish out of water, here is some unexpected advice to ease your mind! First, you absolutely need long socks, because the bugs are no joke! Always try the goat roast. Never, ever let your mosquito net stay untucked. Take lots of pictures, and then when you think you have taken enough, take some more. Baby wipes are your best friend, and if you haven’t invested in a great hat, I would say add it to your list. Learn as much Swahili as you can and write it all down! Practice with the staff, because they have been happy to help. Take photos of the meals so that you can remember all of the wonderful food that you have consumed. Deep talks with your roommates are always fun, but we have early wake up calls (even earlier for cook crew) so make sure you get your sleep in. Bring some books because we passed them around amongst one other when we finished them and there are some very long car rides. And finally, bring some peanut M&M’s to make trades with Okello (and all your favorite snacks).
Students standing on the platform at camp. (Photo: Jose Anello).
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Kenya Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.