Study Abroad in Kenya was enriching, intellectually stimulating, and difficult Past Review

By (Gender Studies/ Economics, Wellesley College) for

SIT Study Abroad: Kenya - Global Health and Human Rights

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was worthwhile in ways that I cannot fully describe, probably ever. Choosing to study abroad in a developing country is a decision that is courageous, I think. Going somewhere that reveals your status as an upper-upper-class WORLD citizen (as opposed to your status as an American citizen) forces you to rethink global inequality, and the way that inequality and global social constructions of race and color affect people's lives. Sometimes that process of rethinking is painful and intellectually difficult, but I would rather have that difficult and painful process than not travel to developing countries. My awareness of East African and global cultural issues and the difference in politics and economics internationally has been raised substantially.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+
The term and year this program took place: Spring 2010

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The point of SIT is not to be comparable with the academics offered at small liberal arts colleges, which is what I am used to, but to be an experiential learning experience. Therefore, my responses to academics above are honest in that they compare academics at my home college to SIT academics, but the cultural and educational experiences I had in Kenya were enriching, intellectually stimulating, and difficult, in many ways that academics at my home college could never be. The workload was less in Kenya, but I had home-stay experiences to reflect on, and I put a substantial amount of energy into speaking a foreign language.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All administrators were highly available, willing to help, conversant in local logistical needs, and aware of problems American students encounter while in Kenya.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a home-stay family in Nairobi, in Fort Jesus. My housing was challenging at time; there sometimes was not electricity or running water, and the space was small and cramped and there were a lot of people living in a space that seemed to me too small for that many people. Despite difficulties, this was the most enriching part of my study abroad experience. <br /><br /> My housing was arranged for me. I felt relatively safe in my neighborhood, although I couldn't go outside after dark. The aesthetics and spatial relations were different than what I am used to, but that experience made my home-stay family time the most educational and interesting time on my program. I walked about 25 minutes to class each morning, and was far from nightlife. My home-stay family treated me as a daughter and sister, and provided me with everything I needed to live there.

* Food:

One doesn't generally travel to East Africa because the food is amazing, but the food is an important part of the cultural experience. I ended up enjoying the food quite a bit.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

SIT does a fantastic job of integrating you into local communities, and showing you things you wouldn't otherwise see.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Although Nairobi and other parts of Kenya due present some threats to health and safety, the program did a great job of keeping us safe and healthy, and empowering us to take care of ourselves.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent very little money on food, etc. during the week because most things were provided to me either by my home-stay family or by the program, out of money that I had already paid in admission fees. Approximately $10/ week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Visa to another country for a program excursion was expensive.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? none
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I did not take any language classes before departure; I started classes once I arrived in Kenya. Studying Kiswahili is the most substantial part of this program, and it is endlessly helpful in distinguishing yourself from being a tourist, and identifying yourself as a student and researcher. I practiced the language with my home-stay families; in all instances, there were people who spoke English, but sometimes I encountered people who didn't know Englihs.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This study abroad program can be difficult; often you are staying in accommodations that are slightly uncomfortable, and seeing and experiencing things that force you to question your place in the world and its economic and cultural structure. Traveling in East Africa can be a difficult as a white person; you are often cat-called, stared at, or talked to by random strangers. Despite difficulties, though, I highly recommend this program. The things I saw and learned during my time in Kenya have changed who I am and how I conceive of my future. Getting through difficult times and learning about local culture, politics, and economics in the process is enriching. East Africa and Kenya specifically are great places to study abroad; people are overly welcoming and kind, and have much love for American students.