Rwanda: challenging, emotional, in-depth understanding of the political environment Past Review

By (Political Science/International Relations, Carleton College) for

SIT Study Abroad: Rwanda - Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I would have never been able to learn the things that I did about Rwanda had I not been studying in the country. I have such a good understanding of the country, and it has prompted me to continue to study this very complicated and interesting region. I now have a better idea of what I would like my comps to be.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was definitely not as much as a normal term at Carleton. However, as I said before, the program was challenging in other ways besides academically, and overall this contributed to an enriching experience. Class was always discussion based, and this was comparable to Carleton.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Academically, I felt stimulated and very engaged with the subject matter. The Academic Director facilitated discussions well and was very knowledgeable. The program staff was very supportive and never failed to answer my questions or help me when I needed it.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For the first part of the program I was in a host family. My situation was unique because I had to switch families about two weeks into the program. I was fine with the amenities provided in this house, except that the bathroom was in the parents' room and there was no door, so I felt kind of uncomfortable. I was also required to buy a towel. My second family was fantastic and I was very comfortable there. Besides their isolated location on a hill, I felt very safe. In both families I was treated as a family member.

* Food:

I am a vegetarian and I had no trouble finding food in Rwanda. Food was relatively cheap and always delicious.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

All of the site visits

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

The program staff was very supportive if any of these issues ever arose. I needed vaccines for the program, but there was nobody who got seriously sick during the 4 months.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If students bring cash to exchange when they arrive in the country, they need to bring bills that were issued after 2008 in order to get a good exchange rate or even be accepted. Also, bring large bills ($50 or $100). If using debit cards to withdraw money, Visa is the most widely accepted.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
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? Nothing
Language acquisition improvement?

We practiced in class, on the streets (negotiating prices, restaurants, markets, transportation), and with our host families. Most people did not speak English, however, I found myself speaking much more French than Kinyarwanda.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • My peers
  • Creating lasting relationships with Rwandans
  • The experiential learning model
* What could be improved?
  • A more throrough review of homestay families
  • More discussions of assigned readings