Life Changing Things Will Happen Past Review

By (Philosophy, Honors, Villanova University) - abroad from 02/05/2012 to 05/20/2012 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained everything. I grew immensely as a person, I changed in ways that I will be trying to process for a long term, I made a ton of lasting relationships, and I learned more than I could have in almost any other environment. I cannot say enough about how amazing the experience was and about how indescribably meaningful it was and is to me.

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.

My academic experience was pretty astounding. SIT's model is unconventional in terms of academics, as they utilize an experiential model of learning which is pretty antithetical to the standard, historical, classroom model of learning. Suffice it to say that I learned more in my one semester abroad than I learned in two and a half years at my home university. And that's just with academics, not even accounting for the life experiences that I received while abroad, which in and of themselves totally outstripped the academic experiences.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration here was pretty great. There were a lot of points during the semester when the administration clashed with the group over certain things, and when we had some more severe communication issues. Ultimately, the administration, particularly the academic dean Daniel Lumonya, were very good. Dan is a very intelligent, challenging admin., and he forced us all to learn as much as we could with what we were given.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The homestay experience was absolutely essential to my study abroad experience as a whole. Rwanda is by no means a wealthy country, and I was not living in the lap of luxury. I was living as a middle class Kigali resident lived. I did not have most of the amenities that I have here in the United States. But it didn't matter. I loved my home, and I loved my family, and I would not have had it any other way that what it was.

* Food:

The food in Rwanda is pretty homogeneous. The diet consists of a lot of starches...many different kinds of potatoes and bananas, rice, pasta, beans, cassava, matoke, etc. The locally grown fruits and vegetables, such as the avocado, mango, and pineapple, were all amazing. The meat takes a little getting used to, as it is not processed or certified in the same ways as in the United States. But overall the food is good. While nutritional variety is not great, it is passable.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt as integrated as I could have been. The major barrier towards this regard was language. Kinyarwanda is an incredibly difficult language. While I became decently proficient in four months, and probably could not have become much more in the time given, it was a huge barrier and prevented me from becoming integrated to the extent that I would have liked. That being said, living in a homestay, and interacting to a high level with locals, led me to become very integrated in the local culture and gave me a unique perspective on Rwandan life that could not have been gained in any other way.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare in Rwanda is a major issue. Thankfully, we only had a few issues during our trip. There were a couple times when people got sick and had to visit the hospital for a few different reasons. They were all treated well and did not meet any problems. At the same time, if a serious medical issue were to arise, I would think twice about seeking treatment in Rwanda.

* Safety:

Kigali is a very safe city. I really can't remember any specific time when I felt unsafe in the city, even while walking through the streets late at night. There is a very large police and military presence in Kigali, and as I understand it, very low crime rates and very very low violent crime rates. Also, while outsiders are not necessarily beloved in Rwanda, they are not targeted in the same way that they might be in other countries in the Great Lakes region.

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)

The exchange rate in Rwanda is 600 RWf to 1USD. Overall for my time abroad, I spent around $750. It was incredibly cheap most of the time, and when I did spend a lot of money, it was for doing more touristy things which were priced in terms of the US dollar and not the Rwandan franc. The average meal in Rwanda (eating at a local place) costs around $1-2. A bus to anywhere in the entire country won't cost more than $4. It really is very minimal in terms of cost of living.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$60
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It is easy and somewhat necessary to stick to westernized restaurants and other places when you have just arrived there. Once you become more comfortable in Kigali and are able to branch out, eat at local places, figure out how to haggle, and figure out what things at the markets actually cost (as opposed to what they will charge ignorant outsiders) your costs will drop exponentially.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • homestay
  • teaching model
  • group atmosphere, support system, and relationships
* What could be improved?
  • communication between staff and students
  • nothing else
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Nothing. I went into it with little preparation and a fresh mind and I'm glad that was my initial attitude.