Active Learning in Zanzibar Past Review

By (Biology, General., University of Puget Sound) - abroad from 01/23/2010 to 05/15/2009 with

SIT Study Abroad: Tanzania - Zanzibar Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was very worthwhile! I learned a ton and loved Zanzibar. It has motivated me to come back again and work here - which is largely a result of the great experience I had with SIT.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The rigor of the academics in this program were appropriate to allow students to get the most out of all aspects of study abroad. The active learning aspect (field work, field trips) is fantastic - I absorbed a really comprehensive understanding of ecology and natural resource issues on Zanzibar which I never could have in the classroom alone. When I returned to Zanzibar several years after finishing the program, I found it easy to find volunteer/work opportunities here in the field of environment/conservation because I was already so familiar. Also, the independent study project is really important because it makes you strike out on your own and gain confidence academically as well as culturally/practically.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration were really welcoming and helpful. We were there during a difficult time because of an island-wide power outage, and they worked hard to make sure we stayed healthy and to continue the regular program with minimal disruption. I appreciated that they really seemed to enjoy having the students around. Now (3 years after my program) I am living in Zanzibar again and always still feel welcomed by staff and administration, who have provided me with a lot of help and connected me to resources even now I am no longer a student.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living arrangements were almost constantly changing. Our home base was a guest house in town right next door to the school office, which was very clean and comfortable. Otherwise, we were in homestays (which varied a lot, but all were clean and safe) or other miscellaneous bunk-house, guest-house, dormitory, or other accommodations. During our independent projects, we found our own accommodation, which gave me a really great feeling that I was able to live in Zanzibar with some independence. Sometimes it got old packing your things so often, but on the other hand it meant we got to experience a lot of different places.

* Food:

The food was good. Mostly we either ate at our homestays, where we got to try a lot of more traditional Zanzibari food, or we were given a small allowance to pay for meals. When on an allowance, we had a wide range of options - everything from little local places to restaurants that offer food much like what you might eat at home. When eating at a homestay/as a group you have to be flexible, but it's pretty easy to accommodate any food restrictions or serious dislikes, and to be as adventurous (or not) as you like in terms of new foods.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our first homestay was only a week after arriving, which was a really good way to start out. Although we didn't study cultural issues much in school, it was easy to get a good idea of the local culture from your family - language, food, religion, etc - and the swahili teachers/Zanzibari staff at the office are also really open and willing to talk about cultural issues and share what they can with you. Since a pretty safe place it was also easy to get to know people around. If you are willing to put yourself out there and make the most out of every situation - including those strange and awkward ones - you will really benefit and feel a connection with Zanzibar.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare is easily accessible for most things - there is a really good medical office near SIT that the program recommends. I got really sick early in the semester, and someone from the office took me there and stayed with me every step of the way - they won't leave you stranded, and will make sure you have what you need. For really major illnesses, most people in Zanzibar recommend going to Dar es Salaam on the mainland - but if you need to do that, SIT will help you out. Not many students were sick on my program, but a few had gastrointestinal issues (easily treated) and 2 had malaria (but healed just fine). Most students took daily anti-malaria prophylaxis pills, and before they left the US a yellow fever and typhoid vaccine were recommended.

* Safety:

I always felt really safe in Zanzibar. Stone Town, our home base, doesn't have a whole lot of crime - the worst anyone encountered someone snatching a bag or phone and running away. It's still better not to walk alone late at night, but inside Stone Town is a really tight-knit community where people care a lot about keeping it safe. I felt way safer walking there at night than I do in many cities in the US!

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? $0-15
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Often you're given an allowance for food - if you eat at more local-type restaurants, you will often use half or less of that allowance. What I often did is eat primarily at these places, and then save up the remainder for when I felt like splurging on a nicer meal.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

The program started off with 3 weeks of intensive swahili classes, which were really great. You got the basic grammar and lots of practice. Class often included assignments that involved walking around town and asking questions or looking for items so you would get more comfortable using it as a part of life. During this time, you were also in a homestay where you had an opportunity to practice a lot with family members. After that, it is sort of up to your own initiative to keep practicing and using the language around town (many people do speak English), but SIT encourages you to keep practicing and progressing on your own. Many people used a lot of swahili for their independent projects. At the end of the semester, you take a final oral exam at which time you are expected to have progressed beyond your skills at the end of the introductory course you took earlier.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate French
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Take every opportunity to practice! Even though people often speak English, it opens a lot of doors to speak swahili as much as you can - people will be more excited to share their culture with you, and you will get a lot more out of your experience of Zanzibar. Also, the office library has a variety of swahili books you can check out which can help you surpass what you learn in class.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Homestays
  • Field trips
  • Swahili class
* What could be improved?
  • Formal swahili instruction available later in the semester!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What you get out of study abroad depends on what you put into it. You could have the best program in the world and still not get the most out of your experience unless you're really willing to both go with the flow of new or strange situations and to seek out new experiences.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.