Left my heart in Kenya Past Review

By (Business Administration, University of Southern California) - abroad from 06/20/2012 to 08/12/2012 with

Study Abroad Programs in Kenya

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience was absolutely worthwhile. I learned so much about myself, the culture, social entrepreneurship, empowerment, development...the list goes on. The most valuable thing I learned was that everyone has something to bring to the table - that no one is poor. This experience affected my whole perspective on development and the way I view the world. It influenced my professional goals as well as my personal goals.

Review Photos

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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.

I learned a tremendous amount from the ThinkImpact curriculum and the hands-on experience. Although I didn't necessarily understand the extent of ThinkImpact's educational and professional impact during the program itself, I have continued to see how my perspective has changed, post-Kenya. Even now, I am learning more and more how my educational experience with ThinkImpact affects the way I think.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

On-site staff were wonderful. They ran the program well and kept us up-to-date. They dealt with quickly changing plans with much grace. You have to quickly learn that ability to adapt is key in this field of work.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved living with my host family and am still in touch with them a year later. I learned so much about the culture simply by being able to engage in everyday activities with my family, and I found that the more I immersed myself, the richer my experience became.

* Food:

I personally really enjoyed the local food. There was not much variety, but eating whatever my family ate made me feel more immersed and included.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made a daily effort to integrate into the culture, and my family and friends in Kenya welcomed me with open arms. I think a lot depends on how willing the participant is to get uncomfortable and try new things. However, I did learn that I can only integrate so much - that there will always be people who point out the differences, and I had to learn to be okay with that and embrace that when the occasion called for it.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Health issues were addressed immediately and professionally by program staff, who got us the healthcare we needed. The most common health problems were stomach-related. For this program, I got Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccines, and we took Malaria medication for the duration of the program.

* Safety:

As long as you use travelers' common sense, safety should not be a big problem on this program. TI has rules in place for students' safety - those rules are not arbitrary ! I would advise students to take them seriously and to not put personal safety at risk. You definitely have to be careful in the city, especially, but when we were out in the rural communities, where we spent the vast majority of our time, I never felt unsafe or uneasy.

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 program provides just about everything you need, so any money spent is for personal wants, not necessarily needs. Most of the money I spent was on souvenirs and gifts. I probably spent between $200 and $250 in total.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $20
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? You really rarely HAVE to spend money on anything. As long as you commit to being content with the food your family feeds you, you should be absolutely fine. A couple of tips when it comes to souvenir shopping - 1) don't buy everything you see too early on in the program - hold out and see what else is out there, 2) try to buy souvenirs from people in your community (i.e. jewelry, handmade instruments, etc.) - prices are low and you can support their personal businesses, 3) if you are at a market/touristy area, feel free to barter - the shop owners expect you to


* 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

We had translators but were definitely encouraged by staff to use the language, ask questions, and not be afraid to make mistakes. However, it was easy to rely on the translators and the community members who spoke English, so we were not forced to pick up a lot of the language.

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? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? None
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? Write words/phrases down as often as you can ! Practice with the kids on your homestay - they are often the best resource for teaching you the language because they are patient and so much fun. Learn songs from the kids. Ask your translators and families questions.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • 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

  • 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?
  • Learning about Asset-Based Community Development
  • Putting lessons into practice
  • Working with locals and building lifelong relationships
* What could be improved?
  • Better training for translators
  • Updating the curriculum, The Innovator, and better educating participants on how to use it
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Little things - that culture shock WILL affect you in some form, that learning to use the latrine may take time but that is okay, that you will be able to shower daily, to bring clothing you like because you're wearing the same things for 8-weeks and it's not like you're rolling in mud. But honestly, those things didn't ultimately matter because once you're on the ground, you learn so many things in such a short amount of time, and you'll never be quite prepared prior to experiencing everything for yourself.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'