Heat, Hominids, Home in the middle of nowhere! Past Review

By (Anthropology., Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/23/2012 to 03/31/2012 with

SUNY Stony Brook: Kenya - Field School in the Turkana Basin

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about myself in terms of what types of experience I can handle. This program puts you in an extreme environment where you are around the same people all the time, there really is no privacy or true relief from the heat. I found ways to cope with this however, one was that having headphones is key, and also I would do yoga in the evenings and/or go exploring on my own or just with one other person outside the compound. I also learned so much academically in such a short amount of time. Along with this, one of the wonderful things about spending almost every day of two weeks on one class means you really connect with the professors and become engaged in the work that you are doing. Make the most out of having those amazing, extremely knowledgable authorities right there at your fingertips, and take advantage of every opportunity you have while there. The program really is not that long and one of the best things I did was made the most out of the experience that I could. It was most definitely worthwhile, and while there were some hardships, I couldn't imagine not having participated in the program.

Review Photos

SUNY Stony Brook: Kenya - Field School in the Turkana Basin Photo SUNY Stony Brook: Kenya - Field School in the Turkana Basin Photo

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.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Because the program is run out of the Turkana Basin Institute and that is where we stay, the program administration is actually the best and most direct when you are actually there. We also have an excellent program director there with us all of the time who you can go to with any questions, problems, or issues.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For where we are out in the middle of Kenya it really is great housing and classroom/lab facilities; however, being where it is there are of course issues such as tons of bugs everywhere seeing as you are basically always outside. Also once it gets dark it really get dark, and the only lights in the buildings are yellow because they attract fewer bugs. It really is amazing though. The beds are on the veranda/porch of the dorms, so you basically sleep outside with mosquito nets around the beds. You wake up to the sunrise every morning and hope there is a breeze when you go to bed so you can sleep well. You just have to get used to the bugs and being with people all of the time, no closed doors or windows, and solar heated water.

* Food:

The food was amazing. We had some really great cooks at TBI and the dishes were always delicious. The only issue was that sometimes they didn't make quite enough food for all of us. Also most of the dishes are meat (beef, chicken, fish, lamb, goat) and so I would not recommend being a vegetarian on this program; you could do it, but you would miss out on so much excellent food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We did some activities with local communities, such as visiting a school and helping them plant trees, then hanging out and playing soccer with them. Also we went to see the local garden and had a class project there, and went to see the biofuel project being worked on at a nearby maternity clinic. However, I felt there was definitely more cultural integration that could have occurred, and there is a slight but noticeable disconnect between the institute and the surrounding villages/communities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did have a slight issue during the program of either an allergic reaction or some other problem that caused all of the skin on my hands to peel off. We tried to figure out what the problem was and how to treat it, however it took quite a while to get it to stop and heal. However, that was such a unique and odd occurrence that no one really knew what to do. When two of the students got Malaria right at the end of the program they were treated right away and got better very quickly.

* Safety:

You just have to be very careful any time you are in such an extreme environment and out in the field as we were. There are thorns everywhere that are very easy to stick yourself with and get scraped by. Also the it is extremely hot and the sun is very strong and powerful, so you have to be careful to cover up properly, and drink lots of water. The environment takes some getting used to, but is wonderful once you figure it out.

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)

Living in the middle of nowhere, and with the exchange rate what it is the cost is very minimal. The only times you really spend money are when you go into the town of Lodwar or to the lake at Eliye Springs on a few of the Sundays or to buy soda or beer while at TBI.

* 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? Only about $20/week, although that varies week to week, and person to person.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* 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?
  • It was unique, unlike anything I'd ever done, or any place I'd ever been before.
* What could be improved?
  • They need to work out some of the details still for the program, such as rules while in the compound and how much structure to have. They needed more for some of the academic modules, but less for general living. However, it was/is a very new program and they now got a wonderful program director who I know will work out some of these kinks.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would definitely recommend getting skype unlimited for the three months, because it really is the best and cheapest way to call people at home. I feel that packing-wise I was fairly prepared, however I know many people on the program who were not so well equipped, and that's hard because there really is no way to remedy that, you are pretty much stuck with what you bring. Also I wish I had known just how much down time we would have and make better use of that time, I waited much too long to really begin exploring the area outside of the compound and it is just so beautiful.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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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.