A walk through the bananas Past Review

By (Wildlife, Purdue University) - abroad from 09/11/2012 to 12/17/2012 with

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Tanzania - Wildlife Management Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was incredibly worthwhile. I have my complaints, of course, but I think the program's flaws are just part of it's nature. My biggest thing is that there is literally no unstructured time. Definitely travel after. Then you get the best of both worlds.

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.

SFS bills itself as academically rigorous, but the workload was comparable/lighter than my home university. The assignments are mostly worthwhile and build upon your skills as a researcher, which makes DR a bit more manageable. The DR project is definitely what sets this program apart from other study abroad programs and is very worthwhile. We often had field lectures and exercises, which we were grateful for. Classroom lectures were often incredibly long and very dry.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Academic organization was lacking and professors were slow to return graded papers. It seems to be typical for the culture there and didn't bother me to much. The Kenyan student affairs manager was GREAT and went out of his way to make the program memorable and enjoyable for all students. Unfortunately the same can not be said of the Tanzanian student affairs manager who treated her job like it was a chore and had little interest in the students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved the housing. Kenyan bandas had a thatched roof and lights with no electrical outlets (didn't bother me, but might bother some). Beds had a mosquito net and students shared small cabinets. Bathrooms were outside and showers were mostly hated. Tanzanian bandas were more permanent and had tin roofs, indoor showers, and electrical outlets. However, our outlets didn't work most of the semester despite multiple requests that they be fixed.

* Food:

The cook in Kenya is great and loves to mix up the menu often. He always made enough food. The Tanzanian cook always made the same food and often didn't make enough of it. He was also not as accommodating to vegetarians. Getting him to cook eggs so we could have more protein was like pulling teeth. He was nice though. I think a language barrier was mostly preventing him from understanding what we needed.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

SFS is NOT the program for you if you are looking for cultural integration or community service. You are cooped up and supervised constantly. It was only during research that I got a bit of freedom and finally felt like I was starting to experience East African culture, but I still had to be in by 6 PM. My cultural experiences overwhelmingly came from the way I structured my research project and my traveling after the program.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Medical care is easily available. If there's one thing SFS will do well, it's make sure you stay healthy.

* Safety:

SFS is safe- almost to a fault.

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? 10-15
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't buy anything until you are confident haggling.


* 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

My Swahili teacher and the student affairs manager were incredibly encouraging when it came to speaking Swahili. A lot of the students (myself included) were inspired by the Kenyan student affairs manager who learned Swahili during his time abroad. Many staff members commented that our Swahili was better than previous groups and I attribute this to the encouragement we got from the staff. Additionally, although I had a translator during my research project. I was encouraged by my faculty advisor to try and conduct the interviews in Swahili myself and rely on the translator more for clarification. My Swahili is not great, and language is not a HUGE focus in this program but you CAN get really good at it if you put the effort in. The Kenyan staff are very good at encouraging you to speak it, even if they speak great English.

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? 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? Teach yourself Swahili is a great book.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?
  • Directed research
  • Beautiful sights
  • AWESOME staff members
* What could be improved?
  • Too structured
  • Not enough emphasis on community
  • More non-program days
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How challenging going almost two weeks with no time off would be.

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.