Certainly a worthwhile adventure Past Review

By (Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University) - abroad from 06/02/2014 to 08/06/2014 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience in Tanzania was definitely worthwhile. I went to Tanzania to experience Africa and all of the wildlife I loved growing up; I certainly achieved these goals. The practical field experience was indispensable and I don't think there is a better program in East Africa in terms of ecology and conservation.

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.

The academia was rather underwhelming as a rising senior attending a large research university with a decent background in ecology. I came in knowing the almost all of the theoretical knowledge that was taught, however I will give credit where credit is due: the practical knowledge and experience was exceptional. A lot of time is spent out in the field in the land rovers observing the animals you're learning about. Personally, I went to Tanzania to be out in the field and see the wildlife and that is why I chose SFS (based on the amount of field time) so I was not disappointed with the lack of theory in the classroom. Probably the largest inconvenience was the vagueness of just about every assignment we received. I'm assuming it may just be the cultural aspect of the teaching standards (or styles) in Tanzania but lectures, field exercises, and just assignments in general are very unorganized. It's just something that you kind of have to roll with. The summer program is very fast paced and you're constantly doing something academic in nature, whether it's in the field or the classroom. It's probably a good thing if you try to get your assignments done quickly so that you can experience all that Tanzania has to offer after they're complete and not be stressed out. The grading scheme is very different from a US institution with curves and such. All of the assignments in the session add up to 100 raw points. If you get 10 points off collectively on all of your assignments, you will get a B+. They're pretty strict about this so make sure you understand how this all works and ask the professors at the beginning of the session if you need clarification. And one last thing about directed research, if you want to try to perform it independantly over the summer. I tried to get information from the program advisors at SFS headquarters about whether I could perform a UROP project while I was in Tanzania with SFS. They were really unhelpful during this process, and for some reason SFS never let me get in touch with the professors in Tanzania to consult them. But long story short, if you design a research project around the curriculum of the summer courses (essentially population counts and ethograms of animals in the various parks you visit) you could make it work. I found this out after I got to Tanzania so I couldn't really do anything about it then. But try to get in touch with the professors if you're interested in doing research over the summer before you go to see if you're project is feasible.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

From top to bottom, the administration on-campus in Rhotia is pretty decent. If anything is wrong with anything in your banda (room) it is fixed pretty much within 24 hours. The drivers are excellent and there are tons of fun things to do on non-program days. Overall, they are very receptive to your complaints and needs, and they try to accommodate you pretty quickly. The ascaris (guards) are also great at making sure nobody gets into the field station who shouldn't be there. All of the staff are really fun to interact with and you can play soccer with them daily at 5PM. One thing that is different about SFS than other study abroad programs is that students are very closely monitored. You can't go anywhere alone and you need to sign out to even go outside the gates of the field station. You can't get into any non-SFS vehicles and you can't leave after sunset or before sunrise. Essentially, you are always in the presence of some sort of staff member of the program and every night (aside from expedition in Serengeti) you are required to be within the confines of the field station. On the plus side, you are a lot safer, but you do not have much freedom to explore.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing is pretty great considering the location and the work that went into constructing the Moyo Hill campus. Things are liable to break (like the hot water or electricity) but the staff does a good job of getting everything back up and running in a couple of hours. Only complaint would be the mattresses as some of the are simply made of sponge, but there are some regular spring ones lying around as well. Again this is in the middle of rural Tanzania and if you're doing this program you probably knew going into it not to expect a 5-star hotel. It's all part of the experience.

* Food:

The kitchen staff does a great job. Supplies are limited because you are in rural Tanzania (again) but the cooks do an admirable job of making sure there are plenty of options for every meal and that there is enough food for everyone. Although the tasty stuff is liable to run out first.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Probably one of the best cultural immersion experiences you could ask for from a study abroad program. SFS puts a heavy emphasis on culture and how local communities are a vital component of conservation. Likewise, there are home stays with local families and numerous opportunities to interact with Tanzanians on non-program days and community service days. Additionally, there are several field lectures, field exercises, and assignments with heavily integrate the culture of the area.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The FAME clinic is less then half an hour away; this is a huge reason as to why SFS opened a center in Rhotia to begin with. They have everything a standard US hospital has and even do surgeries (although SFS would fly you back to Arusha if you needed to have surgery). SFS is very on top of their health care on campus and they always make sure students get what they need for any sort of medical ailment. Obviously, people are going to get sick in a third-world country where you have no immunity to any of the local pathogens. If you employ an average amount of common sense, SFS will take care of any other problems that arise during your stay.

* Safety:

Before SFS can open a center anywhere, they literally have to plan for any situation that could possibly occur and have a protocol to follow in case of emergency. The Moyo Hill camp is located on top of the Great Rift Valley escarpment and the center has a procedure to follow in case the camp floods (there is zero chance of this occurring, trust me). The bottom line is that SFS is one of the safest study abroad programs you could take part in.

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)

It really depends on the person and how much you want to spend on souvenirs (everything else is paid for by SFS or they let you know you will have to pay for "X item" before hand). I'd recumbent bringing about $1,000, I stayed for both summer sessions and spend about that much all together (including the student visa)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Everything can be haggled for in Tanzania, never take the first price you are given. As a general rule of thumb, people in the markets will try to make you pay double for anything you buy. They know you are a tourist and they know you have money. Bring tons of useless items from the states as well. The vendors in Tanzania love anything from America no matter how cheap it is. Bring plenty of carabiners, watches, pens, bandanas, old shoes, water bottles that you no longer need or are willing to trade. You will be amazed at what you can get with these things in return.


* 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

It was encouraged to practice it, but it wasn't mandatory and everyone at the center can speak english to some degree. It's mostly useful for bartering or communicating with people outside the center.

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? Never took a Swahili course before going to Tanzania
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? Depends on how much of the language you want to learn. I think compete immersion is the best way to learn a language so I didn't attempt to learn anything until I got to Tanzania. If you're worried and want to get some words down before you land, then invest in a book and do some reading.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • observing the wildlife
  • experiencing the culture
  • traveling to so many different places
* What could be improved?
  • the clarity of academic assignments
  • allowing students a little more freedom to travel independently
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That I could in fact do independent research during my time there.

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.