Kenya: The Experience of a Lifetime Past Review

By (International Relations and Affairs., Tufts University) - abroad from 08/01/2011 to 12/12/2011 with

University of Minnesota - MSID: International Development in Kenya

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I dont think I can answer this in a short response. My time in Kenya changed me as a person in more than one way. It was incredible to see and live with people 10,000 miles from home. It was undoubtedly the most worthwhile 5 months of my educational experience so far.

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 educational experience on MSID is very different form a traditional American university. The learning is much more hands on and experiential. There are four main classes that everyone takes--International Development, a track concentration course (ie Social Services, Education, Public Health, Environment, etc), Swahili Language, and a Kenya Country Analysis class. Because you are livivng out and experiencing first hand a lot of the developmental issues that you discuss in class, you do a lot of out of class observation and analysis. The professors (all Kenyas) were all very knowledgable in their fields. The classes were not as rigorous as a typical American class in that there was often less reading assigned. Nevertheless, each class still required a large end of term paper. I would also highly recommend doing the Swahili Pre-Session. Not only is more exposure to the language helpful in the long run for learning Swahili, but an additional month in the country gives your more time to experience all that Kenya has to offer.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration was very warm, welcoming, organized and helpful. They really helped us to get acclimated to living in Nairobi, while also allowing us independence to travel independently.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had two homestays, both of which I loved. The first was outside of Nairobi for the first 3 months of the program, close to where we took classes. The second was in a small town on the coast of Kenya, just north of Mombasa for 6 weeks during the internship phase.

* Food:

Kenyan food is really good because it is REAL food. We ate a lot of vegetables, beans, meat (goat and chicken a lot), ugali (a moldable floury dough) and chapati (similar to pita bread). But we also found ourselves eating Ethiopian and Indian food a good amount as well. Nairobi is a huge city and has everything!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The homestays were an incredible way to really get to know Kenyan culture and daily life. Many students had host siblings that introduced them to their friends. An amazing part of the MSID Kenya program is the 6 week internship at a development NGO in the concentration of development that interests you. I worked for 6 weeks at the Wema Centre--an NGO in a small town on the coast of Kenya that serves to help rehabilitate former street girls as well as educate kids from the community. I had the opportunity to help teach in a classroom at the school for 6 weeks. The intership portion of MSID is an incredible chance to be independent in a completely different part of the country.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We were very well informed and prepared during orientation for different health measures to take. We all had malaria medication (though honestly, it wasn't a pressing health issue in Nairobi). I got sick from accidentally eating moldy bread, and easily got good treatment at a nearby hospital in Nairobi. The program administrators are very attentive to students who get sick, and do their best to help them get what they need.

* Safety:

Nairobi is like any large city in the world--you have to take certain precautionary measures. Students should also be aware of how they are perceived as a foreigner (more often than not, rich). For these reasons students should try to not be out on their own late at night. MSID also provides phone numbers for reliable taxis, which helps when students do need to get a ride home.

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)

Unfortunately for Kenyans, the shilling was not doing very well to the American dollar when we were there. But, that did mean that we were able to make purchases for relatively cheap.

* 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? 20
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Be careful of the markets. They will try to rip you off because you're mzungu (foreigner). You cant be afraid to bargain.


* 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 took Swahili every day and were able to practice it at home, as well as in trips to restaurants or to markets.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 2 semesters
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? Most Kenyans know English as well as Swahili. So you really have to put yourself out there and when using Swahili. They really appreciate, and are often really humored, by an mzungu who actually knows some swahili.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Independence
  • Internship portion
  • Cultural immersion
* What could be improved?
  • Perhaps better organized classes--oftentimes there were quick changes in scheduling. But nothing major
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How much I'd miss kenya

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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