Why did you decide to study abroad?
People have told me for years that if there is one thing everyone should do while in college, it is studying abroad. I wanted to gain a new perspective on both parts of the world unknown to me, and parts that I already call home. I wanted to learn about something firsthand. I think it is a great opportunity to do so, when you’re young and not yet set in your beliefs.
How did you choose where to go?
I knew that I wanted to go somewhere with a culture and environment completely different than Maine. I’ve always been interested in Africa, and the SIT Tanzania-Zanzibar programme attracted me because of its mix of cultural experience, fieldwork and research. Coastal communities make up a large percent of the world’s population and they are often the first affected by things such as climate change, and I also wanted to go to a developing country because I’ve never lived in one before.
Can you briefly describe your program while abroad?
My programme included two homestays, one in Stone Town, the main city in Zanzibar, and another on the more rural island of Pemba. There were sixteen students on the programme and we moved around Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania learning about coral reef ecology and natural resource management, staying in a multitude of places. At the end, we split up for a month and did our own research on a topic of our choice.
What were some highlights or memorable moments of experience for you?
| Our group dressed up for a traditional Maulid ceremony in Pemba, Zanzibar
My favourite parts included the fresh fruit and bread, the colours of the ocean every day, and going on a three-day safari on the mainland. I loved meeting new people every day on the road, and trying to communicate with my first host family that didn’t speak English when I had been studying Kiswahili for under a week. It was a crazy feeling to wake up every morning and not be able to imagine what would happen that day, but know that it would probably be something completely ridiculous. Most of all, I loved my two incredible homestay families – they were so generous and made me feel at home. Between helping me with my Kiswahili, teaching me how to cook Swahili-style, and explaining their faith traditions, my families were phenomenal. Both families had children, and it is them that I miss the most out of anything in Zanzibar.
What was your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was hearing people talk about their views on electricity while doing my independent research. The political system in Zanzibar is so incredibly different from the States, and many people shared incredible views and ideas on the government’s role in providing electricity, but assumed that they could never get through to the government. It was hard to accept a different political system when I felt that the people wanted something else.
How have you and/or your perspective changed after returning from studying abroad?
I tried to go into my study abroad programme with no expectations, so that everything we experienced was new to me. In the classes I’ve taken at Colby since my return, I have felt that I can look at concepts from more angles than before. Having a concrete idea of what it is like to live in a developing country has allowed me to consider more varied thoughts and solutions when addressing an issue. I do feel like I have gained a greater appreciation for indoor plumbing, as well as the ease of access for a lot of goods in the States.
What advice would you give to prospective study abroad students?
Savour every moment while you’re abroad, because even when you think you’re having a bad day, you’ll miss it when you get home. Make a big effort to learning the culture and language, and ask as many questions as you can. Be flexible, curious and open-minded, and you’ll be sure to come back with some great stories.
| Another day in the classroom
on Sinda Island, Tanzania