Colby Anthropology students have been all over the world from Chile to Samoa to Senegal.  Read about their experiences and reflections about being an anthropology student abroad.  Send in your own reflections about study abroad programs to post on the website: e-mail to

Asia and the Pacific
Latin America 
North Africa and the Middle East
Sub-Saharran Africa
Multiple Locations 

Emma Klein ’13  Madrid, Spain with NYU

This past Spring I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain through NYU.  During my time in Madrid I lived in an apartment in a barrio, neighborhood, named Salamanca.  Salamanca is an affluent neighborhood in Spain where many people live in beautiful apartments or townhouses.  However, when members of the community wanted to get together with friends they do not gather in their homes but out at tapas bars or cafés.  To me, this is the most interesting and beautiful aspect of the lifestyles of the madrileños.   Instead of gathering within the home to be with friends and family madrileños meet in the park, go out to the bars, or simply walk along the streets.  In Madrid these gatherings are present amongst all generations and their interactions are really quite refreshing.

Although some of my Spanish friends that I discussed this cultural difference with attributed it to the fact that in Spain, especially due to the recent economic troubles, multiple generations live in one household.  Thus, many times madrileños gather outside of their homes in order to “escape” their family to continue fostering their relationships with friends.  Through my experience of going to tapas bars after class or on the weekends, as well as simply hanging out in Retiro Park with friends, I found that many madrileños unwind while experiencing the liveliness of their city instead of the privacy of their homes.  While individuals in Madrid do tend to gather outside of their homes more often than inside, this is not to say that they do not hang out in their homes and have dinner parties.  However, it is quite interesting and fun how most madrileños gather outside their homes and go to a bullfight or out to tapas as a way to relax and catch up with friends and families instead of a more private interaction at home.

During my time in Madrid, I tried to spend as much time exploring the city and gathering outside of my apartment as I could.  Instead of having a lazy Sunday staying in my room, many times I would walk to Retiro Park, a huge park in Madrid, and hang out with friends or chat on the benches with some madrileños.  By gathering outside of my apartment I not only got to experience Madrid more closely, but I also had the opportunity to incorporate my relationships with people into the liveliness of everything the city had to offer.  While there were so many aspects of my time in Madrid that affected my understanding of anthropology, what most resonates with me after my time abroad is the idea that there is no one correct way to live your life and experience a new culture.  Every individual weaves themselves into a new culture in their own way and garners different meanings from their experiences.  When incorporating yourself into a new culture it is fairly easy to categorize and differentiate your new experiences to what you are used to.  Thus, through my understanding of anthropology I instead attempted to create my own identity within Spain while embracing the cultural differences.

Here at Colby I find that my experience living in Madrid has strengthened my understanding of anthropology.  When studying about different case studies as well as learning theories, I now have the ability to personalize these ideas that are at times extremely abstract.  By studying abroad in Spain I was able to learn more about myself and thus broaden my understanding of myself within the discipline of anthropology.

Andrew Fabricant ’13  SIT Madagascar: National Identity and Social Change Program

When I began applying to study abroad programs spring semester of my sophomore year, I was immediately drawn to Madagascar: its rich biodiversity, complicated history with colonization, and unique geography all peaked my curiosity as important topics in the economic development of Sub-Saharan Africa. I hoped that by studying abroad in Madagascar I could develop my fieldwork skills while gaining insight into the factors that cause poverty and political instability. What I ended up getting from my experience in Madagascar was exactly that, and much more.

Through the SIT Madagascar: National Identity and Social Change Program, I studied the effects of urbanization, political instability, economic recession, and environmental degradation on the development of urban and rural communities in post-colonial Madagascar. I lived with five different host families in five different cities conducting fieldwork on various topics, including oil drilling, marriage, healthcare, and small business development. For the last month of my semester abroad, I conducted a case study assessing economic and political obstacles to the growth of artisan businesses in the capital city of Antananarivo. During this study I lived with a guitar-maker and his family and participated in their daily work routines. Through experiences such as this one, I got a glimpse of what it takes to live and work in a developing urban environment. My memories of Madagascar continue to shape my perspective on the processes that facilitate and hinder economic development.

During my time in Madagascar, I developed a deep appreciation for the discipline of anthropology. The experience of immersing myself into a culture as a participant-observer was enlightening, as it forced me to observe my own culture and the processes of economic development with a critical eye. As I go on to pursue a career in NGO and private business consulting, I will carry with me the anthropological research techniques and analytical skills that will help me to best understand any culture that I encounter in the future. 

Emily Fleming ’12: Nairobi, Kenya with St. Lawrence University
Studying abroad in Nairobi, Kenya was by far the most rewarding yet challenging four months of my life. My program was based in the suburbs of Nairobi, and we took classes with professors from the University of Nairobi. I took a Kenyan history class, and an anthropology class focusing on health and sickness as my electives. We were all required to take a core course (anthro, focusing on culture, environment, and development) and Kiswahili. However, most of our time was spent outside of Nairobi. We embarked on various homestays: a week in the rural, agricultural communities in the foothills of Mt. Kenya, ten days in Tanzania with the Hadzabe, one of the only hunter-gatherer tribes left in the world, and a three week urban homestay with families in Nairobi. We also travelled to the coast to learn about traditional Swahili culture, and spent ten days studying the Maasai, and we spent a night with a Maasai family in their boma (hut). The last month of my program I conducted an independent study project with Africa Yoga Project, an organization that uses the transformative power of yoga to change the lives of Nairobi’s slum dwellers–truly inspirational! St. Lawrence’s program is AMAZING and introduces you to people and places you will never forget. I woke up and went to be every day truly happy! St. Lawrence’s Kenya program has been around for forty plus years, and I’m happy to say that I was the fourth woman in my family to study abroad in Kenya with St. Lawrence!

Heather Arvidson ’11: Pitzer College in Botswana
The program was broken up into three different homestays, the first in a rural village, the second a slightly more developed and larger village and finally in the capital city of Gaborone. For the first month we took intensive Setswana classes, nearly five hours everyday, then during our next homestay each student interned for a different organization. In the end I was able to do my own research with a University of Botswana professor as part of a Directed Independent Study Project. Each homestay was broken up by study trips; we traveled to Kasane, Maun and Zimbabwe to see big game, the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls (the most incredible place I have ever been). Pitzer College programs are especially nice since the groups are usually very small (8 students on my program), and the programs offer complete cultural immersion meaning we are forced to dive headfirst into the lives of those we live with.

Sadie Robertson ’11: Valparaíso, Chile (SIT)
Three words to sum up my abroad experience in Valparaíso, Chile: I love Valpo. The city is vibrant, cheerful, and artsy; with brightly colored buildings and apartments that line the hills looking down onto the Pacific Ocean. The people of Valpo are friendly and welcoming to outsiders. I went to Valpo through SIT: Culture, Development, Social Justice. While the program seems a little too restrictive at the beginning, they slowly loosen their grasp on you so that during the last month where students do their Independent Study Project (ISP) you are completely on your own (if you want to be). During this period you can live almost anywhere you want in Chile in order to research the topic of your choice. Because I loved the city so much I stayed in Valparaiso and wrote my thesis on the juvenile detention centers surrounding Valpo and the marginalization of the kids who cycle through them. My Spanish improved immensely, and I came out of Chile confident with my Spanish speaking abilities. Some advice: make some Chilean friends (it’s not hard!) and speak with them. They love it, will probably try their English out on you, and are open and laid back conversationalists. The cafés are perfect for studying in, the streets a joy to walk (or climb, as Valpo is incredibly hilly), and the clubs at night are hoppin’ with cumbia and reggaeton. This program is perfect for any Spanish speaking anthropology major.

Scott Wentzell ’11: Apia, Samoa (SIT)
I studied abroad last semester in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa on an SIT program. I lived and studied at the University of the South Pacific just outside of Apia in a dormitory with around 100 students from around the Pacific islands. In addition to my time in Apia I also traveled to Savaii, the other major island comprising Samoa, to Fiji, to American Samoa, and to Hawaii. I stayed with three separate host families, one each in Samoa, American Samoa, and Fiji. By traveling to several islands in the Pacific and living with students from dozens more I was able to immerse myself in cultures from around the broad and diverse Pacific region. The best part of the whole experience for me was studying under our Academic Director, Jackie, who was simultaneously a professor, chauffeur, guide, mother, and friend. I would recommend this program to any anthropology major.

Sara Ramsay ’11: Dakar, Senegal (CIEE)
I spent last semester (spring 2010) in Dakar, Senegal with CIEE. It was a great experience, and is one that I would definitely recommend to any Anthropology student with a foundation in French. While in Dakar, I lived with a Senegalese host family and took five classes at the CIEE study center. The courses were taught by Senegalese professors (in either French or English), but were only available to CIEE students. The program also included several trips (including a one-week rural home stay) throughout the semester, and provided a wonderful support system for students studying abroad. Although not so rigorous as Colby academically, CIEE-Dakar was a great study abroad program. I loved every minute of it.

John Perkins ’11: Nairobi, Kenya (SIT)
My studied in Nairobi, Kenya last spring (2010) on the SIT: Kenya Health and Community Development study abroad program. What a blast. Living with a family in Nairobi for the better part of three months was easily the most meaningful part of this experience. During the semester, we attended Kiswahili language courses, 2 seminar courses on development and public health, and a field studies course. We also participated in an extended rural homestay on the Indian Coast (check out the Swahili culture, a truly unique social creation), trekked out to northern Tanzania for a week, and visited many non-governmental organizations around Nairobi during our frequent field trips. The last month consisted of an Independent Study Project: essentially a highly condensed research project utilizing anthropological research methodology. Like many study abroad programs, SIT offered an introduction to international development and public health in Kenya, but they also provided the resources to explore more.

Debbie Merzbach ’11: Auckland, New Zealand
I studied abroad this past spring in Auckland, New Zealand with a program based out of Butler University. The five months I spent there were incredible, and I would emphatically encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in study abroad to DO IT. I lived in university housing with four other US American students from different parts of the country and attended classes at Auckland University. Some of the classes weren’t too different from ones I’ve taken here (besides having more students, since Auckland is a huge school), but for one of them I learned and performed “traditional” Maori (New Zealand’s first settlers) songs and dances. In addition to going to class, I traveled weekly and went hiking whenever I could (New Zealand is famous for its remarkable peaks–one of my favorites was Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings!). Other trips took me to hot water beaches (you could excavate sand to form a hot tub!) and other coastlines to surf, paddle, or see penguins and sea lions! From an anthropological standpoint, the trip was memorable in the sense that the country is still experiencing a lot of political and social tension due to its colonial past. This was present in many of the interactions in which I took part or observed, so I was continuously drawing upon anthropological knowledge to structure my understanding of situations or relationships.

Sara Field ’11J: Quito, Ecuador (SIT)
I studied abroad with SIT Ecuador: culture and development in Fall of 2009. After a month long intensive Spanish course in a suburb of Quito, we lived in Quito for about a month taking courses as a group detailing development in the country, from economic to cultural. Following Quito, our group of about 20 students split up to do Independent Study Projects (ISPs). All sections of the program involved living with amazing local homestay families. I spent the next month in Cuenca, 10 hours south of Quito, where I did a mini-ethnographic study and participant observation with an abused women’s shelter. The program also has wonderful excursions, including ones to the Cloud Forest, the Amazon Rain Forest, and the coast. Ecuador is a lively and diverse country, and this program enabled me to learn about the history, development and current events in Ecuador in a very engaging way.

Loretta Biss ’10: Quito, Ecuador (Duke in the Andes)I studied abroad last semester in Quito, Ecuador with a Duke University program called Duke in the Andes. It was an absolutely wonderful experience, and I think it is perfect for an anthropology student. I attended 4 classes at an Ecuadorian university, lived with a host family, and volunteered at an elementary school for indigenous children. In addition to our time in Quito, the program featured four trips to different areas around Ecuador: an indigenous community in the mountains, the Amazon forest, the coastal region, and the Galapagos Islands. All of these trips were amazing, and I learned so much about the diverse peoples of Ecuador: the indigenous groups of the mountains, rain forest, and coast, as well as the Afro-Ecuadorian community

Audrey Jacobs ’10: International Honors Program (SIT)
I studied abroad with the International Honors Program. They do multi-country semester and year abroad programs based around a certain area of study. For example, my program is Health and Community.

Caity Murphy ’10: Rabat, Morocco (CIEE)
My program is CIEE: Language and Culture in Rabat, Morocco. Morocco is an ideal place for anthro majors to study abroad, with four major languages (French, Arabic, English, and Berber) and cultural influences from the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. You have the choice of living with a family or the dormitories of Mohammed V University; I strongly recommend living with a host family for the cultural and linguistic immersion.

Hanna Noel ’10: Dakar, Senegal (CIEE)
Last semester I studied in Senegal with the CIEE in Dakar program. It allows you to choose from a wide range of courses including Wolof, Senegalese culture, religion, literature, etc. while living with a host family, immersing yourself in the local culture and falling in love with the country of “Teranga” (hospitality).