I’ve just returned from my 4-week study abroad trip to Tanzania. We spent the first two weeks at the Mweka College of African Wildlife Management studying Wildlife Ecology and Management. The courses focused on local wildlife management in Tanzania, but the information was applicable to other wildlife-inhabited areas around the world. We learned the role that protected areas play in Tanzania, and the implications of human-wildlife conflicts. The campus is home to around 400 Tanzanian students, who all proved to be extremely friendly and welcoming to us. I really enjoyed talking with them, and tried to speak basic Swahili phrases when I could. We attempted to play basketball against a group of the students, and ended up mixing the teams together because we were getting beaten so badly!
Soon it was time to hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest freestanding mountain. We hiked up to the first camp, Mandara Hut, and then a little farther up to Maundi Crater. The hike was a little tougher than I expected, but the view at the top was definitely worth it! We only finished the first day’s hike, but I definitely plan to return to Tanzania soon to hike to the top.
The day finally came for our graduation from Mweka. After a nice little ceremony carried out by the professors and director of the college, a few of the students we became friends with took us on a walk for a surprise. They took us to an open area near the dining hall, where they presented each of us with trees (Gaveria africanus) to plant on the campus. It was a really special experience for all of us. We were then taken to the main hall, where the students organized a performance from one of the tribes called the Maasai. They performed songs, dances, and ceremonies. It was wonderful!
After our two weeks at Mweka, we set out for our 10-night safari. The first stop was Simanjiro, and we were the first guests to stay at the campsite. We visited the local Maasai boma, and then the Loiborsoit Training Institute that teaches ranch management and animal production. Our next stop was Lake Manyara National park, where we visited a fishing village that harvests the only type of fish found in the lake, white-lipped tilapia. On the second night of our stay, we all sat and watched the stars, getting a glimpse of the beginning of a meteor shower. We saw around 40-50 shooting stars, and I had never seen anything quite that amazing before in my life.
The next day we headed to Lake Eyasi, where we visited the Datoga people who demonstrated their blacksmithing skills for us. Later we had the pleasure of visiting the Hadzabe tribe and accompanying them on a hunt. They caught a squirrel, a bird and an owl. After Lake Eyasi we headed to the Ngorongoro crater, a 300 square kilometer crater home to an abundance of wildlife. The ride through the crater was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, especially because we got to see a black rhino, my favorite animal since I’ve been a child. The Serengeti National Park was our last stop on the safari. We received a lecture from Dr. Chuma, the head veterinarian of the Serengeti, a lecture about the endangered African wild dogs, and immobilized a hyena and topi to take samples with Dr. Ernest. The last day of our safari, we traveled to the Mara River that borders Kenya. Along the way, we witnessed the Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and Thompson gazelle.
All in all, we saw everything we wanted to see on the trip, in terms of animals and scenery. Seeing so many animals up close was really spectacular. After leaving the Serengeti, we returned to Arusha to celebrate and spend the night with some of our friends from Mweka. We all had a great time, and it was a little bit sad saying goodbye but I’m sure we will all meet again soon. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and I definitely look forward to returning to Tanzania in the near future!
My study abroad experience had a profound impact on me academically, professionally and personally. I really enjoyed studying in another country and experiencing their way of education. The Mweka College of Wildlife Management was a wonderful school that had a strong focus on wildlife and tourism management. I liked how the curriculum was not too general, but at the same time provided extensive knowledge on local issues in Tanzania. We learned a great deal about the conflicts that occur between humans and wildlife in the region, and the best ways to resolve them. We learned about the importance of tourism in the country, which provides a significant portion of Tanzania’s revenue. It was also interesting to learn about local issues and how they relate to the rest of the world, whether its trophy hunters shipping their trophies to other countries or the demand for rhino horn in East Asia. We had the privilege of carrying out fieldwork, carrying out tasks such as plant and animal inventories and darting a hyena for sampling. It was great to be able to apply the knowledge we gained from the college to real-world events during our safari, where we met with local tribes and learned about issues they’re working with.
In a professional sense, I gained a better understanding of the type of work opportunities associated with my area of study. We met with a number of researchers during our safari expedition, studying anything from wild dog distribution in the Serengeti to disease emergence in various national parks. I realized that there’s a wide array of opportunities to do research all over the world, and it motivated me to begin considering something that I would love to work on. We learned about typical professions in Tanzania related to our field, which include tourist guides, park rangers and anti-poaching teams. I think it would be an incredible experience to work on an anti-poaching team, especially considering my love for rhinos; this is something I can definitely see myself doing some day. I’m very glad I chose a study abroad program that correlated so closely with my field of study, giving me a glimpse of what I’ll be doing in the not so distant future.
I feel that I truly grew a lot personally throughout the trip. It was my first time out of the country and truly experiencing a new culture. Not only did I become close with the other nine students from my school, but we really bonded with the local Tanzanian students at the college as well. When we finished with classes and studying during the day, we would meet with the local students and spend time with them at night. We talked about life in our respective countries, what’s different and what’s the same, and what we hope the future brings. It was an unforgettable experience getting to know people from a completely different background and putting my way of life into perspective. At the end of our stay at the college, we all exchanged e-mail and Facebook information and are fortunate enough to be able to keep in touch! We made friends for life, and I really look forward to making more international relationships in the future!
I have always had an interest in visiting other countries and learning about other cultures. My study abroad experience in Tanzania has really made me consider working in a country other than the United States. I definitely look forward to visiting many more countries in the future and working with as many cultures and ways of life as I can.
Prior to departing for my study abroad trip, I created a fundraiser in order to donate to an orphanage located in Tanzania, the Amani Children’s Home. I received donations from friends and family, which I then used to purchase food and supplies at the local market in Moshi. We bought rice, beans, cooking oil, laundry detergent, soccer balls, school supplies and T-shirts to bring to the children of the orphanage.
We arrived at the orphanage and received a tour of the premises, before beginning a soccer match against the children. Not to our surprise, the children were much better than us and we got our butts kicked! It was such a fun time!
After hanging out with the children for some time, we presented them with the food and supplies. I think a lot of the donations the orphanage receives are through checks or donations from people who never visit the facility itself, so I think it was special for the kids to see us in person and see that we care about them! They were all so excited to see us, and overall it was a great time and success!
#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad #imagineaces