During my first semester at St. Lawrence, I took a Swahili class. I learned more than just the syntax and grammar; I learned about life in Kenya, traditional foods, and popular music/television. After that semester, I fell in love with the language and I knew I wanted to study abroad in Kenya. I took additional AFS courses such as Peoples and Cultures of Africa and Introduction to African Literature to broaden my knowledge of the continent and better prepare myself for a potential semester abroad. As a Global Studies major with a one-area study concentration, it made sense for me to pursue multiple African Studies courses and off-campus study.
My semester in Kenya has been my most pivotal experience as an undergraduate and it has opened so many doors pertaining to my own research and extracurricular interests. Traveling to Kenya with SLU’s Kenya Semester Program (KSP) has also allowed me to do research for my SYE, which looks at how NGOs with education programs receive funding and where that funding goes. On the KSP, I did my independent study project with an NGO in Uganda. Afterwards, I was able to explore education in rural and urban settings in Kenya through a Travel Enrichment Grant. In addition, I got funding to return to Uganda this past summer to study a different NGO so that I could compare and contrast the two organizations.
Without a doubt, my semester in Kenya had a profound impact on my life. When I returned to SLU, I sought guidance from African Studies professors to build on my experience and find ways to return to East Africa. The African Studies department is filled with excitement, experience, and encouragement. The professors go above and beyond to help students like me, and I always look forward to hearing their stories from travel and research trips. These experiences and conversations have been extremely influential to my own goals of pursuing a higher degree in African Studies.