My name is Allison Paludi and I am a senior from Duanesburg, New York. I am a Global Studies Major with African Studies and Education Studies minors. I studied abroad in Kenya during Spring 2012 semester of my sophomore year. Words cannot fully sum up my time in East Africa, but I’ll try my best and give you a glimpse of the most amazing experience of my life thus far!
Aside from in-classroom learning (I took Socioeconomic Issues in Modern Kenya and Gender Issues in Modern and Traditional Kenya, in conjunction with our core course and Swahili), there was such an extensive amount of experiential hands-on learning based on the different field components and home stays. Living in both rural and urban Kenya, I was able to see the contrasts in the landscape—from the luscious green hills of Meru to the massive buildings in Nairobi—as well as the contrast in lifestyles of the different peoples and cultures. In addition, traveling to the coast and learning more about the Swahili culture as well as making the trek down to the Yaeda Valley and spending the week with hunter-gatherers in Tanzania opened my eyes to what East Africa has to offer and of course, I loved meeting and interacting with the amazing and hospitable people along the way!
For the final month of the program when students disperse throughout East Africa for our independent studies, I traveled to Bujagali Falls, Uganda, and volunteered with an organization called S.O.U.L. (Supporting Opportunities for Ugandans to Learn). This is a community development organization located along the Nile River with projects focusing on women’s groups, fishermen, and children. I had the opportunity to dive into several projects including the pre-primary school, the chicken groups, the fishpond project, and the women’s crafts project. I lived with a host family for the entire month with no electricity and running water, and became completely immersed in village life.
At the end of the semester, I decided to stay an additional two weeks with the help of a Travel Enrichment Grant whereby I traveled to two different schools in Kenya to explore education in East Africa. First, I traveled to Narok and visited a Maasai school/rescue center for girls called Enkiteng Lepa. I stayed in the dormitory with 13 young Maasai girls and learned about their lives and how they escaped early child marriage and FGM. After Narok, I made the trip back to Nairobi and volunteered at the Red Rose School in Kibera. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the Children of Kibera Foundation volunteers and learn more about their work in Kibera.
Studying abroad is such a rewarding and life-changing experience. Not only was I able to learn a language, meet new people, and live in the diverse areas of Kenya, but I also explored more of East Africa to make the most of my 4+ months abroad. Now back at SLU, I am always eager to share stories and meet other students who are planning to make a study abroad program part of their undergraduate experience!