Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Kenya Course Components
“Everyone associated with the KSP ensures you feel welcome and comfortable, such that our group felt like a large family.”
The core course, Culture, Environment and Development of East Africa is the organizing basis for the semester and is comprised of several field components which students participate in throughout the semester. Swahili language study and the two additional elective courses are taken in blocks between field components. Be sure to click on the below links to see photo galleries for each component, and see the calendar for a more detailed semester schedule.
The Orientation Week:
Upon their arrival, students are introduced to the various aspects of the Program and to our staff. A main aspect of the orientation is to prepare students to live independently in Kenya. To achieve this they are first introduced to our neighborhood where they learn how to orientate themselves and take care of their personal needs such as shopping, entertainment, etc. Safety and security are emphasized, not only through lectures and discussions but through field visits and real life experiences. Students also visit Nairobi's central business district on their own, use public transport and start practicing to engage with Kenyans one on one. Students learn Swahili, Kenya's national language and are prepared to aspects of cross-cultural living before they set off for their week's long rural homestay.
The Rural Agricultural Field Component:
The rural homestays enable you to live with Kenyan families and offer the opportunity to understand something of their traditions as well as the modern issues they face. They begin after a weeklong intensive orientation at the St. Lawrence University Study center in Karen. This is an opportunity to learn something about rural village life in Kenya. Your week in this small agricultural community will expose you to many issues and topics that will recur throughout the semester. Each student lives as a member of a family, shares in household duties, and gathers insights into questions that you will explore and discuss in a seminar at the end of the week. Given that almost 65% of Kenya's population lives in the rural areas, this component gives a window through which to see and start understanding much of Kenya's population and its livelihood.
Tanzania Field Study Component:
This field component focuses on the Hadza, one of a few communities that still practice hunting and gathering and live entirely off the land and do not practice any agriculture or keep livestock. Students spend 3 nights with the Hadza in the Yaeda Valley and immerse themselves in their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They join the Hadza women in a food-gathering excursion and go hunting with the Hadza men. They practice how to make fire by rubbing two sticks; dance and sing with the Hadza, learn how to make and use bows and arrows and, discuss with them their culture and the future of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the face of the accelerated development currently taking place in Tanzania.
Urban Study Component:
While doing their classes in Nairobi students spend three weeks living with an urban host family in Nairobi and many students maintain close family ties long after the homestays are over. These home stays offer an opportunity to learn about some urban Kenyan families' lifestyles and at the same time understand the main issues related to the city of Nairobi and its environment are introduced. Most of the homestay families have very close contact with their rural homes and this gives students an opportunity not only to compare rural-urban lives but also to see the processes of change and adaptation that urban-dwellers make because of their inclusion into the urban space.
Amboseli Field Study Component:
This component focuses on the socio-economic, and environmental factors responsible for changing the Maasai culture and pastoral lifestyle from pure nomadic pastoralism to semi-sedentary mixed agro-pastoralism in the Amboseli region. More recently, the region has seen a greater influx of non-Maasai immigrants and experienced a gradual shift from purely pastoral to mixed agro-pastoral economy. This shift, coupled with the increasing human-wildlife conflicts and, the introduction of community-based tourism have resulted in significant changes in the Maasai's pastoral lifestyle. We will examine the competition and conflicts over land, water, pasture and, natural resources. We will explore how the local Maasai manage their own wildlife sanctuaries, tourist lodges, campsites and, cultural tourism ventures. We will also examine the major conservation issues in the region. Students spend a night in a traditional Maasai homestead to engage our host community in many formal and informal discussions.
The Coastal Field Study Component:
The four days long coastal component takes place immediately after the pastoral field component. It aims at introducing the students to the Kenyan Coast and how the endogenous cultures have been influenced by Islam and Christianity. Students visit the Fort Jesus Museum, tour the old city of Mombasa, visit a historical sacred forest site of the endogenous people, visit the Krapf's Memorial Museum and, participate in a discussion about Islam with local men and women groups.
Independent Study Component:
The last four weeks of the program are devoted to an independent study, which is arranged individually according to each student's academic field of specialty and interest. Students carry out activities as instructed by a supervisor from the host organization and in doing so they get exposed to the daily work of a Kenyan organization, and if possible, to provide some small help to the organizations that kindly agree to host you. At the end of your independent study, you will write a final term paper for the St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program. The paper explores some aspects of Kenyan life in an analytical way, with special reference to the course themes, Culture, Environment and Development. It is not a research report on data collected during the course of the independent study.