For nearly 50 years St. Lawrence has operated the Kenya Semester Program, making it one of the longest-running U.S. study abroad programs on the African continent. Based at our SLU owned and operated campus a verdant, peaceful and safe suburb of Nairobi, the Kenya program is rooted in this deep tradition and is committed to providing students with a unique study abroad experience. We believe the best way to learn about Kenya is through cultural immersion and experiential learning. As a result, students supplement formal coursework and language study in Kenya's bustling capital city with rural and urban homestays, three additional field components and a month-long independent study where students examine East Africa's diverse society. As a program which is open to students of all academic interests, we welcome applications from both current St. Lawrence students as well as students from other institutions. You can also learn more about the student experience by visiting the Kenya program's Facebook pageKenya program's blog. Take a tour of the compound and meet the staff or explore a video preview made by KSP alumnus and professional videographer Beau  Gaughran '15. 


Apply to the Kenya Semester Program

If you are NOT a St. Lawrence student and are interested in applying, please contact us at to inquire about non-SLU deadlines and scholarship opportunities. Then proceed with your application at the link below.

Apply to the Kenya Semester Program (Non-SLU Only)

Location     Academics     Course Components     Housing     Calendar     Orientation      Program Contacts  


Lying on the Equator, Kenya is home to a diverse population of over 40 million. 

The cosmopolitan capital city of Nairobi, rising from the plateau of south-central Kenya, is the home base of our program. A city with over three million residents, Nairobi is East Africa's regional center for trade and is one of three cities in the world to host a regional headquarters of the United Nations. Based in this vibrant and diverse city, students will gain familiarity with the urban environment while also visiting many of the rural areas, where approximately 75 percent of the country's population resides. 

The program's headquarters are located in Karen, a leafy suburb of Nairobi, where St. Lawrence operated a 5 1/2 acre gated campus. Students use the campus as a home base for the semester, but only spend about 8 weeks living here. The two faculty directors, as well as program staff, also live on campus. Students spend time during the semester traveling throughout Kenya and East Africa on various course components explained in detail below.

Learn more about Kenya.

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The Kenya Semester Program is an interdisciplinary academic program that uses a combination of learning models -- classroom, field-based and experiential -- and emphasizes cultural immersion throughout the semester. Students take two required courses. In addition, students select two elective courses so they can focus on their own field of interest or specialization. The program serves majors from a number of different disciplines. Whether matriculated at St. Lawrence or elsewhere, all students must take four courses to earn full-semester credit. For dual-listed courses, students must indicate while registering in Kenya for which department they want the course listed. Therefore, students must confer with their advisors and department chairpersons well in advance of studying in Kenya to plan their program and avoid problems.

Required Courses:

  • AFS 337/ANTH 337/ENVS 337/GS 337/SOC 338: Culture, Environment, and Development in East Africa 
    (1.5 SLU units; Fulfills SOCIAL SCIENCES distribution requirement)
  • AFS/SWAH 101, AFS103/SWAH 103: Swahili (at the appropriate level) 
    (1 SLU unit)

Elective Courses (Students select 2):

  • AFS 342/ENVS 342/BIO 242: Biodiversity Conservation and Management in East Africa 
    (1 SLU unit; Fulfills ENVIRONMENTAL LITERACY distribution requirement)
  • AFS 3058/SOC 3188 and PH3012: Health, Healing and Social Determinants of Health in Contemporary East Africa
    (1 SLU unit)
  • AFS/GOV/SOC 326: Critical Issues in Socio-Economic Development in Kenya 
    (1 SLU unit; Fulfills SOCIAL SCIENCES distribution requirement)
  • AFS/ANTH/GNDR/SOC 247: Gender Issues in Modern and Traditional Kenya 
    (1 SLU unit; Fulfills SOCIAL SCIENCES distribution requirement)
  • AFS/HIST 354: Introduction to the History of Modern Kenya 
    (1 SLU unit; Fulfills SOCIAL SCIENCES distribution requirement)

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Course Components

The core course, Culture, Environment and Development of East Africa is the organizing basis for the semester and is comprised of several field components throughout the semester. Swahili language study and the two additional elective courses are taken in blocks between field components. 

Kenya Semester Program Campus

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. As on all St. Lawrence University off-campus programs, safety and security are emphasized, not only through lectures and discussions but through field visits and experiences. Students also visit Nairobi's central business district, use public transport and engage with Kenyans one-on-one. Students learn Swahili, Kenya's national language, and are prepared for aspects of cross-cultural living before they set off for their week-long rural homestay.

The Rural Agricultural Field Component: 

Rural homestays enable students to live with Kenyan families and understand something of their perspectives, lives, and experiences. Rural homestays begin after a week-long intensive orientation at the St. Lawrence University Study Center in Karen. Students' time in small agricultural communities exposes them to many issues and topics that recur throughout the semester. Each student lives as a member of a family, shares in household duties, and gathers insights into questions to be explored and discussed in a seminar at the end of the week. Given that almost 75% 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.

Field Study Living with the Hazda

Tanzania Field Study Component: 

This field component focuses on the Hadza, one of a few communities that still practice hunting and gathering, live entirely off the land, and do not practice any agriculture or keep livestock. Students spend three nights with the Hadza in the Yaeda Valley and in their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They join the Hadza women in a food-gathering excursion and go hunting with the Hadza men. They learn cultural practices and discuss the future of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the face of the accelerated development currently taking place in Tanzania.

Students in Nairobi

Urban Study Component: 

While attending 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 homestays 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. Students experience day-to-day life with their family in the heart of Nairobi, one of the world's most dynamic cities.

Amboseli Field Study Component

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 a mixed agro-pastoral economy. This shift, coupled with increasing human-wildlife conflicts and the introduction of community-based tourism, has resulted in significant changes in the Maasai's pastoral lifestyle. Students examine the competition and conflicts over land, water, pasture and, natural resources and explore how the local Maasai manage their own wildlife sanctuaries, tourist lodges, campsites and, cultural tourism ventures. Students also examine the major conservation issues in the region and spend a night in a traditional Maasai homestead to engage members of the community in formal and informal discussions.

Coastal Study Component: 

Students participate in a field trip to Mombasa to introduce the major historical factors that shaped today’s coastal society and to how the Swahili people view themselves today. Students learn about the history and influence of Islam and Christianity at the coast. They visit Fort Jesus to learn about the battles fought to dominate the coast since the laying of its foundation in 1593. A tour of the old city of Mombasa highlights the fusion of Arabic, Indian and Swahili architecture. Students also visit the public beach to explore local participation in the tourism industry and the associated social implications and discuss pertinent contemporary issues with Swahili scholars.

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 a local host organization and in doing are exposed to the daily work of and provide some help to the organizations. At the end of the independent study, students write a final term paper for the St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program. The paper explores some aspects of Kenyan culture in an analytical way, with special reference to the course themes of Culture, Environment, and Development. It is not a research report on data collected during the course of the independent study.

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The programs headquarters are located in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi, where St. Lawrence University operates a 5 acre gated campus. Students use the campus as a home base for the semester, but only spend about 8 weeks living here. The three program directors, as well as several program staff, also live on campus. Students spend time during the semester traveling throughout Kenya and East Africa on various course components. Students spend the various course components living with homestay families, in hotels, camping for 1 field component and in guesthouses or apartments for their independent study.

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The Fall semester typically begins in mid-August and ends in mid-December. The Spring semester typically begins in early January and ends in late April/early May.

Fall 2023


Friday 11: Departure Day

Saturday 12: Orientation

Monday 14: Swahili Class Begins

Thursday 17: Rural Home Stay Component Begins

Friday 25: Rural Home Stay Concludes

Monday 28: Classes Begin


Saturday 2: Hiking Excursion

Saturday 9: Field Component in Tanzania Begins

Friday 15: Field Component Concludes

Sunday 17: Urban Homestay Begins

Friday 22: Group Urban Activity

Friday 29: Group Urban Activity 


Friday 6: Urban Homestay Concludes

Tuesday 10: Amboseli Field Component Begins

Sunday 15: Mombasa Field Component Begins

Saturday 21: Field Component Concludes


Monday 6: Independent Study Component Begins 


Saturday 2: Independent Study Component Concludes 

Thursday 7: Departure for U.S.


Spring 2024


Friday 12: Departure Day

Saturday 13: Orientation

Monday 15: Swahili Class Begins

Thursday18: Rural Home Stay Component

Friday 26: End of Rural Home Stay

Monday 29: Elective Classes Begin


Saturday 3: Hiking Excursion

Saturday-Friday 10-17: Week-long Excursion

Sunday 18: Urban Homestay Begins

Friday 24 Group Urban Activity


Friday 2: Group Urban Activity 

Friday 8: End of Urban Homestay

Monday 12: Travel to Field Study Component 

Sunday 17: Travel to Costal Study Component 

Friday 23: Return to Nairobi 


Monday 9: Independent Study Component Begins 


Saturday 4: Return to Nairobi

Thursday 9: Departure for U.S.

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Pre-departure: The CIIS office organizes in-depth orientation sessions on-campus prior to the student's participation in the program. This includes a program specific session(s) in which students learn more about the program, local culture, academic expectations, and any other important information. There is also an orientation session led by the CIIS office on culture shock, pre-departure preparation, as well as safety and security while abroad.

On-site: Upon arrival in Nairobi, students participate in an in-depth, week-long orientation designed to introduce them to Kenyan culture and daily life, and familiarize them with the Kenya Semester Program. The orientation combines structured informational sessions with organized activities and free time to familiarize participants with Nairobi. Topics such as safety and health, Kenyan family life, cultural adaptation, program regulations, participant responsibilities and other essential information are all discussed during orientation. During the on-site orientation students also meet their professors, receive final language placements, and become familiar with the program site and staff.

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Program Contacts

If you are interested in learning more about the Kenya Semester Program please contact one of the following people.

CIIS OfficeCaitlin Hatz, Director of Off-Campus Programs - Questions about eligibility, program logistics, and other off-campus opportunities.

Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Matt Carotenuto  and Dr. Kristen McKie- Questions about program academics.

Apply to the Kenya Semester Program

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