To be able to experience the wonders of Tanzania first hand, was an invaluable experience that will forever be a highlight of my life.

Costa, one of the camp staff members, who quickly became one of my better friends in Tanzania, and I.

Costa, one of the camp staff members, who quickly became one of my better friends in Tanzania, and I.

Not only was this my very first study abroad experience, but it was also my first time traveling outside of the country. The program that I participated in was through The School for Field Studies, or SFS for short, and the area of study that this section focused on was wildlife conservation techniques. While I learned a lot about the abundance of wildlife and some methods to preserving the animal life there, this trip included so much more than I anticipated. My expectations were not only met, but overwhelmingly exceeded. I got to experience multiple new cultures, interact with the locals, and get immersed in the beautiful surroundings of an unfamiliar area. All of these attributes working together, gave me an appreciation for everything that Tanzania had to offer, and reshaped my opinion of an area that I quickly discovered I actually knew nothing about.

There was no shortage of national parks and other protected areas to visit in Tanzania. Over the course of the month that this study abroad trip took place, I was able to visit Manyara National Park, Manyara Ranch, Ngorongoro crater, Tarangire National park, and the Serengeti. Each of these parks were beautiful in their own way, and contained no shortage of animals to study and observe. We even were lucky enough to be able to spend 3 nights at a camp in the Serengeti, which was open to the surroundings, and on several occasions had animals passing through it or nearby it. During a guest lecture in the national park, 3 giraffes passed by outside of the camp, and on another occasion a group of mongooses crossed through while we were eating lunch. The most impressive of these locations however, was Ngorongoro crater, which is a massive inactive volcano turned into a wildlife preservation area, which is the home of many different species of animals native to Tanzania. The view from the top of the crater is easily one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in my whole life. With as large as the crater was, the massive expanse of land in the center, and the other side of the crater rising up over the horizon was only a small portion of the wonder that Tanzania called it's own.

Aside from all of the beautiful sites and the plethora of animals, all of the locals there were so inviting and polite, with few exceptions. Some, in fact, were tourist friendly and readily invited us into their homes. As much time as we spent studying animals and vegetation in the area, we also spent visiting other tribes and learning what we could about how they lived. Of all the tribes we visited, two that were unique were the Hadzabe and the Maasai, both of whom had no issue with us observing their culture. Communicating with them was rather difficult on occasion, because the Hadzabe didn't speak any English, and the Maasai spoke very little, but that didn't stop us from learning from them. One thing that was particularly fun, and that we all got the opportunity to try were their differing methods of hunting. While the Hadzabe men do most of their hunting via bows and arrows, the Maasai perform their hunting by throwing spears. Although both of these tribes live apart from the rest of society in Africa, they actually choose to live that way, and they aren't burdened by the way they live, which made learning from them that much more exciting. Meeting and interacting with them was definitely an eye-opening experience, and reshaped my thoughts about life in Africa.

In being allowed the perspective of visiting a new country, not only did I gain knowledge that is applicable to my major, but I also learned things that are important for my development as a person. The first thing that I noticed when arriving in Africa was that my expectations of what it was like over there were completely wrong. I was surprised to see entire cities with buildings as tall as those that we have here in the U.S, and that the people there dressed like us, and had jobs like us, and owned vehicles like us, and that they had cell phones and so much more! The sheer number of people that roamed the streets was astonishing and I had no idea that life in Tanzania was anything like what I was seeing. I was under the impression that everybody lived who in Africa dressed in in togas and blankets, didn't have any kind of footwear other than maybe sandals, and lived in mudbrick homes. I quickly discovered however, that all the ideas that I had about this place were entirely wrong. Every pretense I had about Africa was completely shattered and I was forced to form new opinions and adapt to a strange area that I knew nothing about. A skill that I quickly had to acquire was the ability to connect with people of different cultures, in their culture. Normally, when meeting people of different backgrounds, it's always been in the comfort of an area I was familiar with. But now the tables were turned, and I was the outsider living in an unfamiliar area. Because of this I had to learn to adapt to the customs of this culture, and interact with those who saw me as a foreigner. Although at times this was difficult, I managed to connect with many who were different than I was, and I was even able to make close friends with some of the locals there, who I wish I will someday be able to see again.

In the end, this study abroad experience was nothing less than fantastic. As this was the first and only time that I have ever traveled abroad, I will never forget the ideas and concepts that I learned, the experiences that I've had, the memories I've made, and the most important, the people that I met. It all gave me a different perspective and knowledge on a new area, and I hope to be able to spread that knowledge to those who have the same misconceptions that I had before traveling. To be able to experience the wonders of Tanzania first hand, was an invaluable experience that will forever be a highlight of my life.

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802