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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Tanzania Academic Safari

    While walking by a pack of wildebeest inArushaNational Park, Peter Sunwoo looked up to see a towering giraffe glide past him. To his left, he could see thepeakofMount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, and to his right were endless miles of lush forest and green grass.

    Sunwoo, a senior atStonyBrookUniversity, and 14 other students attended Stony Brook’s annual Study Abroad trip toTanzania, a four-week academic experience in what the brochure calls one of the “most interesting cultural and ecological regions of the world.”

    After an initial week of classroom study on the culture and language (Kiswahili) ofTanzania, students embarked on a flight toEast Africato start their academic safari.

    “When I got there, I felt as if everything was almost surreal,” said Stony Brook senior Nazish Qadeer. “I couldn’t believe I was inAfrica.”

    Under the direction of William Arens, Ph.D., professor of anthropology atStonyBrookUniversity, students were taken to three different locations inTanzania.

    Pariticipants started their trip in Magi ya Chai, a rural village named for its brown mineral-filled water. They stayed at the United African American Cultural Center, where they danced and sang at the “ngoma,” a large cultural celebration.

    “I loved learning all the different types of African dance. I really felt like I was being immersed in the culture,” said Qadeer. Students also continued their Swahili instruction at Magi ya Chai, learning conversational skills that they were able to put to use.

    “Ninapenda kusema Kiswahili. That means ‘I like to speak Swahili,'” Sunwoo said. “I liked trying to talk with the locals in another language. It was definitely a learning experience.” Students tried their skills in the marketplace, haggling prices with shop-owners who often spoke only Kiswahili.

    The program participants then traveled to Arusha, one of the major cities ofTanzania, and then to Mto wa Mbu, a town named for its “RiverofMosquitoes .”

    Staying at hotels for both of these weeks, students were given the chance to interact freely with the people ofTanzania.

    “One conversation with the local inhabitants is better than reading a 200-page book about the people who live there,” said Arens, who is the Dean of International Academic Programs atStonyBrookUniversity . “Sometimes stringent university requirements get in the way of a student’s real education.”

    Students earned up to nine credits on the trip, including three credits of independent research, where they decided on their own topics and collected information by interacting with the locals.

    “The trip was both fun and educational,” said Stony Brook senior Elizabeth Vogel.

    “We wrote a couple of papers about conservation and had lengthy discussions about them. I think everybody had something to learn.”

    The study abroad trip was capped off by a six-day camping safari to several Tanzanian parks, includingLakeManyara, Tarangire andSerengetiNational Parks, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Participants were able to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, including lions, giraffes, elephants, rhinos andcheetahs.

    “We were so close to some of the animals,” Qadeer said. “I felt like I could reach out and touch the lions. They were literally a few feet away from us.” Students were able to take pictures and videos of the animals from the safety of their land rover, which trekked the rugged terrain of the parks.

    “I think one of the most important parts of the trip, however, is learning what the rest of the world is like,” said Sunwoo. “It was an eye-opening experience. People live in poverty everywhere in the world, and it became so apparent to me inAfrica.”

    Because of his trip toTanzania, Sunwoo decided to start an American branch of the charity organization Children for Children’s Future right here atStonyBrookUniversity . He plans to raise money for CCF and send it back toTanzaniato help the street children that rely on the organization for food, clothes and education.

    “Everyone should go abroad,” Arens said. “If you could be inParis,Tanzania orMadagascar, what are you doing inIslip?”

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