Health and Safety
A Mixed Bag
Submitted by hford - Kenya | July 05, 2010
This program had positive elements and negative elements. The Swahili program was excellent. It is very intense at the beginning, but the teachers are amazing. I just wish we had continued language lessons all the way up until ISP. Academically it was not very stimulating. Lectures were dry and usually way too long (think 3-4 hours) and oftentimes on things we already knew or could easily have learned on our own. There were a few good ones, but in general they lacked depth and analysis. The excursions were appropriate to the program, but felt bizarre sometimes. We would usually go visit NGOs around Nairobi and they would give us their pamphlets and a tour of their facilities. We never really engaged actively with these organizations though which is why it often felt like we were on an extended poverty tour. ISP (the cornerstone of SIT programs) makes up for it though because gives you the chance to really dive into a topic. Everyone in my group took ISP really seriously and I was impressed with the research we all produced.
The staff are all really wonderful people who we all adored. The only thing is that the directers were sometimes pretty disorganized so there were frequent miscommunications between them, the staff and the students. I think the administration side could definitely use a bit of restructuring. The real value in this program though are the experiences you gain living in Nairobi. There is one longterm homestay which gives you the chance to really get to know your family and neighborhood. About half of the students live on the edge of Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. It is pretty overwhelming at first, but it is also incredibly eye-opening and the skills you gain living there are invaluable. There is also a short homestay in a village on the coast and then a visit to rural areas in Tanzania, so I felt like we got a decent view of rural vs. urban living in East Africa. Nairobi is not an easy place to live and there is definitely a lot of crime. But our directors gave us the knowledge and skills necessary to stay safe and consequently there were no major incidents in our group.
In short, it is generally a good program and I learned a lot (even if it wasn't from the lectures). If you are looking for more direct community engagement though, I might check out the Minnisota program first. But if you want more independence and the chance to do independent fieldwork, this is probably a good match.