After coming home from Tanzania, I have had some time to reflect on my summer. I am grateful to be able to drink tap water again, but I miss the novelty of living in a different country, and the stimulation of new experiences. If I were to do it over again, I would be sure to study Swahili before I arrived. Though many academics and professionals speak impeccable English, I missed out on truly interacting with the people I met day to day. Even when I tried a few jumbled and mumbled words in Swahili, it was appreciated as an attempt to communicate and connect. I can only imagine the connection a greater fluency would have provided.
One great thing about the research we did is its ability to let us travel – this was my favorite part of the trip. We lived in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. The land rights workshops took me to some south eastern villages in Kilwa and Rufiji. Helping with the roll out of phase three of the mobile phone study took us up to the northern part of the country in Arusha, where the weather was far cooler (such a nice break from the coastal area) and the scenery was beautiful. When helping one of the students I was with on her honors thesis, we traveled up to Mwanza by Lake Victoria, an experience and sight I will never forget.
If anything, the ability to travel and to learn in such a different place instilled in me the importance of undergraduate experiences in research. Without experiences like these that make undergraduates open and passionate about their work, how else can one inspire a future generation of scholars?