Volunteer in Africa: The ultimate study abroad
I began studying Swahili during my first year at Hampshire College. I loved learning a new language and studying East African culture. So when I began my third year of school, I decided to volunteer in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania with Cross-Cultural Solutions as an independent study. CCS provided me with the perfect foundation to create a month-long program while earning academic credit.
The CCS volunteer program in Tanzania was the perfect opportunity to practice my Swahili skills, engage with the community, and teach at a local nursery school. CCS provided me with every aspect I was looking for in my study abroad experience. On my first day at my volunteer assignment, the head teacher already knew all about me. He knew where I came from and that I was studying Swahili. He made me the head teacher of my own class so I could work on my language skills. It was obvious that my Program Site Specialist had been in close contact with the in-country staff, and that the in-country staff had done a great job communicating my personal goals for my independent study to the folks over at my volunteer assignment.
It wasn’t long before each day felt like just another day of an incredible routine. I felt comfortable at my volunteer assignment, I fell in love with my students, and was able to strengthen my relationship with them by communicating in Swahili. The students were fascinated with animals so I had the opportunity to create lesson plans where we would read books about different animals, draw pictures of our favorite animals, and play animal games outside. Seeing their faces light up as I read in Swahili about the kiboko (hippopotamus) or tembo (elephant) was so rewarding!
And it wasn’t only the volunteer work that helped me work toward my goals. The organized cultural activities were extremely valuable for me since I was studying East African culture in college. Visiting the Chagga Caves, batik making, and hiking to a waterfall to go swimming were all extraordinary experiences. My favorite, however, was the cultural dance night. Watching a local dance company perform and then getting the opportunity to dance with them was more than I ever expected to be able to do while volunteering abroad.
Choosing CCS for my study abroad experience was the best choice I could have made. I would never have been able to learn so much were it not for my time volunteering with CCS. The support of the staff helped me create the best experience possible. CCS not only changed my life but it changed my career path. Now I have the opportunity to inspire other volunteers to have the incredible experience I did!