For students considering study abroad programs, the options can be overwhelming.
International Academic Programs (IAP), UW-Madison’s study abroad office, offers over 200 programs in more than 60 countries.
Though 1300 students take advantage of these programs, according to a recent report from IAP, only about seven percent participate in programs in Africa – one of the smallest regional study abroad rates.
In an effort to encourage more students to study on the continent, the African Studies Program asked students who recently returned from study and research trips: Why Africa?
“In the U.S., most schools don’t teach very much about Africa and the media rarely covers it, even though Africa is a huge continent with important histories that Americans should know. So from a young age I got this curiosity to learn more. The biggest takeaway from my time in Tanzania was that most representations of African countries in the media are oversimplified and problematic.”
“Not only did I learn an incredible amount by working with my hands, using modern equipment, and unearthing stone tools/bones from a million-year-old context, but I also made friendships and connections with some of the top researchers and scientists in the field of anthropology. Our small group (eight of us students total) got special lectures and exclusive peeks into the newest finds of these archaeologists – things that have yet to be published!”
“Why Algeria? Why NOT Algeria? Algeria is my home country. In an era of fear mongering and Islamophobia, most people would think twice before deciding to travel to a Muslim country and stay there for an extended period to do research. However, once you arrive, you realize how inaccurate the images are that the media instills in people’s minds. The Algerian people are very nice and hospitable. They have zero percent xenophobia. I had very engaging conversations with random people in cabs, cafes, markets, and on campus. With both eyes and ears wide open, I went to Algeria with one research topic; I left the country with an infinite number of questions that await to be answered.”
“Studying in Tanzania helped me realize that life is so much bigger than I could ever have imagined. Learning about wildlife ecology and then witnessing this ecology first hand is jaw dropping. I had the opportunity to spend seven days in the untouched Yaeda Valley with just a few of my classmates, our professor, and Hadzabe Tribe members who led us through the bush for hours on end to gather data for research. The schooling was incredibly hands-on, something we don’t always see in Western culture.”
“Why Nigeria? Because it has Nollywood, the second largest film industry in the world. As a Nigerian, the country has rich cultural diversity, and it is the epicenter of popular culture in the continent. It is the New York and Hong Kong of Africa!”
“I studied abroad through the UW Healthcare in Tanzania program. My favorite memory was when we visited the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Moshi to teach and converse with a small group of HIV positive kids. During this discussion, we learned about the crushing stigma, myths, and adversities that HIV positive kids face in Tanzania. Yet the biggest takeaway from my experience in Tanzania was immensely positive: the HIV/AIDS issue there shows great promise of improving and by educating young people, we can help change the world for generations to come.”
“My journey to Nigeria started from my experience with many Nigerian traders in Guangzhou, China. I followed them back to Lagos and decided to stay. The dynamic life in Lagos fascinated me and led me to new research on urbanism in Africa.”
“I could have never have imagined all the things I now know I’m capable of because I studied abroad in Kenya. Learning to adapt and thrive in a new culture is challenging and so incredibly rewarding. When I arrived I was terrified to take a matatu (local transportation) around the city or even try to barter; five months later I was traveling up and down the coast of the Indian Ocean via matatu and bartering in Swahili.”
“Why Rwanda? Because even though I was trained in a humanities-related field, I found that Africa was still largely being discussed in terms of such factors as poverty, disease, and war. And though these problems still exist in many African countries – it would be counterproductive to ignore them – this hyper-concentration on them fails to acknowledge the humanity behind the inhumane. African Studies, as an inter-discipline, pushes me to be a more ethical, empathetic scholar. It requires me to recognize another’s humanity before I can ever assume the presence of my own.”