Africa in Our Lives: Carly Burson

10JUL14 - Profiles_Burson
“Studying abroad in an African county allows you to immerse yourself in a culture entirely different than the United States. ” – Carly Burson (Photo by Catherine A. Reiland/UW-Madison)

Carly Burson (x15) had no idea she would study Swahili before coming to UW-Madison or that doing so would lead her to an unforgettable experience abroad. Now, she dreams of a career that will combine both.

Major: Community and Nonprofit Leadership
Certificates: African Studies and Global Health

Hometown: Duluth, Minnesota

Why did you choose to study Swahili?

As an incoming freshman, I had studied Spanish for five years and wanted to try a new language that is spoken in developing countries. I heard Harold Scheub speak about Swahili at SOAR and I decided to give it a try and I’ve stuck with it ever since!

Tell us about your study abroad experience in Kenya:

I lived in Kenya for five months. I lived with a host family in Nairobi for three months while I took college courses from Kenyan professors and then with a different host family in Mombasa for two months during an internship.

Describe a typical day:

During the classroom portion in Nairobi, I would walk about 20 minutes to class every day. Between classes we would take chai breaks (Kenyans love their chai) and a lunch break. After classes were done, we were free to do what we pleased. Most afternoons, other students and I would explore Nairobi and maybe do some shopping at Toi Market which is one of Nairobi’s largest markets. We all had to be home by sundown and when it became dark outside, I would make chai for my host parents as my host mom prepared dinner. Many nights I would watch Spanish soap operas with my host dad while doing my homework before watching the news. On weekends we usually traveled outside of Nairobi to see national parks and other sights.

What was a favorite memory?

One of the highlights of my trip was taking a day trip to the coastal town of Malindi with another student. It was spontaneous trip. Taking a matatu for the three hour ride there and back and exploring the beautiful city on the Indian Ocean on our own for the day made me realize how much I had changed over the months I was there. Looking back to when I first arrived in Nairobi, I would have been terrified to do something like that.

Carly takes a break with co-workers during her internship at Family Health Options-Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Burson)
Carly takes a break with co-workers during her internship at Family Health Options-Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Burson)

Why study abroad in Africa?

Studying abroad in an African county allows you to immerse yourself in a culture entirely different than the United States. It truly challenges you and you learn so much about others as well as yourself during the experience.

What do you enjoy most about attending UW-Madison?

I love the number of opportunities UW-Madison has to offer. I most likely wouldn’t be speaking Swahili now if I had attended a different university. I love the number of diverse courses offered, organizations and events happening on and around campus.

Do you have a favorite mantra/phrase?

“The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude.”

What is your dream job?

My dream job would allow me to keep using Swahili and travel the world. Whatever it is I end up doing, I hope that it makes an impact and is working towards making our world a better place for all of us.

Profile produced by Meagan Doll.

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