We asked every member of our group to try to synthesize their experience in Tanzania into a few sentences for this post. Here are their responses:
"I learned that: (1) similarities in people will always outweigh the differences, (2) education is the key to opportunity, discourse, and problem-solving, and (3) one cannot change the world; the best one can do is change their corner of the world."
"I really enjoyed interacting with the Maasai and finding creative ways to communicate across the language barrier. Whether it was shared laughter with the women about my lack of ear piercings or them trying to teach me how to traditionally dance, there was always a way to learn from each other and enjoy each other's company."
"Being in Tanzania taught me to always look at a situation from multiple persepectives and to be careful not to impose my own perspectives too much."
"One of the biggest takeaways for me during this program is the realization of how much you truly can't understand or learn from a book or an article. It's all about the experience."
"Tanzania has truly been an unforgettable experience. The place, people, and educational experience was something that was totally unique to anything I have ever done before."
"I think the part of the Tanzania program that was most memorable was interacting with the Maasai. I never thought I'd get the chance to communicate with people from such a different world so early in my life!"
"Traveling to Tanzania and living with the Maasai has taught me that being able to empathize with people and being open to new perspectives is an essential component when trying to understand a different culture. Once I understood more about the Maasai, similarities between our cultures became more apparent and were the building blocks for creating new relationships."
"Our month in Tanzania taught me a great deal about community-centered living and what it means to take care of my neighbor. Tanzanians, especially the Maasai, cherish constructive relationships that build a society of interdependence. The cultural immersion experience of this J-Term program pushed me to analyze and question my own society's individualistic tendencies."
"Experiencing the massive drought that the Maasai currently face inspires me to continue to be an advocate for human rights and environmental protection, and I've learned that these things must be tackled together."
"There are some feelings you never find the words for, and I've learned to accept that."
"This once in a lifetime opportunity showed me many new things about another culture and also about myself. From this experience I have gained a new perspective on life and what should be treasured over other things. Going forward in my life I will treasure more of my opportunities, because I have a better perspective on what others in the world have and sadly do not have."
"The relationships I built with my classmates, professors, and tour guides is the best gift I could have asked for from this program. Through them, I was able to grow as a person in different ways and learn so much more than any textbook could have shown me. The experience was truly an amazing one that I will forever cherish!"
"I learned so much from the people we met in Tanzania about what it means to love others and give back to the community. Everyone is a brother or a sister. I will miss them so much."
"The best part of J-Term was sharing smiles and laughter as the common language."
"I think what makes the Tanzania program particularly special is the level of immersion that its students are able to experience within another culture. Our professors continually reminded us that we were not tourists, and we were not on vacation. (We were told we weren't allowed to even call the program a "trip" actually - doing so would result in us having to pay a hypothetical fine of 1000 shillings.) We spent most of our time camping within bomas alongside our Maasai hosts instead of in hotels, we bought shukas and kangas in order to dress like our hosts and show respect for their culture, and we were able to meet many Maasai men and women within their home environments and ask them questions about their daily lives. I think this aspect of the program is what made my time in Tanzania particularly valuable and eye-opening to me."