Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Letter to Spring 2009 Students

One of my final tasks this semester was to write a letter to the next semester's participants to be put in their program packet, a task that was delegated to me, for some reason, by the rest of the group. It was actually pretty reflective of our experiences here as a whole, so I decided to post it. Here it is!

Dear Spring 2009 AU Abroad student,

Karibu Kenya! We’re all very excited that you’ve made the first step to an amazing experience, a step that most people will never take. Your fellow program participants all share one thing in common with you: they’ve chosen study abroad path that is anything but ordinary. We have a semester’s worth of advice to give you, but in reality it’s your individual imperative to create your own, unique experience in one of the greatest cities in Africa.

We could try to predict what your experience will be like, to get you ready, but every semester is different. So instead, we’re just going to tell you what we felt. We’ve discovered that Nairobi is a moody city, and there are days when we came home hating everyone and everything, and there were days when we came home never wanting to leave this place. We realized that this is a hard place to live, but that it made the rewards even greater and the memories even sweeter. We grew tough skin, laughed at things we couldn’t change, and fell in love with Nairobi and the people that live here. For the most part, we didn’t go to the gym enough, ate too much starchy Kenyan food, and didn’t call our parents enough, preferring instead to spend our time making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So here’s our best attempt at giving advice for you: Dive in, immediately. It gets busy later on in the semester, and you’ll regret it if you spent the first month you were here watching Oprah reruns. Travel soon and often, even it means a two-day trip to Nakuru by matatu. Just get used to the dirt covering your feet everyday, it’s not going away. Use each other as resources; talking and even complaining is a way to process what you just saw. Expect bad days, they will come. At the end of those bad days, make brownies and eat the entire pan (calories don’t count when you’re studying abroad). Meet people, and realize that sometimes the people coming from the opposite backgrounds as you make the best friends. Laugh at the frustrating things, it makes life easier. Blog, or journal as often as possible. Be culturally sensitive, but remember that you can defend yourself, where you’re from, and what you believe in... it’ll make for great conversation!

Good luck and we wish you the best in your adventure,

- Girls of Fall 2008


Bethany said...

Wait. Did you do oratory in high school? :)

Well written.

Gary said...

Well put, Miss Erin, well put.

Justin said...

I love Bethany's comment.

I agree.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize you ended up actually writing the letter! Thanks for doing that - you did a great job of writing something heartfelt but simple.
- Allie

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