I wanted to observe developmental trends, peoples of a developing nation, ethnic tension, role of religion and religious tension, role of state vs. role of illegitimate actors (organized crime or extreme political factions), condition and awareness of the environment, old vs. new, and an overall exposure to people and cultures drastically different then my own. The Kenya semester program has been in existence for quite a while and because of this is very well instituted. The program provides an outlet for communication and interaction with several groups of people in places all over Eastern Africa. I have been able to meet, talk, and learn from men, women and individuals of varying ages. The people were represented by pastoralists (Massai), hunter gathers (Hadzabe), as well as members of numerous different ethnic groups from both an urban and rural settings.
Having such a large and diverse pool of interactions and information has allowed me to make very interesting comparisons and contrasts. Also I have been able to look at issues of development not only from a social, political and economic perspective but from the various perspectives of those affected.
The trip has a number of components that make up the time here. There are rural and urban home stays, a week spent with both the Massai and the Hadzabe, time off, and a month long independent study. All of these components compliment and contrast with each other, they are also enhanced by the amount of freedom with which you are granted. Between the free time and structured aspects of the trip I have been able to observe many issues and situations pertaining to my government major and more specifically to conflict and development.
Some examples of what I have been able to observe and discuss in a real life scenario are pollution, negative externalities of businesses, monopolistic large business practice, corrupt politics, corrupt police force, lack of security, availability of quality education, food supply, land rights, human rights violations, slum dwelling (Kibera and its 1,000,000 prisoners), ineffectiveness of institutions in place (traffic lights might as well not exist) stagnant adverse poverty, inadequacy healthcare and socio-economic disparity. Many of these struggles are common in many nations all over the world and in classroom discussions and texts. However I have been able to through this program and the foundation that my government classes/ major have created observe these issues firsthand.
Not only have I observed these various topics but I have been able to analyze them and create a realistic grasp on the problems they present and what is and can be done to deal with them. The program progresses the personal freedom aspect increases greatly. The grand finally of this progress is the 4 week independent study component. This is where you really get to test yourself and if you choose truly apply your already existing knowledge and interest in your field of study. I will for my IDS be working with an organization called ORUDE. I will be living in Jinja, Uganda (second largest city behind the capital Kampala) and helping increase savings and credit availability to businesses and associations, as well as increasing policy advocating know- how and sustainable micro-financing. I will work with this group will at the same time conducting research through interviews about techniques, practices, and overall effectiveness or ineffectiveness of sustainable development organizations. This caters perfectly to my strong interest in development and application of various prescriptions to achieve progress in various avenues of development. Along with my IDS I will also be taking further advantage of the situation and have organized (assisted by St. Lawrence) a trip to Rwanda. This experience along with the others that I will bring back to St. Lawrence will have a priceless value even transcending educational boundaries. While creating valuable real life context for the continuation of my studies, it will also help develop a more informed picture and perspective as a global citizen. Global citizens is what I have realized we are all becoming whether we admit it or not. This trip has been an incredible contribution to my life and education and has only been improved by my interest and studies in political science. I am sure that I will be benefiting and processing the lessons and experiences of this trip for years to come.