Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, has an enticing mixture of cosmopolitan flair and the adventure of nature and wildlife. The country’s best restaurants, world-renowned arts and culture museums, and sanctuaries for giraffes and other breathtaking animals are all available in Nairobi. Iconic destinations, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, are also within short distances from Nairobi, so plan ahead to schedule many thrilling excursions into your weekends during internship.
Even though you’ll be a muzungu, or foreigner, in Nairobi, expect to be welcomed into the workplace with a smile and genuine friendliness. In Nairobi, interns have a wide range of opportunities in the medical, international development, journalism, and education sectors. Get ready to engage in lots of small talk and plunge into one of the most complex and alluring international cities in Africa.
Nairobi is a hotbed of industry, home to headquarters and offices of everything from international development organizations and global banks to oil and sugar companies. The opportunities seem endless, but there are a few fields foreign interns tend to gravitate towards medical, NGOs/international development, journalism, and education.
Nursing, dental, and medical students have several opportunities in Nairobi to gain experience in a new cultural setting. Get a firsthand understanding of the challenges of providing care in Nairobi while learning from top doctors. While visiting a variety of medical centers, such as hospitals and smaller clinics, you'll meet a diverse group of patients.
From working with orphans to tackling the latest abuses of human rights and health insecurities, the NGO field in Nairobi is a dream place for those who seek future careers securing brighter futures for all. You'll have the benefit of learning skills like fundraising, management, and communications from development professionals while gaining invaluable cross-cultural skills.
Some journalists in Kenya face danger and threats from local politicians, but the field is still an important cornerstone of modern society. A journalism internship can give you an exciting taste of practicing this craft in a new cultural environment. Work alongside top Kenyan journalists and learn exceptional cross-cultural skills to jump start a career in international reporting.
Many schools and academies around Nairobi are great learning opportunities for future teachers and educators. Learn fundamental teaching skills while having an insider look at the education sector in this important East African nation.
Planning Your Internship
Best Time to Get an Internship in Nairobi
The length of the internship and time of year depends on the industry, but most run year round. Options range from a month to a semester. Nairobi has an elevation of 5,998 feet and a subtropical highland climate. Nairobi has wet and dry periods, the rainiest being November to December and March toMay, the driest in June to August. Compared to the rest of Kenya, Nairobi has very pleasant temperatures, and even gets cool at night.
While some internships happily provide arrangement with a host family, others may expect you to find it yourself. Room rental sites like Airbnb are great ways to meet Kenyans and help you live as close to a local as possible without a host family.
Expat networks suggest searching for apartment listings on bulletin boards and at cafes, should you want to find a more permanent housing situation. Alternatively, browse real estate websites, but just be sure you’re looking for houses to rent, not buy!
Cost of Living
Estimates by Numbeo report average cost of living (without rent) for a single person is around $500 per month. Meals out start at $9 and basic food staples will only run a few dollars. However, apartments can be pricier, ranging from $400-1200 per month depending on the location and amenities included. Public transportation is very affordable - each ride just costing a few cents - but expats typically shy away and instead opt for taxis or minibus taxis.
Kenya offers foreigners various options for visas. There are single entry, multiple entry, and regional visas. Your organization will likely help you with the visa process, but if not, visit the Kenyan Embassy website. Tourist visas last three months.
Kenya is a fast growing, economic powerhouse in the region. This means there are international companies throughout the country and many concentrated in Nairobi. The medical, journalism, and development fields will certainly have different etiquette than the business world, but there are a few Kenyan customs you shouldn’t dismiss.
To start, always be kind, respectful and indirect. Always call others by their title and last name unless otherwise indicated, and get to know coworkers on a personal level. Knowing about their health and family is a way to show you care. If asked, contribute to a harambee fund, which is raising money for relatives in need. Bring gifts and food to share with your new workplace. In general, always be sure to listen carefully to other’s advice and if you disagree, address it in a very soft and indirect manner.
When introduced to a group, address every person with a handshake, careful not to leave anyone out. Although, make sure you do it in the right order: you should first shake hands with the person with highest seniority.
Health & Safety
Besides routine vaccinations, interns should come to Nairobi prepared with malaria medication and lots of insect repellant. Pack long pants and shirts of light fabrics to protect against the elements – and mosquitos.
Nairobi is a dynamic city, but it’s also known for robberies and assaults against tourists. Pay attention to locals’ advice and know which areas of the city to avoid. It’s best to leave flashy jewelry and clothes at home, and never walk alone at night. Some foreigners, even veteran travelers to Nairobi, swear by money belts. If you do encounter a thief, don’t fight him or her. Simply hand over your belongings.
Be very cautious about eating meat. If you do, be sure it’s prepared well and doesn’t originate from a wild game animal such as a monkey or bat. Always drink bottled water and wash fruits and vegetables with treated water.
Some terrorist organizations stage attacks in Kenya, and Nairobi is a potential target. Watch U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and stay on top of the news.
Photo credit: Ninara.
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