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Summer School University of Edinburgh


Our courses range from economics, politics and business to literature, drama and education, all designed to offer you unique and interesting subjects. Some even include and internship to make the summer in Edinburgh an unforgettable and career enhancing experience.

A summer in Edinburgh isn’t just about your studies -- it’s about being inspired, challenged and growing as a person. As a part of the program we offer social activities so you can experience Edinburgh’s vibrant culture. Our itinerary will include the best of Edinburgh -- arts, music, a climb up Arthur’s Seat, a ceilidh dance, trips, tours and parties.


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Yes, I recommend this program

I loved my semester at the university! Ifsa was so helpful egging is oriented and situated as well as being a resource in the city. I made the decision to join an a capella group on campus as well as the touch rugby team. I loved being fully integrated into uni life. I also feel like the homestay weekend was very important. It was cool getting to see and live with a family. And even though I only stayed with them a weekend I’d love to visit again.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Definitely apply for this if you are given the chance. For anybody who would usually shy away from opportunites like this, I'd strongly advise you to take this as a step out of your comfort zone, because it's an absolutely fantastic trip, filled with opportunities that you truly may not get for the rest of your life.

In terms of the language course itself, there is no more perfect setup for learning Swahili. You are welcomed warmly into the country by everybody you meet, are given the opportunity to practise your language skills on a daily basis and have a constant support system for any queries or questions. Something that hasn't been emphasised enough is how fantastic the balance of teaching is when you are over there. Personally, I have never had access to such a useful way of learning another language - usually you are either taught by a native speaker or an English speaker with a high level of knowledge of the language. Here, you have both AND the benefit of being surrounded by the language every day for a month. I think even those who struggle in picking up languages would do greatly here - the setup is faultless. We all returned speaking and understanding far much more than we thought we would! The word 'intensive' with regard to a language course can be a little intimidating, but Butiama is a brilliantly relaxing atmosphere to learn in, especially when you appreciate the history that surrounds you.

It would have been a brilliant trip even if we had to work 24/7 on our Swahili and do nothing else. However, the trip was packed with cultural activities that were even more amazing than we all knew they were going to be. As you'll have perhaps read on the summer school blog or in another of these reviews, we had activities such as clay pot making, visits to schools and African drumming and dancing during the week and trips away at the weekends. Highlights for me from the weekday activities were the walks/hikes around the local area and up nearby hills. There is something magical about looking up into the sky and not seeing commercial buildings or bright lights.
Another personal highlight for me was the trip to Rubondo Island - this was a place I hadn't heard of before our trip, but would recommend for anybody who has a chance, as it is absolutely stunning. The Serengeti safari of course cannot go unmentioned - it is again one of those things that I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to do for many years, but there it was for us, right there, simply because we had the confidence to apply for the programme.

The Swahili summer school course is nothing short of an adventure - you'll come back with a load of stories that it'll take weeks to tell, an appreciation of a culture that is so strikingly different to ours and an experience that'll last you a lifetime.

Huge thankyou to everyone involved in organising the trip - it was fantastic.

What would you improve about this program?
There were no problems that tainted the trip in any way for me. The only improvements I can suggest are with regard to the logistics in preparation for the trip. We didn't know what a lot of the plans were until quite close to departure. This didn't create any huge issues, though!
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Swahili summer school provided me with a fantastic experience of another culture and language.

Through the support and encouragement of the teachers I was able to learn a surprisingly large amount of Swahili. The weekend trips provided an excellent opportunity to practice the language, as well as explore the beautiful country and culture of Tanzania.

The staff on the trip were entirely approachable and made sure that everyone felt comfortable. There were several opportunities to provide feedback and make suggestions of future activities.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to learn another language or experience a different culture.

What would you improve about this program?
Although as a Swahili beginner I had an amazing time, it's possible that this trip would be better suited to those with a greater level of Swahili who would be able to get more from practicing with the local people.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I was lucky enough to be one of the 10 students to go to Butiama on the Swahili A course this summer. I took so much more form this program than just being able to speak Swahili. This was one of the best months in my life! The teaching, accommodation, and people were amazing! Outside of learning the language, the trips were fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing that could be improved would be the pre departure sessions. It would have been useful to have the information a little earlier.
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Yes, I recommend this program

In August this year (2015) I participated in the Swahili Summer School in Butiama, Tanzania with the University of Edinburgh. Quite simply, it was one of the most amazing, challenging and exciting experiences I have ever had, and I would love the opportunity to go back and do it all again. I left for Tanzania vaguely knowing how to greet someone in Swahili and returned with a strong grounding in the language which I can now build on in the future. However, not only do you come back knowing a surprising amount of Swahili, but you also return with a group of new friends. During your time in Tanzania you will really get to know the other students you are there with, and you share so many experiences with each other that friendships lasting long after the trip has finished are formed.

Tanzania is a diverse country, with beautiful scenery, a rich culture and most importantly warm and welcoming people: "Karibu Tanzania" ("Welcome to Tanzania") is heard almost daily. It is also much, much larger than the UK, so be prepared for long bus journeys!

The Swahili language course is challenging, and the lessons and tutorials progress at a fast pace. However you are supported along the way by excellent teaching, led by Steve who is helped by other teachers who live in Tanzania. The teachers ("Walimu") are always around to answer any questions you have. Lessons are delivered in small groups, are interactive, and encourage you to speak Swahili as much as possible. The relaxed environment means you aren't afraid to make mistakes, and this only aids further progression. Homework exercises are issued 2-3 times a week, and there is a relatively large workload, but knowing that the more your Swahili progresses the better your experience of being in Tanzania will be is a great encouragement for getting through the required study outside of class. The more you put into the course, the more you get out of it, and the teachers will support you with this all the way. Personally I was amazed at how far the group progressed in such a short space of time - credit I am sure to the excellent teaching we received. Additionally, living in a Swahili-speaking community is without doubt the best way to learn the language, and throughout your time in Tanzania there is ample opportunity to practice your skills, whether this be shopping at the weekly market, chatting to local people, or visiting a school.

Outside of lessons, there are equally important opportunities to learn about and experience Tanzanian culture. During the week you will have the chance to participate in a huge variety of activities, including African dancing and drumming, traditional clay pot making, school visits, and walks to climb some of the hills surrounding Butiama, where the stunning views reach as far a Lake Victoria! At the weekends, you will go on excursions further afield. For us this included visiting The Sukuma Museum (near Mwanza), camping on Rubondo Island (a national park in the middle of Lake Victoria), and a Serengeti Safari! There are too many stories from all of these experiences to share here, but each trip was unique and I have formed some amazing memories from them which will last a lifetime.

So in summary, if you are feeling adventurous and want to try learning something completely different in your summer, then I really have no doubt this would be a great programme for you! I hope you have as much fun as I did!

What would you improve about this program?
Overall I feel that for being the first year that this summer school has run, the entire experience went exceptionally well with only a few minor teething problems which are always going to occur.

It would have been useful in the run up to the trip if information regarding departures etc. was provided earlier just to enable a smoother planning process, but this is a minor point. Overall I feel this was an excellent programme which worked extremely well, something which is credit to the excellent work put in by Tom and Steve in organising the trip.


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.


Did YOU study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Steve: Back in 2008/09, I had the fortune to be able to spend six months in Zanzibar and six months in Lamu as part of my undergraduate degree. I was nervous beforehand as I had never travelled outside Europe, but it remains one of the best experiences I have ever had. I was able to learn so much about the coastal cultures of Tanzania, meet some wonderful people who I remain friends with to this day and, importantly for my degree, my Swahili progressed at a phenomenal rate!

What country have you always wanted to visit?

Steve: Right now I am just missing being in Tanzania, but if I had to choose somewhere that I have never been before I would have to say Rwanda. Kigali sounds like a fascinating city and the countryside looks incredibly beautiful. Everybody that I know who has been there has nothing but positive things to say about the place. It would be great to pick up some Kinyarwanda too! Outside of Africa, I would be really keen to see Japan. I read quite a lot of Japanese literature and so I think it would be really fascinating to see some of the places mentioned in the books with my own eyes.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Steve: While I believe that the basics of a language can be taught anywhere, cultural immersion is critical for anybody who wishes to begin to understand how language is actually used on a daily basis and how certain words and phrases are implicitly connected to the history, culture and people of that place. As a silly example, Swahili has a really impressive range of words referring to rice, which can be mindboggling to many students. However, if you actually see the different types being used and explained, understanding becomes much easier. Cultural immersion at an early stage can also help students speak much more naturally in the long term, as learning from textbooks can sometimes produce overly formal language.

How have you changed/grown since working for UoE?

Steve: The University of Edinburgh is a fantastic place to work, and I have benefitted greatly from being able to work closely with renowned and talented academics. For example, the Convener of the Swahili course in Tanzania, Thomas Molony, is one of the foremost experts on the early life of Julius Nyerere, the first president of independent Tanzania, and it was through his links that we have been able to organize the Summer School in Nyerere’s home town, Butiama, with lessons taking place in his actual office! Therefore, being able to work with people like Thomas means that opportunities open up that would never have been possible before.

What has been your favorite traveling experience?

Steve: As I mentioned before, the year I spend in Zanzibar and Lamu completely changed my life and without having had that opportunity, there is no way that I would be where I am today. I think that traveling, even for a shorter period of time, will always create new possibilities in your life that you never considered before. For example, one month in Tanzania will be more than enough to allow you to meet incredible people, learn about different ways of life and give you new perspectives on life. Whatever happens, I know from experience that the first time will rarely be the last!

What language have you always wanted to learn and why?

Steve: At the moment I am trying to learn Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, which are both goals that I have had for a long time. I would also like to learn Ukrainian, as I have family there who I have never met, and another widely spoken African language, such as Berber, Amharic or Somali. I’m still young so I feel like I have one or two languages left in me yet!

What unique qualities does your UoE possess?

Steve: The University of Edinburgh is a fantastic institution with a really wide range of resources available for its students. We are working hard to expand the Swahili materials available and before long we hope to become the go-to institution for those interested in the language. Other than that, there are so many scholars here renowned for their work in East Africa, which means that we possess a great depth of knowledge.

What is the best story you've heard from a former student?

Steve: There have been a few, but I think my favorite story is about the former student who went on Bongo Star, the Tanzanian equivalent of X Factor. I remember that his singing skills were criticized by the judges as first, but still went on to finish third! I met with him recently in Dar es Salaam, and his Swahili is now completely flawless and really natural. I think it’s a great example of how important bravery and moving outside your comfort zone can be for anyone really wanting to reach a high level, not that I am recommending that all our students go on a reality TV show!