Global Engagement Institute

Program Reviews

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Mariah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Last year I completed my internship in Rwanda and decided that I wanted to go back to complete my capstone project again with a civil society organization. I was happy to use GEI both times that I went. They are always available if you have a question, and I enjoyed the periodic meetings with them throughout the 8 weeks I was there. We met to discuss how things were going. In addition, I found it helpful that they helped me obtain the student visa through the immigration office as I wouldn't have wanted to do that by myself. They also provide a nice map of Kigali and brochures that are filled with things to do and what restaurants to go to depending on the food you want. Kigali is also very clean and safe which was nice. I enjoyed staying with my hose family both times as well, and liked learning more about the Rwandan culture with them.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To always be open about your adventures abroad. Don't expect things to go the way you have planned, and learn to be flexible and adaptable and know that in the end everything will work out!
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Aimee
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but it was an overwhelming thought with all of the options of places to go, figuring out how to make it work with my university and all the little details in between. GEI helped make the entire process smooth and seamless.
This program also allowed me to grow and mature as an individual by placing myself in unfamiliar situations. I was able to experience a culture that I would never be able to find in my country, thanks to working hand in hand with local students in a rural health center. Rwanda is this tiny landlocked country in East Africa made of rolling hills, mountains, lakes and valleys and too often associated with the tragic 1994 genocide only. This country has so much to offer today! Kigali is a gorgeous city with great weather and dozens of interesting places to visit! We went to some of them during the three weeks spent there, like the Genocide Memorial. It was also very exciting to go on a safari excursion to Akagera National Park, three hours north of Kigali, with zebras, rhinos, hippos, buffalos, giraffes but we didn’t see lions, unfortunately.
I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in public or community health!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I was very surprised to see that Rwanda is such a peaceful and safe country. I was expecting much more chaos on the road, open air dumps but I discovered a very orderly and clean country instead. That taught me a great deal about prejudices :-)!
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Frank
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The experience of studying abroad gives a surreal feeling of personal growth right before your eyes. I made wonderful life-long friends from all over the world and met some incredible people. I really liked this program because there was a great balance of letting us be independent while also providing ample opportunities to see and experience Rwandan culture. People are amazingly welcoming and always curious about where you're coming from and what brought you to their country.
My favorite moment was when the woman I interviewed for an article took me in her arms at the end of the conversation and thank me for listening to her story and give power to her voice. I will remember her face expression forever.
I would have liked more time to prepare for the final presentation but otherwise, I wouldn't change anything. The class on storytelling was eye-opening for me and I will try to use stories in the future to convey important information, which is essential as I'm studying environmental sciences.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I think I would have booked a later flight to travel in the region with my fellow classmates met during the program. Some visited Uganda and others went to Kenya for a week or so.
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Charles
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I arrived in Nairobi for the start of the program, I was greeted warmly and at that moment I already knew I was home for the next 8 weeks. The coordinators Eric and Esther are amazing because they help you adjust into the culture. This internship program was the least expensive out of all other programs I was researching. I loved my colleagues and my host organization! Of course, it took me some time to adapt to the work culture over there but I believe this is part of the experience. As I want to pursue a career in ICT, it was very informative to intern with a small tech company. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with my supervisors and colleagues, I think I significantly improved my communication and other soft skills. From Nairobi, there is so much to do in the weekends: safari, beach, cultural tours!
I can't wait to visit Kenya again!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring a small gift from your country to your home family! They are fantastic and super curious about where you come from.
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Ashley
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I greatly enjoyed this experience. I loved having class time and experiences with native Rwandan students. This enhanced the ultimate cultural immersion experience. I also enjoyed the different actives and places we had the opportunity to visit. The most moving experience of the program was the Azizi life day in the life of rural women in Rwanda, which allowed me to truly understand the daily actives, chores, and struggles of living in rural areas in Rwanda. Seeing and living their daily life made me appreciate all the things I take for granted such as immediate access to clean water. I was able to make friendships with all the University of Rwanda students were shared this amazing experience with, as well as my fellow students from the US.

What would you improve about this program?
The organization of the academic portion of the program. Assignments and expectations were not always explained clearly.
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Jack
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was attached to the clinical psychology department of Huye Isange Rehabilitation Center, which is a rehab facility for people with drug addiction. During that 2 months, I picked up some of the duties of clinical psychologist, such as conducting psychotherapy session and psycho-education. Throughout the process, I was closely supervised by the psychologist in the center, which allowed me to have a fingertip sense of being a psychologist.

By listening to different life stories, I realized that history does play an important role in one psychological makeup, and it's hard for one to truly know others' feeling. A vivid example is a patient, who witnessed genocide when he was a little child, told me that he still has fear reaction when he sees someone carrying a machete; but that is not the case for a foreigner. This is a valuable lesson of not assuming you know one's feeling, but by constant dialogue, we strive to understand their feeling.

Overall speaking, the whole journey is a life changing experience.

Travelling tips
- Try to immerse yourself in the culture, such as learning Kinyarwanda, visiting different museum, or even attending celebration event (e.g. umuganura day, assumption day)
- Most of the Rwandans are friendly and like talking to foreigner, be open to that kind of experience
- Some of the cities might have shortage of water or electricity supply (like few hours), be ready to that
- Motor bike is one of the common traveling means, it is mostly safe in city
- Try to negotiate the price when you are buying something from a market (but not supermarket)
- Find creative ways to overcome language barrier, since people from the old generation used to speak in Kinyarwanda and French

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Savannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This internship was a life changing opportunity for me. The close interactions with the Nyamibrambo Women’s Center and other NGOs provided valuable first hand experience of how to begin these NGOs and how they run. On this internship I learnt so much about Rwanda and it’s people, it’s history, and resilience. I learnt to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and developed new and valuable academic skills while doing so - these include experience with editing, writing, photographing, marketing, hands on volunteer work, researching, and putting together proposals. My favorite part of the internship was writing blog posts for the women of the NWC, I was so inspired by the lady I was given to write on and learnt so much about leadership from her. The part of the internship that had the most impact on me was working with the Her Voice Matters program - I got to meet and contribute to the valuable work these women are doing to advance women both educationally and culturally in Rwanda.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have like to know what exactly to expect to work on and be doing in Rwanda, and how best to prepare for it as I probably would have done so differently. However, this did not at all take away from the value of the experience.
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McKenna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am so grateful that I decided to participate in this program. I fell in love with Rwanda and I was inspired by the many women we worked with. I definitely gained more than I was able to give. I was able to learn many new business-related skills as we interned for the Nyamirambo Women's center, as well as teamwork and leadership skills. I know that these skills will continue to be of value to me throughout my life. I enjoyed being able to interact with so many different organizations who are making a real positive impact in their communities and the lives of individuals. After participating in this program, I have a renewed desire to follow the example of the women that we worked with in finding ways to create real and sustainable change in the world by lifting and empowering others.

What would you improve about this program?
It would have been nice to know a bit more specifically what kind of work I was going to be doing before actually going to Rwanda. I didn't realize until I got there how much business-related work we were going to be doing like helping the Nyamirambo Women's Center come up with new sales strategies, marketing techniques, etc. I didn't have really any experience in any of these areas so I felt a bit overwhelmed at first. But I was able to learn a lot!
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Kayla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was such an incredible program! This country and culture is unlike anything I have experienced and I really loved getting to interact with the people, and informally learning about the country as I walked through the market in Kigali.
One of the days we participated in a wonderful workshop by Generation Rise about storytelling and leadership where I was able to share my values and hear the values of the other team members, learn the correct structure of a good story, and then to hear other people’s story as well as sharing my own. I had never done any activity like this but it was crazy to see how much I learned about myself, my team members, and the people of Rwanda in such a short amount of time. The time goes so fast while you are there which was sad because I felt like I couldn't soak in everything that I want to!
One of my team members and I taught a workout class to the amazing women at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center. We split up so we were in different rooms leading at the same time. I was nervous to be on my own, but the women remembered the exercises and were so excited to get up and do them! It made me so happy because those exercises were really focusing on their health and well-being (which is what I am studying in Public Health).
I love Rwanda and all of the work we did here, my new found friends, and the countless memories!!

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Cody
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

For me, the phrase, “Rwanda is people,” is something that I witnessed firsthand during my time in the country. Reality started to set in once I heard some locals share their stories about how their lives were impacted by the genocide that took place just over 20 years ago. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it was rare to hear people openly discuss in detail what they experienced. However, I also surprised by the willingness of some people to share their stories without any reservations. For example, one of our Rwandan coordinators from G.E.I, shared with us the story of how her family fled during the time of the genocide while she was just a small child. It was truly sobering to hear her share the small details of this experience that she still remembers. Some of the University of Rwanda students who we came to know during the internship were also open to discussing how the genocide affected their families. I think it’s important that the memory of the genocide remains within the hearts of the people – not just for grieving but also for healing. Visiting the genocide museum reinforced this idea and really helped me understand how Rwandan culture has evolved. The people in Rwanda have many great and powerful stories to tell – we just need to listen to them. This is what I tried to do during my time there. Sometimes, with a lot of preconceived notions about the people of a different country, it can be too easy to assume that you already understand the locals. But more important than talking to them, is listening to their point of view. Especially within the context of Infection Control and Prevention, I did my best to listen to what the healthcare workers had to share with us. It could have been easy for us to focus on what was lacking in certain areas regarding IPC, but instead, I think we encouraged positive interactions with the healthcare workers and emphasized the importance of improving, regardless of where you live. By listening to them, I was inspired by their utilization of the resources that were available to them. The healthcare workers were dedicated and diligent. I hope to be able to follow their examples during my own career in the medical field. I also made many friends with locals and those involved in our program. Thanks to the internet and the ease of global communication, I hope to maintain these great relationships for the rest of my life. Overall, I learned a lot from the people of Rwanda. If I were to sum it all up shortly, I would say the biggest lesson I learned from them is the importance of unity. Rwanda is not only a people, but they are one people, united to help the country progress sustainably into the future.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing I would suggest to improve the program would be increasing its duration. Due to our limitations on time, we could only spend so much time in and around the different healthcare facilities. With more time available, we would get a greater exposure to different examples of the various levels of healthcare in Rwanda. This would allow us to increase our understanding of the ins and outs that the healthcare workers deal with from day to day. It can be difficult to work evaluate Infection Control and Prevention in such a short amount of time.
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