Middlebury School abroad provides the most immersive, educational and adventure-filled opportunity I have found in a study abroad program. Students live with host families and commute within Yaounde with excursions to various parts of the country, with their host families, friends, or with a Middlebury professor as part of course research.
One of the strongest facets of this program is the full-immersion. All of my friends were from Cameroon or West/Central Africa (who study at the university) and the locals. Many other Americans from other study abroad programs I met in-country had only close American friends and after 6 months of being in the country, still did not understand basic cultural and linguistic concepts of Cameroonian people. I spent 10.5 months in Cameroon with the same host family who has become part of my own family simply because I was able to see them everyday, join them on family outings, activities and participate in family life on a regular basis. As a result, the subtleties of their familial culture became more apparent to me, some of which I was not able to fully recognize or understand until month 4 or 5.
After I left the country, I was still able to expand my understanding of Cameroon and Cameroonians because my relationships with my family, friends and the locals had grown very deep and endured even after my departure. Strong connection with locals is important because it enabled me to participate and even organize on-campus student marches and panels focused on environmental awareness. As an outsider coming in, not many people can do this without imposing their own views onto the community. But my Cameroonian friends welcomed me into their student clubs and social activism campaigns.
Flexibility is also among the strongest facets of the program. If you’d like to take dance classes, do an internship, or volunteer somewhere, the Middlebury director knows anyone and everyone who can set you up with whatever you want to do. The in-country director provided me with an incredible amount of support and guidance not just for classes but also with personal and professional growth and opportunity.
I was in Cameroon almost 4 years ago and I would not recommend any other program to someone who is interested in learning French, a local language, cultural immersion and/or personal and professional growth. This program has a wealth of opportunities for whatever you are interested in studying without the feeling of being an “outsider” looking in.