Studying in Kenya means going beyond what you see depicted in the media and instead experiencing what it truly means to live, work, and breathe the African continent. Kenya, with dynamic capital city Nairobi, is one of the most up and coming nations, lead largely by its growing tech scene. Whether you have plans to study, intern, or work in Kenya, your experience will be complemented by the backdrop of the African wilderness.
No matter if Kenya's vibrant cities or gleaming fields draw you, its diverse cultures and people, bountiful precious wildlife, and increasingly reputable universities will certainly talk you into staying for awhile (and that's before we even mention the possibility of seeing the sunrise from Kilimanjaro!?). Take advantage of this unique opportunity; study abroad in Kenya!
Planning Your Trip
*If only* studying abroad was as easy as booking a plane ticket, getting your visa, and plopping down into the middle of the country. Conversely, study abroad takes a good deal of planning. Check out our top tips for picking a program that best suits your needs, goals, and budget while studying abroad in Kenya.
Where to Go
Jambo and welcome to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. This is a city of contrast, where you can see lion, giraffe and hyena set against a backdrop of city skyscrapers. It’s a city where extreme poverty lies side by side with wealthy suburbs.
As one of Africa’s major cities, it also has some large universities where you can study anything from health welfare to wildlife management. Nairobi also serves as a gateway for exploring more of East Africa. It’s worth heading to the world famous Masai Mara to see the annual migration of the wildebeest, climbing Kilimanjaro, or relaxing on one of the Indian Ocean beaches after your studies.
The two main universities in Nairobi are the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University both with international student programs. Each has hostel accommodation on campus. International students are welcome to join their student organizations and faculty associations.
Both universities have many organizations to enrich student life. The University of Nairobi for example has a Department of Sports and Games to encourage students to stay active while joining in community building activities. Both team and individual sports are offered, including the more popular options of basketball and soccer. This is definitely a highlight for student athletes looking to study abroad!
Though it's likely that your program and courses will be taught in English, consider also studying some of the local languages while in Kenya. Have your pick of the lot -- the country recognizes 69 different languages -- with Swahili and English being the national standard. Being able to converse, even just briefly, with Kenyans will help you to develop a stronger relationship with the culture.
Despite being a capital city, Nairobi is a relatively cheap destination to study in, particularly if you buy your essentials from the local markets.
The local currency is the Kenyan shilling and ATMs are widely available in Nairobi. If you are carrying US dollars, the bills need to be relatively new. The currency conversion rate between US dollars and Kenyan Shillings is 1 USD to about 90 KES as of November 2014.
Feeling hungry? Then head to Carnivores. This popular tourist restaurant has an all you can eat meat feast.
Culture Shock and Support System
There have been recent terrorist attacks in the city so remain vigilant and follow guidelines of the US embassy. It is recommended that all visitors register with the US government’s US Embassy on United Nations Avenue, Nairobi so that embassy staff can contact you should their travel advice change.
Different study abroad programs will afford you different options when it comes to selecting your housing for the duration of your experience overseas. Some will organize all of your housing in a local hotel, others will organize a homestay for you with a family, etc. Sometimes the cost of accommodation is not included in the overall program fees - so be sure to look closely over cost projections! Stay informed about your options and choose a program where you will be residing somewhere you find comfortable.
Students can choose to find their own apartment to stay in during their time in Nairobi. This can be done either by looking online before your departure or finding a local place after arriving in the city. Most study abroad programs also have homestays and are by far the most popular option for students to live with a local family and be truly immersed into the culture. The Aga Khan Foundation currently has activities in Kenya.
As it is with many developing countries, Kenya has certain safety issues to consider before choosing to study abroad in Nairobi. It is important to make sure you have all the necessary vaccines and read up on the US Department of State’s travel advisory before booking your ticket.
Not everyone grew up with fancy iPads and flashy purses, so if you go around more rural areas showing off your new SLR camera, there is no doubt that you are at risk for theft. As long as you’re aware of these issues and stay conscious about where you are and how you’re acting, Nairobi will prove to be a life-changing opportunity.
Immersion and Cultural Activities
Another option to consider when selecting your study abroad program provider is the number of activities that are included in the overall cost. Further, consider what types of activities are included - are they simple day trips to the museum you can organize yourself? Consider opting out of activities. If it is a more involved activity, such as a weekend hiking in the African bush, then maybe forking out the extra $$ up front will be worth it in the end.
Ideally, find a program that gives you flexibility in your choices!
Check out these great scholarships to offset your costs when studying abroad in Kenya next semester.
- Aga Khan Foundation scholarships for study in East Africa.
- The The School for Field Studies has many scholarships for their program participants - and an awesome program in Kenya!
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
Contributed by Megan Lee
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