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.
Nairobi National Park
The only capital city that can boast its own national park. If you don’t have time to go further afield to the Masai Mara, then Nairobi National Park is a great introduction to Kenya’s wildlife. There is a shuttle which runs tours through the park.
Located in the Langata area of Nairobi, The Giraffe Centre was created as a sanctuary for the Rothschild giraffe.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
This centre is home to elephant orphans. If you visit between 11am and noon you can see the baby elephants being fed.
Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum was the former home of Danish author Karen Blixen, made famous by her book ‘Out of Africa’.
Nairobi National Museum
Dating back to 1910, the National Museum showcases East Africa’s natural history. It also has an art gallery and temporary exhibitions.
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!
For study abroad students more interested in the arts, many events are constantly held around town. The Alliance Française Auditorium has several film festivals and art exhibitions going on throughout the semester.
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.
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.
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.
Nairobi is a fascinating city and a major hub for the rest of Africa. When you are watching a pride of lions on the prowl, it’s hard to imagine you are in a capital city. There are so many pockets of the city to explore and large international universities, making it a great base for your overseas study program.