Interested in development? Want a new adventure? Want to hike a volcano, track gorillas, swim in an African great lake, tour around a major city, do a canopy walk over a rain forest and go on safari all in one week? Then Rwanda is the place for you!
Also known as Le Pays des Milles Collines (Land of a Thousand Hills), Rwanda is a country of infinite mountains, beautiful scenery and a rapidly advancing society. Whether it's the peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes, inland beaches of Lake Kivu or the Parc National Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda offers a stunning variety of natural beauty in many forms. If you're tired of the city, Rwanda will exceed all your expectations of just how beautiful Mother Nature can be.
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda and home to over 1 million people. It has several university institutes, restaurants from around the world, museums, markets, shops and a new movie theater. The capital is located in the middle of the country, and is surrounded by rolling hills on all sides. Hope you like to walk up-hill, this is not a flat country!
Butare is a major college town. It is home to the national university and has a true college town vibe. Located in the Southern province, it is a short two hour drive from Kigali. Butare is a growing city, with new restaurants and shops opening up all the time. Some favorites are the coffee house that grinds and brews all their own café drinks, a restaurant which has an actual soft serve ice cream machine, and a Chinese restaurant. The town is full of students during the school year and is known to have a soaring karaoke culture!
How to Choose a Program
There are many things to think about when choosing a program. Especially in Rwanda, where the country is growing rapidly in the aftermath of the genocide, it is important to consider these factors:
The main university in Rwanda, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) was reopened in 1995 after the devastating genocide in 1994. Since then, it has made a remarkable recovery and now boasts 10,000 graduates! As the largest university in Rwanda, it has 300 academic staff (50 of them being expatriates) and 9,500 students. These great strides mean NUR is becoming a stronger and stronger place for academics as the internet has already taken over many libraries. In essence, the National University of Rwanda is growing rapidly and students wanting to partake in this rise should study here. Generally, you can expect bright and inquisitive minds in Rwandan universities as it continues to expand and grow.
Kinyarwanda (a dialect of the Rwanda-Rundi language), French and English are the official languages of Rwanda. However, since the genocide, complications with the French government and intervention of the US, English has become more widely used by the population of Rwanda.
Students will generally be able to choose between homestay and apartment housing. Be sure to really think about which one would suit you better as this part of your study abroad trip is often a big decider in the quality of your journeys. The homestay program allows you to truly immerse yourself in Rwandan culture through native foods, activities and lifestyles. However, staying in the apartments with other students will allow you to make stronger connections with your peers while being a bit more independent in terms of cooking your own food. Both have its pros and cons, so be sure to think about this carefully!
If you are American and not staying in country longer than 90 days, all you need to enter Rwanda is a passport and a record of immunization for yellow fever. However, if you plan to work (or I assume study) you must apply for a work visa. Often you need to provide a curriculum vitae, as well as copies of your high school or university transcripts.
Social Life and Student Culture
If you’re studying in Kigali or Butare, there is definitely something for you to enjoy. Whether it is hanging out at a bar with friends, trying new and different foods, rummaging through endless markets or exploring the city by foot, you will find something to keep you busy!
Rwanda is a small country with tons of different geographical landscapes, so excursions are totally probable and very much suggested. No matter where you are, you’re always able to travel to a new city within the day. You can head to Musanze to see the gorillas and hike the volcanoes, to Gisenyi, Kibuye or Cyangugu to relax by Lake Kivu, go east to safari at Akagera National Park, or south to explore Nyunge Rain Forest.