Walsh School of Foreign Service

Students’ Testimonials

Nehemia Abel (left) Evan Navori (right) visiting African Fabrics and Design, Nairobi.

The trip to Kenya will, undoubtedly, be the highlight of my undergraduate career. Meeting with professionals across a variety of fields, I was able to broaden my horizon. In discussions about the rise of China and the COVID-19 pandemic, I was finally able to understand the multifaceted nature of African development. Although we spent much of our time in Nairobi, the short trip to Amboseli National Park will always have a place in my heart. Evan Navori (pictured right above), Science, Technology & International Affairs major.

This summer (2022), me and twelve other undergraduate and masters students were granted the incredible opportunity to spend a week in Nairobi, Kenya with the aim of gaining a holistic understanding of international development in Kenya. Sponsored by the African Studies Department, we were accompanied by the Assistant Director, Marta Manzano, and Vice Dean Scott Taylor. Throughout the span of a week, we met with an impressive array of relevant individuals, organizations, and businesses from diverse sectors influencing Kenyan development. Amongst these, we were able to visit the Parliament and sit in a Senate proceeding, speak with a few individuals at Safaricom’s headquarters (Kenya’s largest telecommunications provider), visit Bidco (East Africa’s leading manufacturing company), speak with a small family business owner in his cheese farm, share a meal with young political activists, meet with SHOFCO (a local NGO) in the informal settlement of Kibera, and more.

Cynthia Desmet Villar (left) Shaily Acharya (center) Kim Robles (right)

This experience showed me just how unique experiential learning truly is. Within just one week, I was able to learn an impressive amount about Kenyan development. Although I am keen to learn more, I left Kenya with a feeling that I received a holistic picture of how the Kenyan economy and political systems work. Being able to meet with relevant stakeholders, sharing meals and conversations with them, was an incredibly unique learning experience, one that you cannot possibly get from a textbook. The learning and the beauty of this trip was only intensified by the group of students’ shared curiosity and genuine interest in Kenya and international development. Overall, this trip has forever changed my perception of Kenyan development and has sparked a deeper interest in East Africa and a general desire to participate in more experiential learning opportunities. Cynthia Desmet Villar, Government, Justice and Peace Studies major

We visited the Kenyan Parliament and met the amazing Senator Ledama Olekina from Narok County (https://lnkd.in/gekeFNeh). He spoke with us about the way the Maasai tribe is seen in government, and how he can appropriately represent his community through traditional dress. The National Coalition for NGOs taught us how self-regulation and accountability have prevented corruption in non-profits around the country (https://lnkd.in/gaNRJmJn). Brown’s Cheese factory provided us with a delicious, locally-sourced lunch, and we heard about the challenges a small business faces when contending with infrastructural challenges and the fluctuating value of the Kenyan shilling (https://lnkd.in/g987xm9p).

The Kenyan Wildlife Conservancies Association taught the importance of valuing indigenous knowledge systems in conservation efforts, and how tourism can both harm and benefit communities (https://kwcakenya.com/). CRAWN Trust has empowered women to become civically and politically active through advocacy and capacity-building (https://crawntrust.org/).

We toured the Red Rose School in Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, and understood the massive impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their funding and resources (https://lnkd.in/gWrWV3y7). SHOFCO has figured out exactly how to do grassroots organizing and mastered community-based development strategies, such as supplying clean water, running a boarding school for girls, providing economic empowerment opportunities for women, and political representation for a region of 1 million+ residents who receive no government services whatsoever (https://www.shofco.org/). Safaricom has revolutionized commerce in Kenya, making the digital money transfer service M-Pesa ubiquitous and empowering unbanked folks to build credit, take out micro-loans, and save.

We had the fortune to spend time with each of these organizations and many more, and I cannot be more grateful for the opportunity to have learned from all of them. Karen Samy, International Politics major.