Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mounds of Paperwork

Studying abroad demands mounds of paperwork. After completing my deposit, the study abroad office fixed my online portal so that I can now access pre-departure materials. I read through a good amount of them last night and I'm amazed at the amount of tasks I have to accomplish within the next four months. I have to take care of health insurance, apply for a visa, buy a plane ticket, see a tropical disease specialist, and do a variety of other things. I also have to register for classes at the U.S. International University, where I will be studying. I have to take Kenyan Politics and Culture as well as Elementary Kiswahili. I will be able to take two more classes in International Relations and complete an internship for credit.

I was surprised by some of the rules of the program. I am not allowed to leave East Africa (consisting of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or Tanzania) and I'm required to let my director know about travel plans outside of field excursions. In addition, I am forbidden to travel on foot after dark and I have to sign a document saying I will abide by this. What a contrast! My friends who studied in Europe did not seem to have as much restriction. At the same time, I do understand that safety is paramount and my university cannot be liable if something should happen to me. Further, most of us taking part have never been to Kenya (or any developing nation, for that matter) and you have to learn the way of the land from someone who knows it. This is true, especially when you're living there for four months.

I find myself grateful for small things. I am glad that my mother bought me some knee-length skirts. In some of my documents, there were reminders for girls to keep modesty in mind and that, for some occasions, knee-length skirts are strongly recommended, if not required. Shorts are only for school boys in some areas and Kenyans take pride in their dress. Further, there are different gender expectations, so skirts for women are a necessity. However, there are exceptions for clubbing, a pastime for American and Kenyan students alike. I've only gone clubbing once and didn't particularly enjoy it. Maybe I'll find it fun over there?

I also found some of the rules obvious. I had to promise that I wouldn't drive a car in Kenya. First, where would I even gain access to a vehicle? Second, from living in one major city and within the bounds of another, I know not to drive a car in any major city. People are crazy! Third, I can't drive, period. As independent as I am, I am ashamed to say that I do not have a U.S. driver's license. Project to be completed after I return to the States.

I'll admit, I was disappointed to hear that I couldn't travel outside of East Africa. Not that I would mind staying in Kenya and getting to know the country as well as I can, with maybe a side trip to some of those other countries, but there is one exception. A dear friend of mine is getting married next week and they are leaving for Egypt very soon after (hubby is an armed services officer). I was hoping I'd be able to visit her in Egypt, but it seems like it's not meant to be. Hopefully, she can visit me in Kenya.

I am excited. I just have to get through the bureaucratic/financial aspect and finish this semester well before I can get there.

My countdown begins:)

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