My trip to Tanzania was one of the most amazing journeys I’ve had! I came to the University of Toronto as an exchange student from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. When I received an email informing me of the trip to Tanzania I immediately signed up.
We spent 10 days in the country and during that time we visited four different locations. Our arrival was in the large, modern city of Dar Es Salaam, where the first night we watched the sunset from the roof of our hostel followed by a home-made Tanzanian dinner. I remember the excitement I felt that first evening, to be in a country I had never visited before and for all the activities that were still ahead of us. Over the next two days, we met with many people from different NGO’s, encounters I will never forget. Since this trip is connected to the UTM course Anthropology of Gender, we discussed issues regarding that topic during the trip. In Tanzania, men and woman each have very distinct roles in society and women are seen as subordinate to men. Issues regarding homosexuality and trans-sexuality are illegal. Most of the NGO’s we’ve spoken to are focused on women’s rights and the rights of LGBTQ+ people. They were so passionate and hard-working. It was also very fun to meet people our own age and to hear their stories of growing up in a culture so different from our own, to ask about such things as their studies and what they do in their free time.
After Dar Es Salaam we flew to Moshi, a smaller city on the slopes of the Kilimanjaro mountain. We got to see a beautiful view of the mountain, in which we were lucky because we were told that the top is usually hidden in the clouds. We also met with another NGO, one founded by two Canadian women and focused on women’s menstrual health. This gave us the opportunity to compare the approach of the western-based organization and the Tanzanian organizations we met with earlier. This led to very interesting discussions on our role as students in the country during the trip, which was more complex than I initially thought. Afterwards, we went on a walk through the jungle, where we saw monkeys and the beautiful rice fields.
After Moshi, we went to the small village of Arusha, which was my favourite part of the trip. Here we had the unique opportunity of staying with a Tanzanian family for two nights and visiting a local high school. My home-stay family was so warm and welcoming, and staying with them was such an eye-opening experience. My homestay-Mom would come home from work and heat up the water for my shower over the fire, then go and cook dinner for the family. Most of the food we ate was from their land, such as banana, mango, chicken and beef. One night my homestay-Mom told me at dinner that if I would have been home earlier I could have helped prepare the chicken, meaning from the chicken coop to our plate. Let’s just say I was very happy that I was home late that day… Haha
The last few days of the trip were spent in Zanzibar, which was my second favourite portion of the trip. The island had the whitest beaches and bluest waters I had ever seen! We had time to just relax and process all the impressions of the busy week we had. First, we visited Stone Town, the main city of Zanzibar. The highlight was the boat trip on our last day – we went to the beach, sailed along the coast of the island, snorkeled and saw dozens of sea urchins and starfish.
Since we were in Tanzania with a UTM course, there was an academic component to the trip. The final paper for the course was based on an interview – those who went on the trip had the chance to interview someone in Tanzania. We also had a group discussion every other evening to share our thoughts and experiences of that day and relate it back to the course. I personally enjoyed these discussions very much, as it helped me to process everything that I had seen/heard and hear my classmates interpretations. It was also very helpful to apply the theory I had read about in class and use it in the field. I not only learned more about the course themes but also about the country itself and aspects of Tanzanian culture. I reflected on my own culture and it really helped me understand how fieldwork and NGO’s work and what their role is in society. Also, travelling with UTM Abroad allows you to visit places and meet people that may be hard to access as a tourist.
I loved every moment of the trip, but I will definitely remember how warm and welcoming the people were that we met, and the passion and ambition they have for their projects or organizations. Also, the group I went on the trip with grew very close over those 10 days and we continued to see each other afterwards. My advice to other students who are considering taking this trip is to sign up! And lastly, take in and enjoy every moment, because time passes way too fast.Written by: Nina Sierig