Reflection by Rylie Talmadge

In March of 2020, my bags stood packed in the hallway, my passport in hand, I was ready for the long flight; however, as it would soon turn out, the flight was not ready for me. With closed borders, my plans changed several more times before finally, the spring of 2022 arrived. Though my original destination, Australia, was no longer an option, with ten days’ notice, I jumped on a 38-hour flight to a remote destination that had never crossed my radar before. It has now been five months, and I can confidently say that my experience has not only shown me the value of studying abroad but also how things work out for a reason. Though my heart had been set on Australia, Tanzania has proved even more rewarding than I possibly could have imagined. Though an initially daunting choice, studying abroad in Tanzania has been essential in developing my patience, flexibility, adaptability, trust, and the reward of leaping into the unknown. Now that I am back stateside, I’ve reflected on the many highlights of my semester abroad and was struck by the countless direct and indirect lessons it taught me.

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As I participated in a highly immersive study abroad experience, I had the unique opportunity to engage hands-on with the community in ways a traditional university experience would not have provided. The highlights of my trip included learning a nontraditional language (Kiswahili), discovering new methods specific to my discipline (Marine Biology), and spending a month developing an impactful independent study (Coral Fish Communities in a Changed Climate). My experience not only taught me new techniques, interpretations, and perspectives but encouraged me to think beyond the conventional constraints of a classroom setting. These highlights have helped develop my confidence as a student and global citizen and allowed me to utilize my values and voice to further contribute to the diverse network of opinions, solutions, and analyses.

My study abroad experience offered the chance to not only see new terrains but interact with and learn from the local culture on a level that most visitors never get to experience. My advice to future students is to become an explorer of your host country and discover its hidden beauties with excitement, curiosity, and an open mind. In doing so, immersion in study abroad can open your eyes, ears, and mouth the new foods, traditions, customs, activities, atmospheres, languages, and new ways of life, making lifelong friendships and memories along the way. Finally, embrace the highs and lows, recognizing that this opportunity will facilitate your growth as a steward of the world.

Now that summer (or winter here in the southern hemisphere) is here, I am leaving Tanzania with sincere gratitude for all the people and places that helped shape my experience and left me with countless memories that I will treasure. Asante sana, nitakuona tena Tanzania.

View the video Rylie created of her time abroad

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