A Wild Dream: An Introduction

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Days until arrival: 115.

So, this is really happening. I just keep telling myself, "this is really happening..."

It has taken a long time - over a year - and a lot of work and stress to make this dream come true. Sometime in the fall semester of my junior year I discovered SFS (The School for Field Studies) and after a bit of research, I was completely in love. The SFS Kenya program was everything I had ever hoped to find in a study abroad program and more. I applied, was interviewed, and was accepted for the fall semester 09. Not long after, I was crushed to find out that Penn State would not apply any of my financial aid to this program. So I could not afford to go.

Well, it's just not in my nature to take 'no' for an answer. Over that year and into my senior year, I devoted myself to finding a way into SFS. I would need to get Penn State and SFS to officially affiliate with each other in order for Penn State to hand over my financial aid money. This meant working with the Study Abroad and International Programs offices at Penn State, my advisors and professors, and the director and staff at SFS, writing countless emails, making phone calls, and setting up meetings. It meant small accomplishments and big setbacks, hoping, crying, dreaming, pushing. And finally in the end... Success. Mine is a story of never giving up, of never letting go of a dream just because it was hard to achieve or because someone said it was impossible. Getting to Kenya will be proof of this. It will be everything to me.

So now, the program has changed a bit since I first applied. Now it is a two-part program with half the semester spent in Kenya and the other half in Tanzania. What was a Wildlife Management program is now a Comparative Wildlife Management program. It still encompasses the same main topics, we just get to experience more of Africa now, visit more parks/reserves, and learn from more people. Here are some of the highlights listed on the SFS site:

  • Learn about social organization, basic taxonomy, and conservation status of charismatic common large mammals in African savanna ecosystems.
  • Travel on field lectures to study changing land uses among pastoral communities and implications of these to wildlife management and rural livelihood.
  • Field research methods learned in this program include large mammal identification and behavioral observations, landscape mapping, game counting, rangeland condition assessment, and participatory rural appraisal.
  • Develop recommendations and potential solutions to conservation challenges in these ecosystems.
  • Presentations of research findings to community stakeholders.
  • Visits to local markets and a neighboring boma (Maasai homestead) for traditional Maasai celebrations, a lecture on culture and artifacts, jewelry making with Maasai mamas, and to conduct interviews for research work.
  • Community service work in local schools, hospitals, orphanages, and with a local women's group.


And here is a cute video slideshow of the program:



So that's about all I got for now. I'll keep this thing updated as the weeks go by.

Enjoy sharing my dream and my journey,

-- Jackie


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