Devin Cannady's Greetings from Africa: A Princetonian's Summer Abroad
Princeton rising sophomore Devin Cannady is studying abroad this summer in Tanzania. Here is the first in a series of blog posts from Devin:
Greetings from Africa: A Princetonian’s Summer Abroad
Dear Tiger Nation,
Welcome to the first of several updates from me, rising sophomore Devin Cannady, as I walk you through the daily activities and experiences that I encounter during my eight weeks studying abroad in Africa. With this being my first time stepping foot outside of the Americas, I’d like to take you back to the moment that made this trip a reality. As an incoming freshman, I intended on going down the same route as the rest of my teammates by taking Spanish 101 to fulfill my language requirement. However, a random conversation with an upperclassman in Wu Dining Hall during my inaugural Frosh Week led me to this spot in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was reading a book written in Swahili, a language I had never seen or heard before. We discussed the language, as well as the culture, which he described as being interesting to study whether you had prior knowledge of it or not. Obviously, I ended up taking the course, and I give this student credit for sparking an interest that I would have otherwise been completely oblivious of having.
So, I’m here in Tanzania to learn even more outside of the classroom. My schedule over the span of these eight weeks abroad will include studying two semesters worth of Swahili: 105 and 107. This expedited version of these courses runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tanzanian time (2-5 a.m. Eastern) for the entirety of the program. Additionally, I will be teaching some English as well as helping out at an orphanage for about 10 hours per week. I’m joined by four of my Swahili classmates and 14 other Princeton students who are here learning about Tanzanian history. The remainder of our time is spent immersed in the Tanzanian culture, experiencing their unique ways of transportation, how they value money, or simply the way in which they greet each other. We won’t be in full scholastic mode all of the time though, as we have two amazing trips scheduled during our time here including a safari through the Ngorongoro Game Park for four days as well as a trip to Zanzibar for three days.
If this first week was any indication as to what the rest will be like, I know I’ll be able to call it life-changing when it’s through. It started when I landed in Tanzania and the thick air hit me like a brick wall. Passport patrol seemed unorganized and frantic, and when they got to me and started speaking in Swahili I drew a blank when searching for the right vocabulary. Great start. But once I reunited with the likes of my professor and classmates I relaxed just a bit, and I was even more assured to see a familiar face at the airport. Murshid Mudricat is a member of the Tanzanian Men’s Basketball National Team and we had been in contact via Facebook for the weeks leading up to my visit. In my first week, I spent a majority of my time outside of class travelling with Murshid to the courts where the best players in Tanzania play. It takes over an hour and a half each way to reach the courts. A regular day would consist of going to class on a local bus with the rest of the Princeton students, eating lunch at the University of Dar es Salaam cafeterias (where a meal that is hard for an average person to finish costs only the equivalent of $1.50), traveling back to the hotel on a bus, visiting the mall across the street to connect to the rest of the world since our hotel's Wi-Fi doesn't work, then going to the courts with Murshid and returning around 10:30. I am enjoying this challenge because I have been studying and learning Swahili much better being immersed in the culture rather than when I was in class for 50 minutes a day, four days a week on campus.
Being a part of a different culture, especially one that I knew nothing about coming into college has been good for me. I can now appreciate a culture that I, along with many others, hadn't previously known about. What I have learned and come to appreciate in my first week over here is that the majority of these people want the same things we want and many things that we take for granted in the states. Jobs in the legitimate workplace, money to eat a sufficient meal, and the basic necessity of running water are a luxury we have in the states. I’ve noticed that those who I’ve tried speaking to who do not know English tend to be carrying a greater burden than those who do know the language.
I think it took me the entire week to fully get acclimated to the time difference and pace of lifestyle here. One thing I know is that the food they serve here for roughly $2 is as good and healthier even than what I would be eating if I were at home. As I said in the opening, none of this would have been possible had I followed the “norm” of taking Spanish with my fellow teammates, the same way our fellow upperclassmen took Spanish. There are plenty of opportunities down that path in the same way that there are opportunities to study abroad by taking one of the many languages Princeton has to offer, but there is a beauty in stepping out and doing something different. I recall the time when I told people of my decision to study Swahili, and the response was usually laughter. Most people questioned why I would do something so random, saying the decision was unwise of me to make. I have realized that people are not comfortable with what is unknown, and that doing what is popular doesn’t mean it is the best path. Paving my own path through the study of Swahili has single-handedly been the greatest decision of my Princeton career so far, and I am glad to share this journey with you.
Until next time,