Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whitworth students and faculty explore Tanzania in semester-long study-abroad program


During last year’s January and spring terms, Whitworth offered its first semester-long study program to Tanzania. The 20-week program was co-led by John Yoder, Whitworth professor of political science, and his wife, Janet Yoder. Twelve students were immersed in the language and culture of Tanzania during the inaugural trip.

While exploring the cities of Arusha and Dar-es-Salaam as well as the island of Zanzibar, students completed 22 credits each. They took Core 350 for four Jan Term credits, and their spring semester consisted of 17 credits, including a four-week Swahili course, Contemporary East Africa, Contemporary African Culture, Cross-Cultural Ministry and an internship in each student’s field of study.

While in Tanzania, the students did much more than study. Other activities included a safari in the Serengeti; seeing Olduvai Gorge, where evidence of the earliest human ancestors was discovered; worshipping in various kinds of churches; touring a spice grove and mangrove swamp on the island of Zanzibar; meeting with the country’s U.S. ambassador; swimming in the Indian Ocean alongside dolphins; and visiting centers of slave trade.

“I want students to undo the negative stereotypes of Africans as poor, uneducated and in need of Western charity,” says John Yoder. “Of course Africa has problems: what society doesn’t? But Africa is also a land of opportunity. I want students to return to the U.S. with memories of great Tanzanian professors, strong Tanzanian families, vibrant Tanzanian churches, growing Tanzanian businesses, and exciting Tanzanian art and music.”

Whitworth offers dozens of opportunities to study abroad, and each program presents a unique and valuable experience and perspective.

“I think the depth of immersion in local culture sets this trip apart,” says Yoder. “For almost the entire time in Tanzania, Whitworth students live with local families. In January, March, April and May, most of the families are Christian.  When we are in Zanzibar in February, students stay with Muslim families. All of us, the students and the teachers leading the trip, developed very close personal ties with the families with whom we lived.”

The Tanzania study-abroad program is open to students of all majors. The next trip to Tanzania is scheduled for Jan Term through spring semester of 2014 and will be co-led by Yoder and Megan Hershey, assistant professor of political science. Courses will be the same as the 2012 program. Learn more at the Feb. 12 study-abroad fair in the Hixson Union Building’s multipurpose room, where 2014 trip applications will be available. Students are selected based upon the online application, a written essay, recommendations by faculty and peers, and an interview. The program will be offered every other academic year.

“Africa is changing rapidly,” says Yoder. “I guarantee that students will return with a much different understanding of Africa than they expected when they left the U.S. They will come back to America changed by learning from good African friends and by witnessing the strength and dynamism of Tanzania.”

The United Republic of Tanzania was formed in 1964 through the joining of the Zanzibar islands and the mainland Tanganyika. With access to the India Ocean, it acts as a major seaport for the surrounding landlocked countries. It is home to Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, as well as to Serengeti National Park.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.