I nervously bit at my nails, driving to the airport; scared of the unknowns and what would come of the next four months with the CIEE Iringa program. My friend Josh and I signed up for this program together, and when the two of us arrived at the airport, we met up with Erin in line to check our bags. What I was worried would be an awkward first encounter, was instead a comforting and warm hug. That initial meeting soothed my nerves and got me so excited for the relationships I would form here in Tanzania. Through our 21 hours of travel, Erin and I immediately hit it off, from there I realized that I found my roommate and incredible friend. After arriving at our hotel and having dinner, we immediately went to bed. The next morning we met as an entire group for the first time, and the excitement was palpable.
Before coming here, I kept telling myself that the people who sign up for programs like this are naturally going to be individuals that I vibe and get along with. However, one of my most consistent worries that I kept jumping back to was: what if I do not make good friends? I was nervous that I would be so lonely for four months. Of course, I could not have been more wrong. I am here surrounded by eight other incredibly intelligent, caring, compassionate and hilarious individuals and I truly could not be more thankful to have each and every one of them in my life. The thing is, this is not an easy experience. We are not just traveling and taking some classes. We are diving deep into rich issues that plague Tanzania, we are intensely learning about society and culture here, we are learning and practicing our new language of Swahili, we are forming close relationships with local individuals, we are completing internships, research, and classes, we are spending a month in rural villages volunteering for an NGO, and of course, we are traveling, sightseeing and having fun. All of these bring us closer. They help us create relationships and bonds that will exist for the rest of our lives. While there is so much fun that comes with a study abroad program like this, there are also many challenges that come with adapting to such a different culture and way of life. Having a community like the one that I have found here is unique, but also so necessary in this kind of experience. I cannot wait to see how our relationships continue to blossom and grow within the next two and a half months that we spend here. Even with adventure and challenges that lie ahead, with the support we provide one another, we each have gained addition confidence to tackle whatever it is that awaits us. And for now, I am endlessly thankful for the people that this study abroad experience has brought into my life. Thanks CIEE Tanzania :)