We’re now at the point in the semester where everything starts to come together: Our students have learned Kiswahili and prepared their research materials, they’ve moved into the village and adjusted to life there, and now their research assistants are fully trained and ready to help them with their projects.
One of the unique features of CIEE Tanzania’s semester program is that you get to complete your own research project in rural Tanzania. Getting your own research assistant, academic support from the CIEE Tanzania team, and relevant permissions to conduct research is pretty unusual for undergraduates—these opportunities are usually reserved for graduate students.
At the same time, we often hear from prospective students that the thought of designing their own research project and then executing it is a daunting idea! Here are a few common questions (with answers!) to help demystify this important aspect of CIEE Tanzania’s program:
- Does my research topic have to be on a specific subject or area
a) No! While your home institution may want you to research something that relates to your major, we don’t require a specific research area or research topic. At the beginning of the research methods class, a lot of time is devoted to helping you figure out your research topic and question.
- Do I conduct my research alone?
a) As I hinted above, CIEE Tanzania hires research assistants to assist students with their projects. These assistants are trained by Justin and Paulo in basic research methodology. They’re bilingual and will usually act as the interviewer or moderator in a research setting. Previous participants often report forming close bonds with their research assistants.
- How long do I get to complete my research project?
a) Roughly two weeks of your month in the village is devoted to completing your project. Some students take all of this time, others complete their project in a shorter time.
- Is my project graded? Do I get graded on how “good” my results are?
a) Yes and no. You do get graded on the project, but your grade is based on your completion of the project and presentation of the results. Your actual results have no bearing on the grade you receive—you could find results that totally contradict your hypothesis, and that’s totally fine!
- Where do I stay while I’m completing my project?
a) In your village homestay! You’ll be embedded in the community where you are doing research.
- What is the final product of my research?
a) At the end of the village month, you’ll be expected to complete a research paper documenting your findings. If you want to publish your results, this paper is a great starting point, since it helps you to organize your thoughts and conduct the initial analysis you’ll need to publish. You’ll also present your results to village leaders and academics at Ruaha Catholic University, our host institution in Iringa.
Still have questions? Reach out to the CIEE Tanzania team via social media or through the CIEE webpage. They’re always happy to further describe this capstone experience. Past participants rate this experience highly and have indicated that this experience helps their resume stand out in job searches, graduate school applications, etc. It’s unique and unusual for a study abroad program. If you want to give it a try, karibuni!