Final Moments in Paradise

Authored by:
Kaitlyn Shepard

Kaitlyn Shepard

Paradise was one of the first adjectives used by the students to describe our surroundings on that very first morning. Up before dawn, we began the drive to Iringa and it was mentioned while the sun rose and the green and hilly terrain came to light. It was used again 20 days later as the sun set in Dar Es Salaam as we said goodbye to the orangey-red sky we had become so familar with. Our final few days in Tanzania were full of last minute souvenier shopping, goodbye dinners with host families, a soccer tournament and the students presenting their final projects. Now that all of the students and I have returned back to our homes in the U.S., I wanted to share some special moments from those last few days.

Our service project came full circle as the teams we'd been working with the past few weeks came together for a final futbol tournament. Each of the teams arrived ready to show off to their CIEE coaches just how much they had gained from their experience together. We didn't let the TZ students have all of the fun, the CIEE students and staff came together to compete in the tournament as well. Let's just say laughs, competiton, soccer balls were had by all, and a few enjoyed the grand prize of a live goat! Yes, you read that right...a goat. No medal or trophy can compare as the top prize in a Tanzanian competition like a live goat can.

Earlier on Thursday, the CIEE students had the opportunity to present their take-aways from this experience in whichever format they chose. Throughout the entire journey, time was alotted each day (most days) for the students to reflect on their daily experiences through journaling, which led to a lot of group discussions. The goal of their final project was to process everything they have experienced and put it into  their own words. It was their chance to share how these 3 weeks have impacted them,as well as their plan to use what they've learned when they return to the US. I was so proud to hear each student speak of their personal development through: overcoming fears, learning new life skills, the ability to laugh at themselves when making mistakes, and that with patience everything will come to you at the right time. They spoke of their world becoming bigger with each word of a foreign language they learned. They found you don't have to share the same cultural values or even be able to speak more than a few words of the same language to create a connection with another person.  You can form a relationship and learn from one another by connecting on the smallest of things; a favorite food, a shared fear (SPIDERS) or watching the world cup together.  They discovered the importance of constant access to wifi and snap chat streaks paled in comparison to being fully in the moment and absorbing their surroundings. All of which lead to deeper relationships with host families, their peers, and ultimatley themselves. Living in a new society gave students the chance to take a deeper look into their communities in the US and think about how some of the values found in Tanzania (community/collectivism) could be helpful in battling issues that their own neighborhoods face. One of their final take-aways I'll leave you with is this: energy is contagious, showing up for someone (even if you feel like you don't know exactly what you're doing) encourages those around you to show up for themselves and eachother, and that is where change begins! 

I call these girls the First Six, because they were the first group to complete this high school summer program of Empowering Girls through Soccer.  I hope that our journey will help pave the way for future students interested in the program! Lastly a big THANK YOU to the CIEE Tanzania staff Justin, Paulo and Sophia who's experience and knowledge made the entire program such a huge success and will continue to do so for all future groups. 

Asante Sana (Thank you very much) Tanzania!!

In the gallery you can find a collection of some of my favorite photos from the trip..

-Kaitlyn

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