Students embrace Fairfield’s study abroad program in Tanzania

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications on December 5, 2012

Tanzaniais not the typical study abroad destination, but for Gabriel Sacco and Bridget Butterworth, it was the experience of a lifetime. Both current seniors, the two lived in Dar es Salaam for a semester and studied at the University of Dar es Salaam, the oldest public university in Tanzania. Their time abroad was filled with life-changing experiences that provided them with unique classroom and community living and learning opportunities.

Bridget Butterworth ’13 (second from left) and Gabriel Sacco ’13 (third from left) had an unforgettable semester abroad in Tanzania, Africa.

Gabriel Sacco, an international studies major with minors in biology and politics, heard about the program when he was visiting the study abroad office and looked through a brochure talking about Fairfield’s new program. “I have always been interested in learning more about Africa, but never pursued it,” he explained. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn about the continent while living in the culture. Also, I wanted to study abroad in a totally new and different setting.”

The Bridgewater, NJ, native wasted no time in exploring the differences once he arrived in Tanzania. “Being a biology minor, I was really excited to explore and take note of all the different insects, animals, and foliage,” he said. Every day stood out for Sacco who took courses in sociology, African foreign policy, and the history of East Africa. “The classroom was in the open-air, so a bunch of times we would have birds, wasps, or butterflies join us. Of course the professors were used to this, but our class couldn’t help but drop everything and stare,” he explained.

Now back at Fairfield, the senior remains involved in the Model United Nations club and plans to use what he learned in his Tanzanian classes for his International Studies capstone.

Bridget Butterworth, a politics and international studies double major with an education minor, noted that it has been difficult to describe her time in Tanzania once she returned to the U.S. “We joke that there is really no way to describe the differences except by going and experiencing them,” the Concord, NH native said. She noted that the adjustment to life in Tanzania took time. “I think one of the major overarching adjustments was the general attitudes of everyone,” she explained. We come from such a fast-paced environment that focuses on multi-tasking, but in Tanzania, people take things at a slower pace and focus on relationships.”

“The culture was essentialy the polar opposite of ours. What struck me most was the Tanzanians’ sense of connectedness. Being a northerner, I’m used to people minding their own business and rushing around. Tanzanians see themselves as part of a larger community so everyone talks to you almost everywhere you go.”

Butterworth, who plans to apply for a Fulbright scholarship focusing on development work, summed up her experience: “Overall it was just so amazing and I know that I will never be the same. I can imagine that any study abroad experience will change you, but going to a pace like Tanzania is special. It really forces you to reflect on your life and who you are. It can be hard to explain so I recommend that everyone go there to see for themselves.”

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