Hey hey! My name is Femke Oomen and I’m currently finishing the third year of the Bachelor Business Administration, track Technology Management. Originally, I’m from Stiens (Friesland) but I’m living in Groningen for a while now. Last year I was part of the ISP Committee, which organized the trip to Sofia. At this moment, I am the chairman of the Conference Committee. Since the beginning of my student life in Groningen I was convinced that I wanted to go abroad during my bachelor. Especially, going outside of Europe and to a location which could challenge me because of the cultural differences. Therefore Africa and Tanzania interested me in the first place and of course the variety in the nature of the country.
After the preparations in The Netherlands, the moment is there when we arrived in Dar es Salaam. We arrived just before midnight in a city which was still much alive, and the temperature was still approximately 30 degrees. The beggars were standing next to the cars at the traffic lights and looked curious into our taxi. This was my first realization that this would be an experience nothing close to staying in The Netherlands. To my surprise I noticed that the beggars, sandy roads, and slumps begin to become ‘normal’ after a short while. After getting to know the Swahili language a bit more and being able to have conversations with locals who you come across on the streets every day, it starts to feel like a new home very fast.
Also, at the university in Dar es Salaam things were a bit different. The level of education is not that difficult. Time management and planning are aspects whereby improvement can be made. This meant that sometimes there were no lecturers at the tutorials. A big advantage is that we could make arrangements with our contact person so the exams would fit in our schedule. The lecturers where nice and they kind of felt honored that they had international students in their class. However, the local students were a bit unsure about our presence which meant that it took a while before we had conversations with them due to language barriers and insecurity.
During our stay in Tanzania we had a lot of spare time which meant that we could travel a lot! I went on many safaris at the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and so on. During the safaris we had the opportunity to sleep in a tent in the parks and at night you could see the hyenas walking next to your tent and hear the zebras, giraffes, and lions. Besides that, we drove past the Kilimanjaro, hiked at some national parks and went to the coast to swim with dolphins. Dar es Salaam is located at the coast and is quite developed in comparison with the mainland. The thought that the poverty gap was so big was something I struggled with sometimes. I would like to make a small difference for them, but further than support the economy and talking to locals about the things that happen in the world was not possible during our stay.
At Zanzibar, the island in front of Tanzania, you could see the biggest difference between the rich and the poor. When you’re walking at the beautiful white beaches with the blue ocean you almost forget the small villages behind it where the locals live in very bad conditions. Unfortunately, the locals aren’t gaining much profit of the tourists who visit their area. All the money goes to the foreign people who own big hotels and houses there.
The thing that impressed me the most was a moment on Zanzibar when I was studying at the beach. Some little girls from the Masai-tribe came up to me to say hi and I noticed that they didn’t have anything to play with. So, I made some paper planes for them and they were just so happy and kept on playing with it for the rest of the day.
Overall, Tanzania is a very interesting country which cannot be put in words in a blog like this. The culture is so different which made it a very special experience! The locals were very helpful, friendly and curious why some ‘Mzungu’ (white people) are walking in their streets, especially when you put some effort in learning the language. So, do you ever have the opportunity to visit Tanzania? Then don’t hesitate and go. My tips: Don’t plan to much activities in advance, talk with local people and other tourists because they are a great source of information to find the hotspots. Last but not least, try to escape the ‘tourist bubble’ by considering local travel options, eat at some smaller restaurants and just say hi back when someone is greeting you! Now back to reality, in Groningen.