International Spotlight: Hannah Black in Tanzania

January 02, 2013

Hannah Black Studies Abroad in Tanzania

Hannah Black studied abroad in Tanzania for four months in fall 2012. She researched elephant behavior while participating in Tanzania: Ecology and Human Origins, an Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) off-campus program. During the Knox winter and spring 2013 terms, she will pursue further international study in Europe through the ACM's London and Florence: Arts in Context program. A junior from Galena, Illinois, she is majoring in anthropology and sociology and minoring in psychology.

Explain your study abroad experience.
The first seven weeks were at the University of Dar es Salaam, taking classes in Kiswahili (an intensive course that was four hours a day Monday through Friday), ecology, human evolution, and research methods. During this time, we got acquainted with the city and worked on creating a research project.

After those seven weeks, we had a week-long break, during which I volunteered at a school in the Babati district, a small rural district. The school was called Amka Africa and was actually run partly by Knox alum Ann McConachie '71.

After that was a week-long safari for our ecology class, during which we went to Lake Manyara and the Serengeti, among other places. Then we spent four weeks in a campsite near Tarangire National Park, working on our research projects. (Photo above: Hannah Black observes her first group of elephants during one of the "safari days" in Lake Manyara. Photo below right: With students at Amka Africa school, where she volunteered.)

Some students did anthropology projects, some did archaeology, and some did biology/ecology projects. I had the privilege to study animal behavior and did research on relationships among elephants.

After completing the research portion, we had another week of safari, this time for our human evolution course. We stopped at the Laetoli footprints (which were unfortunately covered up) and Olduvai Gorge, among others. Finally, we spent the last three weeks of the program back in Dar in host families, working on finals and our 15-20 page research paper.

How did you learn about this opportunity?
I found out about the Tanzania program when I visited Knox during an Admitted Students Day. I saw the pamphlet at one of the tables and was sold. I'd wanted to go to Africa since I could remember, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

It's actually one of the reasons I decided to go to Knox. I knew that this program would be one of those dream-accomplishing opportunities.Hannah Black Studies Abroad in Tanzania

Can you cite an example of how your in-classroom and/or out-of-the-classroom experiences at Knox have benefited you as you studied abroad and traveled internationally?
I can hardly begin to pick one moment that has benefited me. I have newly acquired levels of confidence and worldliness that could only have come from the whole of this experience.

Working in the field helped me figure out potential for future careers and what I would like to do with my life, making the friends I did on the trip helped me figure out crucial things about myself and who I am. Being in a foreign country so unlike my own helped me understand on a very personal level that the world is very big, and I am very small.

I learned so much about how people view America and where I stand in that equation. Choosing one beneficial moment would just not do the program justice.

How do you think this study abroad experience will benefit you in terms of your education, future career plans, personal development, etc.?
Doing actual research in the field has helped me a great deal, in terms of deciding what I want to do as a future career and what I want to study.

I have an idea about how research works (and that it is perhaps not as glamorous as some may think), and doing this work has shown me that I really do have a strong interest in studying animal behavior. I'm really glad I had the chance to figure that out before inadvertently stepping into the wrong field.

I also have matured drastically from this trip. I came home a different person. Being in a place that is so difficult and so different has given me the chance to figure myself out and grow up.

I was forced to think about things there that I never have to think about at home (like the importance of my own race, for example), and it really opened my eyes to a world that is not America. I know how cliche it sounds, but I think it was really important for me to go out there and step into this world that is completely apart from everything I've ever known.

Africa is not an easy place to be. It is very different and very harsh. I was thrown into this place and forced to figure things out on my own, and I am better for it. I am stronger and wiser and far more understanding and open-minded than I've ever been in my entire life. This trip has been really invaluable.

What was the coolest part of studying abroad?
Figuring myself out.

Sure, seeing the animals and the Serengeti were amazing, and studying elephant behavior was just incredible, but the best part about studying abroad was learning about who I am and where I stand.

I learned a lot about myself there. I learned what I wanted to do with my life and where I want my path to take me. I became incredibly strong and resilient, and I have so many new perspectives on life that I almost don't know what to do with them all.

The way I see everything is so different now. Things that used to drive me crazy are minuscule in comparison to what I dealt with in Africa (like having slow Internet or other minor inconveniences; there were times in the dorms where we wouldn't have water for days and power went out all the time), and things like politics and such are even sillier than they were before.

I understand things differently. I'm just a different person and in a good way. That is the main reason I'm glad I went; without these experiences, I'm not sure if I would have been able to grow and mature the way I have. (Photo below: Hannah Black, left, beads a bracelet while visiting a Maasai village in Tanzania.)
Hannah Black Studies Abroad in Tanzania