By Katy Shenk 

Student Life Editor 

Zanzibar, a small island only 53 miles wide and 24 miles across off the coast of Tanzania, was home to ten Washington College students for six weeks this summer. 

Students from the academic departments of English, economics, education, and environmental studies partnered with local Non-Governmental Organizations and schools to serve as teachers, finance consultants, and researchers. 

The program was directed by International Studies Faculty Advisor Dr. Tahir Shad in lieu of the Tanzania Seminar, a 4-credit program offered by the College in past years. 

Junior Lauren Frick both assisted Dr. Shad in organizing the trip as part of her duties as his research assistant and participated in the trip as an intern. Her main responsibilities included developing student interest meetings and coordinating other travel logistics. 

“One of the main reasons I came to WC was for the study abroad opportunities,” she said.  

Unable to study abroad for a full semester due to campus commitments, she saw the internship as an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in economic development, her desired field of study. 

Internships were coordinated with the assistance of Creative Learning, a D.C.-based nonprofit. 

According to Frick, Zanzibar’s history is key to understanding its present conditions. A geographically central location for both trade routes and the slave trade, the island’s former grandeur yet current poverty is a study in contrasts. 

Alongside fellow economics major, Junior Drew Berry, Frick interned at the NGO Jumuiya ya Changamoto, a microfinance institution focused on alleviating poverty by offering loans to individuals and small businesses who don’t meet qualifications set by banks. 

“Tourism was a thin veil that couldn’t hide the disease and poverty that plague the people, and that’s why I went to Zanzibar in the first place,” Berry said. 

During their time at Jumuiya ya Changamoto, Berry and Frick helped the organization further its online presence, apply for grants, and restructure their loan process to decrease default rates. 

“It was incredibly humbling to meet the people whose lives we were helping,” Berry said. “I learned how easy it is to take what we have for granted.” 

Berry and Frick shared a small apartment with six other WC interns in Stone Town, Zanzibar’s capital. During the week, the eight interns worked at their respective NGO partners and other internship locations. 

Senior Myssa Abusin, Junior Colleen Larsen, and Sophomores Annalie Buscario and Jourdan Aten worked collaboratively with two NGOs focused on empowering women, while Senior Mariah Thomas and Junior Stephaney Wilson both taught at local schools. 

Senior Xiangyu Yuan and Junior Maxwell Lambert worked elsewhere on the island in environmental conservation, primarily assisting with mangrove preservation in rural areas. 

The students used weekends to retreat from the stress of their jobs and enjoy Zanzibar’s beaches, islands, and wildlife. Some highlights included visiting Prison Island, home to 200-year old tortoises, and snorkeling as part of a maritime safari trip, Safari Blue. 

Berry also joined a local soccer team, Ujamaa, whose former players include the current President and Vice-President of Zanzibar. 

Collectively, the group faced significant culture shock while adjusting to daily life on the island. In addition to a severe language barrier and unfamiliarity with cultural customs, students encountered the problem of limited resources at their places of work such as access to functioning electricity and the internet. 

Compared to an internship experience in the United States, Frick described her position in a developing country like Zanzibar as much more “self-guided.” Though only pursuing her undergraduate degree, her level of education far exceeded that of her fellow co-workers. 

She said that the interns’ statuses as American students raised the expectations and demands of their respective places of work. Though this was overwhelming at times, it also cultivated valuable decision-making skills. 

While she found the experience useful, Frick expressed that the living and working conditions in Zanzibar should be made evident to students if the program is offered in future years. She said that students should be prepared to deal with limited access to health services, local authorities, and constant interaction with non-English speakers on the island. 

Additionally, while on the island, students were under the supervision of local coordinators from Creative Learning, who were available to address concerns.  

For Berry, the internship was both a learning and a teaching experience. 

“I was touched to be welcomed with such open arms, and by the amazing generosity of everyone I met. This was a trip that I won’t soon forget,” he said. 


The Elm

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