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Multiple Areas, Tanzania, Kenya

Program Description

Designed to serve majors from many different disciplines, JMU’s East Africa Field School incorporates extensive travel, homestays, lectures/class discussions, readings, and a variety of other assignments into studies of Swahili and human-environment interactions.

All students are required to take courses in Swahili language at the appropriate level (beginner to advanced options are available) and “Human-Environment Interactions and Perspectives on Development” (abridged as “HEI”). Students earn up to 12 credit hours total (6 credit hours for Part I, 6 credit hours for Part II). HEI provides breadth and depth of understanding for how “Kenya” and “Tanzania” came to be, as well as connects with the Kiswahili courses.

For the HEI courses, we focus on the following broad themes:

  • Histories and Cultures – diversity of cultures in East Africa, impacts of colonialism, meanings of post-colonialism, education and ways of “knowing,” nationalism, and development
  • Human-Environment Interactions – dimensions of rural life, impacts of major cities, varied land uses and pressures on the land and water bodies, use and potential of renewables 
And, those themes allow us to pursue the following course objectives:
  • identifying key geographical features
  • identifying and analyzing socio-cultural, political, and economic patterns and practices in East Africa
  • discussing and contextualizing prominent individuals and groups
  • applying a political ecology framework to:
    • understand how social and physical aspects of environmental and development issues have interrelated in East Africa
    • examine critically contemporary issues, including urbanization, education, development, environmentalism, resource management, globalization, and health within the context of East Africa
    • study ideals of “sustainability” and limitations of practices with a focus on energy, water, food, and appropriate technology
    • understand ways in which individual and group identities are constructed, maintained, contested, altered
The East Africa Field School is divided into two sections:
  • EAFS Part I: TANZANIA: includes Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Kondoa, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Mwanza
    • Kiswahili at appropriate level (3 credit hours)
    • East Africa: Human-Environment Interactions and Perspectives on Development, Part I (3 credit hours) 

This part of the program includes studying at the main campus of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the UDSM's Institute of Marine Science on Zanzibar’s Unguja Island, homestays in Dar, undertaking coursework and field studies in Kondoa, Mwanza, Zanzibar (including Unguja and Chumbe), exploring Ngorongoro and Serengeti, and more.

  • EAFS Part II: SOUTHERN KENYA AND NORTHERN TANZANIA: includes Homa Bay, Kakamega, Maasai Mara, Ongata Rongai, Kola, Kajiado County in Kenya; concludes in Longido and Arusha in Tanzania.
    • Kiswahili at appropriate level (3 credit hours)
    • East Africa: Human-Environment Interactions and Perspectives on Development, Part II (3 credit hours)

This part of the program involves extensive travels to explore case studies in human-environment interactions, as analyzed through the guiding framework of political ecology. Part II includes analyzing different kinds of protected areas; learning about development, conservation, and sustainability in a variety of locales; experiencing homestays with three different rural agriculturist and pastoralist communities; and more.

Location Description

JMU’s East Africa Field School (EAFS) takes place amidst the extraordinary geographic and cultural diversity of Tanzania and Kenya. Tanzania and Kenya possess impressive geographic features, such as a portion of the Great Rift Valley, savannas teeming with wildlife, Africa’s tallest mountain (glacier-topped Mt. Kilimanjaro), stunning coastal regions and coral reefs, additional biodiversity hotspots in the forms of salt and freshwater lakes (including Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake), arable highlands rich with volcanic soils, and much more. With 120+ socio-linguistic groups in Tanzania and 40+ socio-linguistic groups in Kenya, Kiswahili has served as a language of unification. EAFS begins in Dar es Salaam, a hub of industry and international activity and among Africa’s largest cities, with a population of over 4 million people. Dar is home to the University of Dar es Salaam, the oldest university in Tanzania. Most East Africans live in smaller towns and rural areas, but remain connected in many ways to the towns and big cities, as we shall experience throughout the program.


Jennifer Coffman | | School of Integrated Sciences


Accommodations are provided throughout the program. Lodging varies depending on locale and includes guest houses/hotels, homestays (i.e., living with host families), tented camps, bungalows, and residence halls. Students typically stay in groups of 2-3.

All meals will be provided as part of the program. In many instances, meals will be included as part of the accomodations. In other instances, students will receive stipends from which to cover food costs.

Additional Items to Consider

  • JMU and non-PGO students may participate in Part I only or both Parts I and II. Only returning students or students with significant prior experience in East Africa may undertake Part II by itself. Contact the Program Director for more information.
  • This program is an intensive, busy, demanding field school. This means a lot of traveling, as well as some hiking and camping. Some accommodations have minimal facilities (e.g., no running water or grid-tied electricity in some homestays).
  • Certain immunizations and anti-malarial medications are required; see for details.
  • Visas are required to enter the countries (details on process provided as part of pre-departure process).
  • For phones, students will use SIM cards and a “pay-as-you-go” system popular in East Africa. Students may use their own smart phones or purchase a basic cell phone once in country.
  • A detailed packing list is provided upon acceptance into the program or earlier upon request.

COVID-19 Location Information:

Each country has different requirements upon entry with regard to COVID-19. Please check this website for the most up-to-date information on what is required for the country (or countries) that are part of this program. Please note that this changes often, so we encourage you to check back frequently.

Applicant Criteria

  • Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.75
  • Part I: No formal language training required. There will be a small amount of pre-departure work in Kiswahili and a graded quiz the first day in country.
  • Part II: Must have completed at least SWA 101 or its equivalent before participating.
  • Resume
  • List of academic references
  • Interview with Program Director may be required

Application Process

Please use the appropriate links below to apply.

East Africa Field School Program:

Project GO applicants use this link:  

Project Go Application


Accepting Waitlist Only

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ANTH 391 / HIST 391 / GEOG 491 / ISAT 480 / SOCI 391: East Africa: Human-Environment Interactions and Perspectives on Development, Part I (3 credits)

ANTH 391 / HIST 391 / GEOG 491 / ISAT 480 / SOCI 391: East Africa: Human-Environment Interactions and Perspectives on Development, Part II (3 credits)

SWA 101 / SWA 102 / SWA 231 / SWA 232 / SWA 300 / SWA 320 / SWA 490: Kiswahili - from beginner to advanced levels, depending on ability (3 credit hours per course; up to 6 credit hours total)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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