The Exchange Tales: Sylvia Gamba On Adapting To Tanzanian Lifestyle And Academic System

Sylvia Gamba

Sylvia Gamba, a Kiswahili student of the University of Ghana, is currently undertaking an exchange program in Tanzania for the 2020/2021 academic year.

She is based at the University of Dar es Salaam, the oldest and biggest public university in Tanzania which is situated on the western side of the city of Dar es Salaam.

“I had the privilege to be shortlisted for the 2020/2021 Kiswahili exchange program on a scholarship basis. Although the period within which this offer came in was quite unfavourable, I made what I would call a tough decision,” she told Kuulpeeps.

Sylvia Gamba

Aside from academic work, Sylvia looked forward to the exposure that came with it. “Being introduced to a whole different group of people and their culture is something I longed to experience especially among the people of Eastern Africa.”

She, however, indicated that for the purpose of standard Kiswahili studies, she chose to go to Tanzania because it was the best option among other Kiswahili speaking countries such as Kenya, Burundi and Uganda.

Sylvia revealed that settling in Tanzania was not easy for her when she initially got there. “I felt we were all African and had similar cultures but my expectations weren’t met,” she said.

She had challenges adapting to their food, dressing, hygiene, communication among others. “There was a dress code of which I knew nothing about before going and that gave me a hard time during my stay,” Sylvia said. “They happen to be an Islam-dominated country and for some reason, this dress code was only forced on campus.”

Sylvia Gamba

Sylvia further indicated that she didn’t find the environment conducive enough because some of the people especially in the hostel she stays treated her and other Ghanaian students differently and with so much hostility, which she tolerated.

“Their way of doing certain things was so different from that which is done in Ghana and so we sometimes found ourselves on opposite sides of the bar.”

Aside from the challenges which she encountered in the initials days, Sylvia said she has had a good time in Tanzania, so far. “I found it amusing trying their foods and having conversations with the people. I visited many places such as Mbudya Island and the popular Zanzibar Island, I visited some local restaurants, had nights out and amazing boat cruises,” she recounted.

Through her constant interaction with people and her trips to tourist sites, Sylvia made many new friends including natives and other nationals from Denmark, Germany, Nigeria and more.

Sylvia Gamba with friends

On her academic experience at the University of Dar es Salaam, Sylvia revealed that the mode of teaching is quite different from how it is done at the University of Ghana.

“Unlike UG where the lecturer taught first and gave assignments later on the topic taught, we were rather supposed to research on the topic and to present in class before the lecturer taught. I realized that more of their studies was in the ‘Research and Present’ way so it got students on their feet always,” she explained.

Sylvia, however, indicated that she eventually adapted to their way of learning and that broadened her knowledge of the language since she had to always research. “It got me asking questions all the time and finding answers which I probably wouldn’t have found normally.”

“I found their system too rigid. There were no entertainment programs to ease stress during the academic year. And there was not much ‘freedom’ as compared to UG,” she added.

Her experiences so far have convinced her that she made a very good decision to embark on an exchange programme. She, therefore, indicated that “the exposure that comes with embarking on exchange programs is unmatched! In my case, I became more fluent in speaking the Kiswahili language than I was before and my understanding was broadened as well. I would 100 percent recommend it.”


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