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More Than Just an Intersession Trip, Tanzania 2012


A short intercession class brought eight Ole Miss students to a foreign country with a much slower-paced lifestyle, an experience that led them to people with much less than the average American, but who were grateful nonetheless.

Under the guidance of Laura Johnson, Kelsey Lantrip, John Russell Penick, Blair Bryant, Ryan Kirchner, Mary Cameron Dogan, Katie Cooper, Tiffany Mayfield and Victoria Vaughan traveled through Tanzania studying environmental psychology.

This Wintersession class did not involve classrooms or tests, but hands-on learning experiences with the people and environment of Tanzania.

“I realized quickly how selfish and unhappy we are as a society in the United States,” said Lantrip, a psychology senior. “Their attitudes were a refreshing change, and it truly saddens me that we, as a developed country, don’t have the tools necessary to be like them.”

The people of Tanzania left an impression on the students, making it hard for some of them to readjust to American culture when they returned.

“There was a genuine care between individuals that you rarely see in an individualistic country like the United States,” said Kirchner, a psychology sophomore.

During their two-week trip, the students did not spend more than three nights in one place. They were constantly on the go, and with Johnson’s leadership and previous experiences in Africa, the students were able to learn many things about the country and environmental psychology.

On their second day, the class went to see the Masai tribe. 

“There was heartbreak and depression when seeing flies all over the faces of the Masai tribe,” said Dogan, a public policy leadership and psychology senior.

The Masai people’s way of life was a major shock for most of the group. 

“They have a culture that is as far from American culture as I have ever seen,” Penick said.

The students also visited the Ngorongoro Crater, which was created two to three million years ago by a volcanic explosion.

“Never did I think I would cry over something like the crater, but knowing that it’s home to so many animals, plants and very special people made me realize just how much we take for granted in our lives,” Lantrip said.

The crater held a different meaning for Lantrip, as her uncle’s ashes were spread there 10 years ago after he died.

“I never understood why he wanted his ashes spread there until I got there,” Lantrip said. “It goes on forever and is so enchanting.”

While in Tanzania, the class went on a safari that introduced them to the landscape and the animals.

“One of the most exciting things to see was not just one, but four or five black rhinos, which are critically endangered,” Dogan said. “To see this massive flat land covered with two dozen different animals that we could identify was breathtaking.”

The students were also paired with eight Tanzanian students in part with the Roots and Shoots Program.

Roots and Shoots was founded by Jane Goodall and 16 Tanzanian students in 1991. The program aims to connect students as well as work on discovering ways to make the world a better place. Roots and Shoots gave the students a completely hands-on experience in Moshi, Tanzania.

“We went to the conservation site for the Roots and Shoots group and built a furnace for them, a swing set and a mud stove, which was made out of mud, bricks and rocks that helps them be more efficient,” Dogan said.

With their partners, the Ole Miss students were able to share their experiences together and learn more about each other’s environmental cultures.

“The most rewarding experiences for me were simply my conversations with the locals and our Roots and Shoots partners,” Penick said.

The group also had the chance to spend one night camping together at Lake Chala, where the students camped in tents surrounding the lake. The students hiked their way to the campsite on paths that were not clearly cut, with steep drops into the lake. As scary as the students said the wilderness and the animals were, they said there was never a time when they did not feel safe in Tanzania.

“I had a calming sense of comfort throughout our travels, something I can’t say about Paris, London, Istanbul, Buenos Aires and even my home in Jackson,” Dogan said.

The Ole Miss students separated from their Roots and Shoots partners after their camping trip at Lake Chala.

In their short two-week trip, the students also traveled to Zanzibar and Stonetown. They spent the last couple days of their trip at the beach discussing conservation psychology. 

“The trip had a big impact and was eye-opening,” Dogan said. “It was heartbreaking, but in a heartwarming way.”

The students said they were all greatly affected by the trip, which made it worth more than just the class credits they received.

“I keep finding myself looking for ways to get back to Africa,” Lantrip said. “I had no idea that I was going to be such a better, stronger and happier person when I got back to the United States, solely due to the fact that I appreciate the people, time and the few material possessions I have in my life.”

“The enthusiasm of the people there to make a change and a difference in the community around them is so much more than what you see here,” Kirchner said. “That was pretty amazing.”