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Duquesne Students Opt for Unique Study Abroad Alternative in Tanzania

Nineteen Duquesne University students could have opted to spend part of their summer studying in Italy, Germany, France or any of the popular European sites. But they decided to ramp up their travels with study abroad in Tanzania and Zanzibar.

For some of the students, like Ryan Shilling of Kittanning, this adventure was their first major trip abroad. Organized through Duquesne's Center for African Studies and the Office of International Programs, students spent four weeks in Tanzania following in the footsteps of Spiritan priests who began their ministries in African countries centuries ago.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me," said Shilling, noting the intricacies of planning the trip. "I had to take it!"

He managed to talk a classmate into going and earning the six credits in theology and journalism and mass media. On the trip, Shilling and his colleagues were introduced to the rituals of the Maasai. "I did not expect to actually be able to visit an African ethnic group," he said. "It took us out of our comfort zones."

The study-abroad students stayed in Arusha, where Duquesne has long-standing relationships with the diocese and the Spiritans, the founding organization for the University. Students also visited the Ngorongoro crater; trekked up part of Mount Kilimanjaro; enjoyed the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam; the spice markets of Zanzibar and the site of the first Spiritan missionary landing in Bagamoyo.

Besides providing a new window on life in Africa, the trip offered Shilling a different perspective on life in America. In Tanzania, though it is a poor country, people were smiling and welcoming. "It takes so much for us to be happy and to be pleased," he observed. "It makes me think how much money we actually waste on stupid things."

Retaining the congregation's legacy of service, the students carried 250 pounds of previously donated vitamins to a flying Tanzania medical mission as well as 10 boxes of books for the newly opened Spiritan run Marian University College in Bagamoyo.

"This experience gives our students a unique appreciation and understanding of other people and spaces, and it does prompt our students to begin to construct ways of what it means to think and act in our world as global citizens," said Dr. Gerald Boodoo, director of Duquesne's Center for African Studies. "Going to Africa not only changes our perceptions, but our way of acting based on these perceptions as well." 

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.