David L. Boren Awards for International Study

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Scholar Profile: “Studying Swahili in Tanzania”

Published in October 2009 Newsletter

After volunteering at a grassroots nongovernmental organization in Malawi in 2002, Amanda Tatum developed a passion for studying the politics of Africa.  As an undergraduate student majoring in international relations at the University of South Carolina, Amanda concentrated on themes of sustainable development, democracy in Africa, and the Swahili language.  In 2008 Amanda won a Boren Scholarship to study in Tanzania. 

Once in Tanzania, Amanda took classes in subjects such as African women writers, African drumming, and population, environment, and development at the University of Dar es Salaam.  Outside of class, she immersed herself in the culture by living with a host family, teaching English at a school for wood carvers, volunteering at an orphanage, and helping to edit brochures and newsletters for a local nonprofit organization.  She improved her Swahili language skills—beginning at the novice-mid level and ending at an intermediate-high level—by taking courses, meeting with a tutor, and having informal conversations with local Tanzanians.  By the end of her time in Tanzania, Amanda was able to read newspapers in Swahili, listen to the radio, and had extended her vocabulary to include phrases applicable to government and nonprofit sectors.  

Since returning to the United States, Amanda has recognized the outstanding value of the language study and cultural exposure she gained from her Boren study abroad experience.  She expects to graduate in May 2010, and will continue researching issues of energy and environmental conservation.  Her long term career objective is to work at the U.S. State Department as a public affairs specialist.