Hello! My name is Saliya Ali and I am a 2021-2022 Gilman Alumni Ambassador from South Dakota. I graduated from Augustana University in 2020 with a degree in Government/International Affairs and Spanish. As a Gilman Scholar, I studied abroad in Kisumu, Kenya in the Summer of 2019 through the School for International Training (SIT).
During my time living in Kenya as an intern at the Kenya Ministry of Health and through my travels in Tanzania, ‘pole pole’ was a common phrase I heard. Meaning ‘slowly’ in Swahili, it was a good reminder to slow down and take in all that was happening around me without feeling guilty. I had grown up with the need to be and look constantly busy due to the culture in the United States and partly because my African parents strongly discouraged idleness. My summer in Kisumu allowed me to build a new routine and adapt to a new way of living.
Being awarded the Gilman Scholarship was one of the best parts of my college experience. Studying abroad was something that was important to me, but I did not know if it would be feasible financially or if I could fit study abroad into my degree program. I am thankful that everything worked out and that I was able to have such a life changing experience. If anyone is on the fence about studying abroad, I highly encourage them to go for it.
As part of my quest to learn more about the world, I learned more about my own story of coming to America. After my internship ended, I traveled through Kenya and Tanzania and stayed in the Eastleigh neighborhood in Nairobi, a neighborhood that my father lived in for about 3 years before he immigrated to the United States. I learned more about Kenya’s role as a host country to thousands of refugees from neighboring countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan.
Looking back on my experience in Kenya has been a great way to travel into the past because I have not done too much traveling as of late. I have had the chance to reminisce about the safari in Masai Mara and my beach trip to Diani Beach. My experience in Kenya showed me the diversity in Kenya’s population and landscape. Many people tend to think of Africa as a monolith and my experience traveling through parts of East Africa proved that African countries are far from homogenous. I hope that more students continue to seek out study abroad in African countries as well as other parts of the world that receive fewer study abroad students.