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Co-sponsored by UW-Madison, the University of Minnesota offers students the opportunity to study in Kenya through its Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) program. This unique opportunity allows students to explore the real world of international development in Kenya, a country of immense geographic and cultural diversity. The program aims to put students in direct contact with the social and economic realities of actual communities and of people working within them to address complex problems. Through classes, field trips, internships, and research, MSID strives to establish a continual dialogue linking experience with theory and critical analysis.
There is also an optional 3 1/2 week intensive Swahili language course offered in Nairobi prior to the start of the fall semester.
Located on the east coast of Africa, Kenya is home to forty million people who represent over forty ethnic groups. The modern capital city of Nairobi has a population of three million and functions as the base for many international organizations engaged in areas of international relief, development, and social change. Kenya's geography is marvelously varied with striking landscapes, ranging from snow-capped Mount Kenya to rich farmlands, barren deserts and tropical beaches.
The capitol city of Nairobi is the most populous city in East Africa, with a current estimated population of about 3 million. The city functions as the base for many international organizations engaged in areas of international relief, development, and social change. Nairobi is known as the safari capital of Africa, however the city has still managed to keep up with modernization. Unlike other cities, Nairobi is surrounded by 113 sq km of plains, cliffs and forest that makes up the city's Nairobi National Park.
Getting to Your Program
Sometimes the University of Minnesota offers a group flight for this program. If so, participants receive information at a later date. Students may also make their own arrangements; however, they are given guidelines for arrival dates and times.
A student visa is required. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program. The University of Minnesota will provide you with visa information.
OrientationIAP expects you to be an active participant in preparing yourself for your study abroad experience. As a participant on an IAP program, you will receive a pre-departure orientation, either in-person or online. The type and format of this orientation will vary by program and will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.
A week-long orientation is held upon arrival in Nairobi. The orientation includes a wide variety of topics including the academic program, expectations, health and safety, local transportation, communication systems and other practical matters.
HousingProgram participants live with local host families. Homestays are an integral component of the MSID learning experience. Students share most meals with at least one family, and many with two different families-one during the classroom phase, and a second during the remainder of the program. Students with internships in the main city typically choose to remain with the same family throughout. Students eat at least breakfast and the evening meal with their host families, and all three meals on weekends.
Excursions and Activities
Students will travel from Nairobi to their field placement/internship for six weeks. Students on the academic year program will have the opportunity to travel independently during their three-week semester break.
Students who participate in the pre-semester Swahili course will have the opportunity to participate in some group excursions in and around Nairobi.
The University of Minnesota offers mandatory international health insurance for education abroad opportunities provided through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). Students on University of Minnesota sponsored programs through the Learning Abroad Center are covered by this policy. The cost of this insurance is included in the program fee. The University of Minnesota will send you instructions on how to access your policy and insurance card.
Resident Director and staff
Returned Student Network
to contact a returned student.
Check out student profiles to learn more about their experience abroad.
"Anyone with a passion for people, culture, and Africa would enjoy the program in Kenya. I had a wonderful time and can't wait to go back!"
"I learned so much about Kenya: the history, the politics, the traditions, the music! I felt so rewarded working at Sambura, in a rural clinic because people actually were so grateful for my little acts of help."
"Kenya is in a region of the world that is unfamiliar to most people in the west. Studying and living in Kenya will give you a valuable new world perspective that will set you apart from others."
Watch videos about the program.
Sara & LeeAnn
How to Apply
First complete the IAP Online Application. UW Affiliate programs may require you to apply directly to the affiliate either simultaneously during the IAP application process OR after you have received a preliminary admissions decision from IAP. After you have completed the IAP Online Application, the following forms will become available to you through the application portal. Be sure to read the instructions carefully for information on when to apply to the affiliate.
UMN Academic Recommendation Form
UMN Online Application
UMN Transcript Request Form
Unofficial Transcript (Student Record)
Unofficial Transcript - OPTIONAL - Additional File
Forms are subject to change. Complete the forms according to the checklist provided to you in the online application portal.
After the Deadline
IAP will review your application and make a preliminary admissions decision. You will be notified of the admissions decision via email. The affiliate university or organization will make the final admissions decision.
The core of the academic program is a combination of on-site coursework and an unpaid field research placement/internship for academic credit. The fall or spring semester program consists of eight weeks of classroom work, which focuses on topics like development theory, research methods, sustainability, cultural appropriateness, and equity. All classes are with program participants and are taught by local faculty. During this time, a Swahili language class is also required. Following the completion of class work, students start a six-week field placement with a development project or agency. During this field placement, students are either participating in an internship or are working on a research project. Students return to Nairobi to conclude the semester with the MSID final conference - a time for reflection with MSID peers, exams and papers, and preparation for departure. Academic year students follow the same academic format as fall participants. Then, after a three-week break, academic year students return to their field placements for the second semester to do an internship, and design and carry out a substantial research project.
Field research placements/internships involve work in development agencies in urban or rural settings. Typical categories include: public health, environmental protection, social services, women in development, agriculture, and small businesses. Some examples of previous internships include:
- Working with a clinic on AIDS education
- Promoting sustainable agriculture
- Working with communities to develop eco-tourism
- Contributing to a rural adult literacy project
- Assisting women with micro-business proposals
- Working at family health care clinics
- Working with indigenous groups on rainforest protection.
Students also have the option of enrolling in a 3 1/2 week pre-semester Swahili course for 4 credits.
Prior to departure, students must complete assigned readings for selected courses. In addition, students have the option to enroll in the one-credit online course titled "Global Identity: Connecting Your International Experience to Your Future." This course enhances the learning abroad experience and covers topics related to intercultural communication.
Program Web Page(s)
UMN Program in Nairobi, Kenya
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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