By Leah Boucher, Contributing Writer
UMF Professor of Political Science, Linda Beck headed up a travel course to the African country Tanzania this summer, giving students the opportunity to experience a vastly different culture for two weeks.
Beck previously traveled to Tanzania for her sabbatical in 2015 and was immediately drawn to the country. “While deciding where to go for my sabbatical, I was looking to work in a region of Africa for something different in my career,” said Beck, “and Tanzania fit the bill in so many different ways, certainly in terms of my interest in ecotourism and environmental activism.”
In fact, this area of research was the main focus of the course. One of Beck’s students, a junior who is double majoring in environmental policy and planning and political science, explained that this travel course gave students more knowledge on what exactly ecotourism and environmental activism mean. “On this course, we were able to focus on ecotourism by trying our best to not have an excessively negative impact on the environment,” said Danica Lamontagne, “and one way we accomplished this was by shopping at local Tanzanian stores that only sold products made out of recycled goods.”
Another junior in the course, double majoring in international and global studies and political science, vividly remembers how the group of students embraced the environmental activism aspect of the trip. Amanda Allen said their group was able to plant trees along the banks of rivers in an effort to slow down erosion. “Although the trip was an expensive one, costing about $4,500, the experience of being in such a different country for about two weeks was worth every penny,” said Allen.
On this travel course, the group made sure that the organizations and companies they associated with were reliable and reputable. “All the places that we stayed at and the organizations we worked with were all ones we knew treated their employees fairly and paid them adequately,” said Lamontagne.
Although the trip went smoothly overall, there was one bad experience the group dealt with as soon as they arrived in Tanzania. “We chose a very reputable organization to pick us up from the airport, but there was confusion on the time we were supposed to be picked up,” said Beck, “for we arrived at 1 a.m. but the organization thought we were arriving at 1 p.m.” Thanks to quickly getting three taxis, the group made it safely to their home for the rest of the night.
Students were able to spend one day hiking up a small portion of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, but one of the highlights of the trip for Allen was a safari through the Ngorongoro Crater in the Serengeti Plain. “Our safari guide, who we called Mama Maggie, is one of only five female guides in Tanzania among thousands of guides.” Their guide pointed out gazelles, warthogs, zebras, and even elephants with ivory tusks, which are quite rare due to increased ivory poaching.