The GESI homestay experience: Kakamega, Kenya

October 10, 2016

One of the most rewarding, challenging, and meaningful experiences during students’ time studying abroad with GESI is likely to be the time spent living with their host families. Host families offer the rare opportunity to truly integrate students into the local culture and build meaningful relationships that will last long past their stay. Families who host GESI participants are carefully selected and offer their homes out of a genuine sense of generosity and desire to learn about another culture.

Hannah in her room with friends in KenyaThis past summer, Bienen sophomore Hannah Whitehouse (pictured at left) was in Kakamega, Kenya with GESI. Her time in a new country was a positive one thanks in part to the support she received from her Kakamega family. In her own words: 

"My host family in Kakamega, Kenya, was my main support system for the two months that I spent abroad. At first, I was a little anxious about living with a family for the summer after not having lived with my own family since I had moved off to Northwestern. However, the genuine relationships and connections that I formed with my family in Kenya were one of the most valuable parts of my GESI experience. 

Hannah with her host mom in Kakamega, Kenya"Originally, my host family consisted of my two host parents, each in their sixties, and my host sister, who is in her thirties. Both of my host parents were teachers and, as a music education major, I was thrilled to discover that my host mother [pictured with Hannah at left] taught music at two local schools. By my fourth week of stay, two more of my host sisters and all of their children had come to with us because the children were on a break from school. I enjoyed getting to know my other two host sisters and learning even more Kiswahili from their preschool-aged children.

"My host family did a great job of making me feel welcome by incorporating me into the family from the start and helping me grow accustomed to village life. Whether I needed help getting a motorcycle taxi, had questions about Kiswahili words, or wanted to learn more about Kenyan culture, they were supportive always.

"By the end of my time in Kenya, I had the chance to experience many aspects of Kakamega life. I attended three different churches, my host father’s retirement celebration, and even a wedding! My homestay experience was a wonderful way to learn more about Kenya and build relationships in the community, and it was ultimately the highlight of my summer."

Want to learn more about GESI or about study abroad opportunities in Kenya? Visit the GESI website and check out a summary of Hannah and her team's community development project at Mahiakalo Child Development Centre in Kakamega.

Africa, Development, Undergraduate Students