Jade Kern: The School for Field Studies – Tanzania, East Africa

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad because I wanted a more in depth knowledge of what researchers can do with their degrees. I am a pre-vet student and I have struggled with what and where to go after graduation. I hoped that studying abroad would help open my mind to the possibilities.

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What program and destination did you choose and why?

I chose to study abroad with the School for Field Studies in Tanzania, East Africa. SFS has so many wonderful programs geared toward environmental science and biology so I really had a hard time choosing, but ultimately, I chose Tanzania for the big cats. I have always had a passion for large predators and members of the Felidae family and Tanzania had everything I was looking for.


What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

I was in Tanzania for 1 month and during that time we participated in 3 distinct sections which made up a 3 credit class and a 1 credit lab! The first section was of course the animal research, alongside Dr. Christian Kiffner, we participated in the SFS 4-year research plan. This research plan focused on the interactions of ungulate species and how conservation has effected these interactions (did I mention they even taught us how to use Distance!?). The second section was indigenous population interactions. This section focused on the relationships of native people and conservation efforts. We were taught how to interact through a language barrier and how to conduct research on poaching without offending or causing speculation among the natives. Last but not least, we participated in environmental policy research. Utilizing evidence around potential poaching scenes, we were taught how to identify cause of death in certain animals and how local governmental agencies handle poaching incidences.

For you, what were the benefits of studying abroad?

The benefits are too numerous to possibly name them all! Having never traveled outside the US, this experience truly changed the way I see the world. The culture in Africa is so different from here in the U.S. and it is absolutely refreshing! In Tanzania, smiling and speaking to one another as you walk down the street is considered polite, whereas, here in the U.S. everyone is completely self-infatuated and you are lucky to make eye contact with strangers. This trip fueled my love for research and continues to affect me even after my return.lions photo

How did you fund your trip? Did it work out more or less than a typical semester?

My trip was roughly 5,000 USD. It is a little on the higher priced side of study abroad but 100% worth it! SFS takes care of all of your expenses abroad including food, transportation, and park admission. I funded my trip entirely through scholarships and I was blessed to have family donate to the fund as well. I received the Gilman, VCU Education Abroad, and a few other smaller scholarships which totaled the ENTIRE cost of my attendance.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

STUDY ABROAD!!! Yes, in some cases, it is a lot of money, but you will never forget your experiences and it may even change your view of the world as it did mine. Don’t let the finance part of studying abroad scare you away because it is entirely possible to fund your trip and pay nothing out of pocket as I did! J

Please also provide a short bio bellow (include a brief description of your career goals)

I am a biology major here at VCU with minors in Sociology and Chemistry. I have always had a passion for animals but I never imagined going into an animal related profession! My trip to Africa fueled my love for conservation and has helped me gain my position as a Preceptor for VNH lab as well as further research experience with the VCU Prothonotary Warbler Study.  Currently, I am seeking admission into the Virginia-Maryland School of Veterinary Medicine, where I am hoping to pursue a dual degree DVM/PhD which focuses on the ethical treatment of research animals in both the medical and research based areas.

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Please provide links to any news articles, publications etc related to your experience