Study Abroad in Zanzibar



I am a co-instructor for the University of Oregon's Intensive Swahili in Zanzibar Program, and it is a fantastic program! Full information here XX, but I encourage interested students to contact meXX early for information about scholarships, or with any questions. This program is open to ALL college students (not just those at the UO), NO experience in Swahili is required, and students will earn 16 units of academic credit for the 8 week program. 

Summer 2017 Dates: June 25, 2017- August 19, 2017

Program Overview & Highlights

The Zanzibar program offers students an opportunity to learn the most widely spoken language in Africa: Swahili! Students will study the language at an accelerated pace through daily classes and full immersion into Swahili culture, history, politics and religion on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. The program can accommodate all levels of Swahili speakers (from first year to fourth year), and no prior experience is required. During this 8-week program, students will earn 16 academic credits from the University of Oregon, and the scheduling is ideal for students on the quarter system.

•The city of Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the tropical Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa. Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania, and is only about 30 miles off shore from the African continent.

•Dr. Mokaya Bosire, UO faculty member in Linguistics, and native speaker of Swahili, or Dr. Melissa Graboyes, UO faculty member in the Clark Honors College, will be on site for the entire program to assist students with academic and practical matters. Mokaya and Melissa will be responsible for teaching the Swahili Culture and History course.

•The Zanzibar program is open to undergraduate and graduate students at the first, second, third, or fourth year level of Swahili. Students are taught in a small group setting by native speakers at the State University of Zanzibar, and participate in weekly field trips. 

•Students will have ample opportunity to fully explore the island through daylong excursions to beautiful beaches, historic ruins, spice farms, and a national forest, which is home to the endangered red colubus monkey. On weekends, students can partake in snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and fishing on the coral reefs. 

•The 8-week program features a break partway through the summer when students will be allowed to travel on their own to the mainland.

•The program runs during the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and students will have access to a variety of films and lectures, presentations and exhibits that go along with this event.


Academic Information

Students will complete one full year of Swahili coursework (12 quarter credits) at the first, second, third, or fourth year level. Classroom instruction will be enhanced with weekly fieldtrips and home stays, allowing students to have a truly immersive experience. Students will earn the equivalent of one year of language in Swahili through 20 hours per week of classroom instruction. Students who have completed first year Swahili before arrival in Zanzibar can complete the UO foreign language requirement for the B.A. degree during this summer program.

The Swahili courses are taught by faculty members from the Institute of KiSwahili and Foreign Languages at the State University of Zanzibar. All of these instructors are native speakers with years of experience teaching Swahili to foreigners. Daily classes will be held in historic Stone Town from 8 am-12 pm. 

Students will also participate in a 4-unit course on Swahili History and Culture, taught by Dr. Mokaya Bosire and Dr. Melissa Graboyes. This class, AFR 388 (or HC 431 for Honors College students), is a upper-division class that fulfills the group Social Science requirement and the multicultural requirement for International Cultures. This course will meet two afternoons a week.

This course is co-organized by Dr. Mokaya Bosire (Linguistics) and Dr. Melissa Graboyes (African Studies, History). Melissa is the Assistant Director of the African Studies Program and is also available to advise interested students. Mokaya will be joining students in Zanzibar for the 8-week program and overseeing all aspects of their stay. He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology and Linguistics from State University of New York.


Homestays will give students the opportunity to experience daily Zanzibari life and be surrounded by the Swahili language. Housing will be provided with local Zanzibari families who live in and around historic Stone Town. Each student will have her own room inside the house, and will be offered three meals a day. Families have been specially chosen by the State University of Zanzibar and often have years of experience hosting international students.

More about Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a tropical island just 50 miles from the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It is best considered as an international melting pot—having over the past two thousand years drawn people from the Middle East, India, and mainland Africa in addition to having extensive contact with China, Europe and the United States. The monsoon winds have long linked this small island to the rest of the Indian Ocean world helping to carry new people, religions, ideas, and leading to an international vibrancy. Being part of such a vast geography of networks meant that Zanzibar has long been a place of cultural diffusion and mixing. It continues to be a place where new ideas and practices are introduced, adopted, and adapted.Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of narrow alleys and labyrinth pathways to explore and get lost in. Walking the streets of historic Stone Town today, it’s not unusual to find a woman covered from head to toe in black garment called a buibui, an Indian woman dressed in a sari, and a European tourist walking down the same narrow street. It’s this diversity that gives Zanzibar such energy, and provides students such a rich culture to come to know.

Zanzibar has a population of roughly 600,000 people, of which 30% live in the capital city of Zanzibar town. Outside of Zanzibar Town, the island is largely rural and involved in the cultivation of food and spices such as cloves, cardamom, vanilla and pepper. The island is about 50 miles wide and 25 miles long, and a majority of residents are Sunni Muslims. During the months of July and August, Zanzibar’s temperatures are mild and typically range from 70-85 degrees and consist of sunny days with clear blue skies.

Although Zanzibar is an international travel destination, it remains an ideal location to study Swahili and learn about Swahili Coast history and culture. A large majority of residents continue to speak Swahili as their primary language (despite often knowing English, Arabic, and other languages) and Zanzibar is continued to be one of the birthplaces of Swahili. In East Africa, it’s often said the island is the best place to learn “proper” or “pure” Swahili.