Skip to Content
AU Abroad American University Washington, DC
Programs : Brochure
This page is the brochure for your selected program. You can view the provided information for this program on this page and click on the available buttons for additional options.
Kenya: Contemporary Issues In Kenya and Africa
Nairobi, Kenya (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Academic Year,
This program is currently not accepting applications.
Budget Sheets Academic Year,
Fact Sheet:
Housing: Shard Apt Language Pre-requisite: none
Language of Instruction: English
Non-AU Students Accepted by AU:
Internship: Yes Advisor: Kelly Jo Bahry
Minimum GPA: 2.75 Class Level Required for Admission: Second-semester Sophomore standing
Program Type:
Partial Direct Enrollment
Advising Required:
Program Description:

Nairobi CityscapeIs This Program Right for You?

This program is designed for students who are looking to intern and study in Nairobi, Kenya for a semester or an academic year with AU Nairobi, and was formerly called Issues of Sustainable Development.  The program's main focus is to get students to live through the history, politics, development, and international relations that Nairobi, in all its complexity, offers.  Students will visit with homestay families in rural settings as well as an urban neighborhood, and also live in shared, secured housing with other students on this program and the Public Health Program (fall semester only).  Students are encouraged to have taken a cross-cultural class such as SISA 341 Intercultural Communication, SOCY 110 Sociology of the Global South, or ANTH 110 Culture and the Human Experience, or equivalent before studying abroad in Kenya. Students will share orientation, accommodation, and excursions with students attending the AU Nairobi Public Health in Nairobi program. During the program, you are required to participate in an internship and to take Swahili and an institutional strengthening class, as well as choose from several other topics courses that can involve a variety of subjects.  Each semester of this program is worth 15 or 16 credits.


Students will take all of their courses with other AU Nairobi students at the AU Nairobi Center, unless a you choose to take one course at a partner university set up through AU Nairobi.

Kiswahili (3 credits; required) Kiswahili is the largest and fastest growing African-based language spoken in Africa. Between 100 and 150 million people speak it in various capacities. It is the lingua franca for most of East Africa and parts of Central Africa. It is also the national or official language of at least five nations; Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Union of the Comoros. As a part of cultural immersion, AU Nairobi offers the students semester-long Kiswahili course. While we primarily offer the Beginners’ and Intermediate Kiswahili, students who choose to study in Kenya for the full year may be able to take more advanced Swahili through special arrangement with the AU Abroad office.

Internship (3 credits; required) Many students choose the Kenya program because of the hands-on experience gained at the internship sites. The program has a pool of community development organizations based in Nairobi. The focus of these organizations cover a wide range of subjects and include water and sanitation programs, youth empowerment projects, microfinance institutions, arts for social change initiatives, human rights and justice among others.  Students can work with the resident director to arrange for internships that meet their career or study needs.Students with tshirts

Social and Political History of Kenya (3 credits; required) Over the last hundred years, Kenya has played an important role in the world economy whether this was through the Indian Ocean trade, European colonization, the Cold War, or most recently, the globalism of the new world order. These processes have affected Kenya’s cultural institutions, political and social organizations, and belief and value systems in significant ways. In order to make sense of the country’s past in the present, this course examines a range of thematic topics, among others; the social and political institutions in pre-colonial Kenya societies, the establishment of European settlements and the colonial political economy; anti-colonial African nationalism; the world wars and their impacts on Kenya; and the post-colonial Cold War geopolitics in Kenya. We also examine the most pressing issues facing the country today among these, the Neo-liberal reforms and the globalism phenomena of the twenty first century. The students will have the opportunity to visit the important research sites such as the Kenya National Archives, and write a synthesis paper on a specific issue affecting Kenya’s historical or contemporary development. It is expected that at the end of this course, the student will have attained some understanding of how Kenya came to be, how it relates to the international community and what challenges, both internal and external, the country is grappling with. 

Immersion in Another Culture (1 credit; optional) This course is designed to facilitate your immersion into Kenyan Culture in order to maximize your study abroad experience. The class will look at aspects of Kenya’s diverse and complex culture in the context of being an international student. We will explore cultural patterns, identity, ethnicity, gender and stereotypes through an anthropological lens. Guest lecturers will be invited to share their expertise on specific topics.

Institutional Strengthening in Kenya (3 credits; required) Kenya has a vibrant civil society made up of thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups that represent community interests and provide crucial social services to many people. This course will focus on such organizations. The students will have the opportunity to study the locally-based NGOs in terms of their structures, their approach to particular issues of development, the challenges they face and the overall political and social context in which these organizations operates. The course will be closely linked with students’ externships (see below). As such, the students will be expected to gain first-hand experience through observing and participating in the work of at least one developmental organization. As many of these organizations subsist largely on financial grants, the student will be expected to develop a model grant proposal for the organization one will have worked with.

And a choice of one of the following courses:

Geographies of Gender in Development (3 credits; optional)This course will investigate a number of competing conceptions of development within the African context from a gendered perspective. The underlying political, economic, social, and gender dynamics that make "development" a continuing global problem will be explored by looking at issues such as health and reproductive rights, livelihoods and land rights, human security and political participation. It will examine women's contributions to, challenges to, and revisions of the terms of key conceptual and political debates in development.

A course at a local university (3 credits; optional)

Academic Year Students

Independent Research Project (3-6 credit hours offered to full-year students in the second semester)
Students who choose to stay in Kenya for a full year will do an independent study during their second semester. Through consultations with the country director and professors at AU (or for non-AU students, professors at their home universities), students will be given an independent study advisor and spend the semester exploring a specific topic. This will culminate in a final project or paper that may be combined with a capstone project or senior thesis.


AU Abroad offers several merit based Mobility Awards every semester ranging from $250 to $2500.  Students need who are interested in applying for the Mobility Award need to do so seperately from the AU Nairobi application.

Student Lifestudents with kenyans

Kenya is a facinating place, and you will get to know just a taste during your semester. Now with a population of around 30 million and over 40 tribes, Kenya’s multiplicity is easily felt in this capital city.  Currently Nairobi is home to about 2.5 million inhabitants and the numbers are growing.  As a result, Nairobi has become a very metropolitan city, with the complexities of any globalizing culture.  The city provides a place to converge for intellectuals, politicians and political activists, artists and entertainers, successful business owners, and laborers.  Residents include large communities of refugees from across the continent, expatriates, and descendants from the Indian subcontinent, not to mention the Kenyans who have a historical legacy with the area or who come to the city looking for work.

Nairobi is very representative of a global phenomenon – urbanization of the rural poor and the issues that come with it.  Nairobi is also a major international hub of Africa with a myriad of organizations ranging from the headquarters of the UN Environmental Program to an assortment of NGOs and businesses.  If city life becomes overwhelming Nairobi provides a base in which rural areas and national parks are easily accessed in as little as one hour drive away.  The AU Nairobi program recognizes the assets Nairobi offers and the need to educate in an urban environment to better prepare students for the challenges faced by international workers in this ever growing, interdependent, global society.


Although the equator bisects the country – leading to assumptions that it must be hot! - be prepared for Nairobi to be colder than you expect since it is over a mile high by altitude.  Instead of the traditional four seasons that many people in America are used to there are the ‘long rains’ and ‘short rains’ in Kenya.  In Nairobi the ‘long rains’ are usually from March to the beginning of June and the ‘short rains’ are from October to the end of November.  In its coldest nights Nairobi can be around 45 F and on the hottest days it can get up to 90 F.

Accomodatiliving spaceon

Students will live in three very different ways during the semester in Nairobi.  During part of orientation and then during "rural week" students will live in a rural setting.  Students will then live with homestay families in Nairobi for a few short weeks. Then students will live in their own private and secure apartments.  These apartments are fully furnished and offer a TV, kitchen, a laundry room, and maid services. Each apartment can house at four to five students. Electricity is paid by the students, and meals are not included in the program fee.  Students will live with all AU Nairobi students, including those not on this specific program.


There will be many day trips incoporated into the program during you semester.  Students are not permited to leave Kenya during their time with AU Nairobi and will be alerted to any place they are not allowed to travel within the country.

The programs core overnight excursions included in the program fee are:
  • Orientation – part of the intensive orientation period takes place in a smaller town outside of Nairobi. Here students will be introduced to survival Swahili, go through a cultural orientation process and have their first immersion into Kenyan life.
  • Rural Excursion – Each semester, students will be taken to a rural village site where they will engage in various rural development projects. These trips also include visits to local landmarks and a homestay experience.
  • End of Semester Excursion – Students will be treated to a retreat during their final week in Kenya. This an opportunity to hike and explore conservation issues, as well as debrief on everything learned during the semester.

Immunizations and Visas

There are no immunizations required for international travelers entering Kenya, but the Center for Disease Control strongly recommends a list of immunizations that are available through a specialized medical practitioner.  Visas for American citizens can be aquired at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi for a fee, and AU Nairobi will help students gain a student residence permit.  If you are not an American citizen please consult with the study abroad advisor and the Kenya embassy before you leave for Kenya.

Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring 2015 10/15/2014
Varies by program 01/06/2015 04/26/2015
NOTE: Students will learn of acceptance approximately 2 weeks upon completion of application.
Fall 2015 03/11/2015
Varies by program 09/01/2015 12/19/2015
Academic Year 2015-2016 03/11/2015
Varies by program TBA TBA

** The time it takes to receive an admissions decision varies greatly by program; it can take as little as two weeks or as long as several months. Contact AU Abroad for further details on your program's admissions timeline.

Indicates that deadline has passed
This program is currently not accepting applications.
Home Emergency Preparedness | Contact Us | Media Relations | Work at AU | Website Feedback
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016
Copyright © 2015 American University. Privacy | Disclosure | EEOC