Note: this text is just my personal opinion, it’s about the experiences I made during my IAESTE internship in Tanzania. Other interns possibly disagree with me because they have made a completely different experience. The post is written in English because it should be informal for students from all around the world who are interested in going to Tanzania.
Where to start … First of all: I had to bring my own laptop. I’ve never experienced before, that the employer doesn’t provide computers for his interns. In the end I was glad I had brought my own laptop which has a battery life of around four to five hours since power cuts happen very often (at least two times a week for around one to four hours!). The same applies for the university network and WIFI: IF it works it’s extremely slow, so you can’t do tasks like research properly. That brings me to my next point: Unfortunately I was often just sitting around, surfing on random websites since I did not get clear instructions what to do. It was mainly like „can you please google for some web analytic tools and try to find some techniques for search engine optimization“. Probably I had completely wrong expectations of the internship. Sure, in the job-description they were talking about „Accessibility“, which includes SEO, but they were also talking about accessibility for people with disabilities, like blind people. This was why I expected to work as a web developer where I had to do some redesign of the website and also some programming and not only reading through dozens of websites to find the best SEO strategies and play with some web analytic tools. Although I was bored sometimes I still got some interesting insights into these topics. After my first month I finally decided to talk to my boss if it was possible to get a new task which involves some programming. Happily he just said something like „no problem, you can just work on another task!“ Since then I started to enjoy the internship, although it still was somehow depressing watching the colleagues just sitting around for hours not doing any actual work since there was no power.
Before I came to Dar Es Salam I was a bit worried because I couldn’t find the place where I should stay on Google Maps since the address did neither have a postal code nor a street nr. But I decided to trust the job description I got from IAESTE which stated that my employer would take care of housing. (If I had seen pictures of the area before I would have probably changed my mind and cancelled my flights since not the place itself but the area and surroundings looked like slums) The first four weeks I lived in a newly built hostel. Everything was clean and the rooms were quite ok too (I was just glad I didn’t have to share rooms!). Unfortunately there was no kitchen in the whole house – for someone who loves cooking and preparing food this can be really depressing since you have to eat out all the time which means your staples will be mostly street food which is quite unhealthy because most of it is fried. Apart of that the biggest disadvantage was definitely that the place was extremely loud because it was surrounded from at least two or even three bars/clubs which played very loud music from 10pm to 3am five days a week. Furthermore the Muezzin started praying at 5am. I had probably one night where I did sleep well and that was only because I stayed up all night the day before. After one month I managed to move to „Mama Abeid“s place so I could stay with the other interns. I’m really glad Francis, the IAESTE Tanzania coordinator, was fine with me moving although they had already paid for the hostel for two months. After moving everything got better, I felt really comfortable living with the others. The only disadvantage was that Mama’s place, unlike the hostel, doesn’t have a power-generator. It was not that bad since we went out in the evenings most of the time. It was also really cozy to just lighten some candles and have a good talk with your friends. Once we even managed to cook in the dark which was quite adventurous and funny. 😉
If you want to do an IAESTE internship be prepared that it will cost you a lot of money. Sure, you get some money for your work, but this is definitely not enough for a living. You could probably manage to survive if you always take the cheapest meal at the cafeteria, but if you want to go out or do some weekend-trips you will need at least additional three times the salary you get. You have to purchase the flights on your own and also the work permit which was $250. Not enough, I also had to pay for a tourist visa ($50) at the airport. I was really disappointed because of that since I sent the documents and passport-photos with an express courier which cost me an additional €84, so the work permit can get approved in time, which it obviously didn’t. Since the other interns experienced the same thing I’m starting to think that this happens on purpose. Corruption is a big problem in Tanzania! The police i.e. stops cars just randomly and forces the drivers to pay penalties although they did not do anything wrong. Of course this cannot be applied to all Tanzanians, most of the people are decent and polite.
I also had to take out a travel insurance which cost me around €50 for two months. Another big investment was the vaccinations and medication which are recommended for going to a tropical country to protect you against all kinds of diseases. In my case I paid around €500, but this depends of course which vaccinations you already have or if you decide to skip some of them. Overall I would recommend to have savings of at least €1500-€2000 if you want to do an IAESTE internship in Tanzania. I heard some organizations also provide scholarships, e.g. the DAAD.
However, the effort until you can finally start your internship is really expensive. It takes a lot of documents and forms to fill in, upload them to their local online system, participate a language test, and then finally apply for some destinations. If you’re lucky you will get chosen for your no 1 destination by your local IAESTE committee. Then the process of uploading the same documents you already put on their system starts again since you will then use the international online system. You also have to pay €250 deposit which will be returned after finishing the internship. Afterwards I had to wait for more than one month until my local IAESTE contact finally told me that my employer accepted me as an intern. Then I finally received the employer’s contact details and had to fill in some more forms. Unfortunately my local contact didn’t answer any of my emails after that time – I got really worried since I had so many unanswered questions and already spent a lot of money on flights etc. Finally I decided to get in contact with Francis, the Tanzanian IAESTE coordinator. Thank god he replied soon and could tie up the loose ends and free me from some of my worries.
When I arrived in Dar Es Salaam, one of the IAESTE members picked me from the airport and brought me to the student’s dorm. Afterwards we went for lunch with the other interns and some of the IAESTE members where I had a really warm welcome! IAESTE also organized weekend-trips to Arusha/Moshi and Zanzibar. All in all I felt like I was in good hands, IAESTE cared a lot about my well-being – I never got left high and dry. They always told us to watch out and talk to them if we had any problems. They immediately took care of my concerns – like when I wanted to move to the place where the other interns lived.
Although this text contains some negative points and criticism… All in all I’m glad I came to Tanzania since I made some great friends with whom I had really awesome times. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!