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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

ACM Tanzania: Ecology and Human Origins

ACM’s current off-campus study programs around the world will cease operation after the 2018–2019 academic year.  Therefore, this program will not accept applications for future terms, though this webpage will be live for our fall 2018 participants to be able to access the budget information.


Tanzania boasts some of the most famous ecological and paleoanthropological sites in the world. The grasslands and savannahs of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park are hosts to incredible wildlife communities, with elephants, giraffes, lions, and migratory herds of wildebeest, as well as an amazing diversity of primates, birds, and reptiles. These tropical ecosystems are adjacent to the world-heritage sites of Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakeys made their important discoveries of early hominid remains. Add to this the cultural mix of pastoralist Maasai and Datoga tribes, along with the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers, and you have a combination of ecological, anthropological, and cultural resources that are unique to northern Tanzania.

The ACM Tanzania program is designed specifically to take advantage of this unique combination of resources. It is offered each fall semester, and the focus of the program is paleontology, cultural anthropology, and savannah ecology. It combines classroom instruction at MS Training Centre for Development and Cooperation (TCDC) and Nyayo Discovery with extensive field courses and field work in northern Tanzania.  At the heart of the program is a field practicum in the natural and social sciences, intended to give students training and first-hand experience with the design, implementation, and reporting of inquiry in the field. In the program director’s research methods course, taught by a visiting faculty member from an ACM college, students are guided in the development of their field practicum projects, studying research design and data-gathering skills appropriate for fieldwork at or near the Tarangire National Park site. Courses in Swahili, Human Evolution, and the Ecology of the Maasai Ecosystem, taught by UDSM faculty, provide students with the background and linguistic preparation necessary for their time in the field.

Program Type

Associated Colleges of the Midwest


Arusha, Tanzania

Program Dates

Fall 2018 mid-August to Early December

All dates are tentative and may change.  ACM will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have second-semester sophomore status before participation. (Transfer students may participate after the first semester on campus) Students with junior status or higher are strongly preferred.
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75 


Explore one of the most diverse regions in Africa and trace centuries of migration and change. In Tanzania, you’ll see incredible wildlife communities in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park. Trips to famous World Heritage Sites will give you a glimpse of the past two million years.

For most of the semester, students live in homestays near Arusha, a large city that serves as the starting point for treks to Mt. Kilimanjaro and safaris in northern Tanzania. Whether you’re in Arusha or in the field, you will hear different languages spoken every day by people who come from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

During your time in Tanzania, enjoy the lush forests under Mt. Meru, become a seasoned traveler by taking dala dala rides through the city’s busy streets, and see wildlife up close during a safari trip. In Tanzania, new and unexpected discoveries are just waiting to be made.


The program includes four courses:

  • Swahili Language
  • Human Evolution
  • Ecology of the Maasai Ecosystem
  • Research Methods & Field Practicum

More information on course offerings can be found here.  

In Tanzania, students will earn letter grades (A/B/C/D/F) for courses and the field practicum.


Academic Environment and Teaching Style

As this program was designed in conjunction with a US liberal arts college consortium, the professors understand the unique higher education system and culture of US students. Some professors, especially for the language course and, will be native of Tanzania.  Other ACM courses may be taught by a visiting faculty member from one of the ACM member institutions. Several courses are taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, where student-professor relationships are more formal than those in the United States. 

Students will get a great deal of advising and support from the ACM center and local experts during their research methods and field practicum course. 


Course Approvals

(Coming soon)

Experiential Opportunities

A major aspect of the program is field practicum and research project. In the field, students engage in independent and collaborative field work activities, in areas such as human ecology, biology, paleoanthropology, archaeology, zoology, and socio-cultural anthropology.  Topics depend on student interest, the composition and needs of the group, the resources available, and faculty/site expertise.  In some cases, students may work on the existing projects of Tanzanian or visiting experts.  Students are encouraged to work collaboratively, on such topics as education, public health, water, tourism, wildlife, archaeological sites, and indigenous populations.  Upon their return to Dar es Salaam, students continue to analyze their data, write final reports, give public presentations, and create museum displays or posters for local distribution. 

Students are encouraged to be in touch with the Program Director after acceptance into the program to discuss their interests in field inquiry topics and to learn about past projects and the field inquiry interests of other accepted students.  Here is a list of field research projects from recent years, arranged by academic area.

Student Life

A safari through Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater will expose you to the different wildlife that calls Tanzania home. During the two-week safari, you’ll also visit major ecological and paleoanthropological field sites in northern Tanzania. Laetoli, for example, contains ancient footprints preserved in layers of volcanic sediment. Venturing further in the Great Rift Valley, you’ll see Olduvai Gorge, the famous spot where archaeologists discovered fossilized remains of early humans, including skulls and stone tools.

Several overnight visits to Engikaret, a village north of Arusha, will expose you to the Maasai culture. You’ll stay in the cultural “boma” settlements and contribute to ongoing projects in the community.

Housing and Meals

Students live with a host family near Arusha. You’ll live with a Tanzanian host family with another ACM student. Staying with a local family will give you insight into contemporary Tanzanian society.

Although your family will have a busy lifestyle, approach your homestay experience with a spirit of flexibility. You can learn more about your family members by initiating conversations about their culture during daily meals, all of which are provided by your homestay family. Chances are, your family is just as interested in getting to know more about your culture as you are in learning about theirs!

Experience the camping trip of a lifetime! Live in the Tanzanian fields for two weeks at mobile campsites during the safari portion of the semester and four weeks at Wild Palms campsite during the field practicum. Meals will be cooked by safari staff at the campsite. 

In the field, students live at an established campsite, which includes an open brick building used for meals and as a general meeting space.  Students sleep in tents, with typically 3 students per tent. The campsite facilities are relatively primitive, with pit toilets and, in some cases, no water on site.  ACM uses an outfitting provider while in the field to provide tents, vehicles, and meals.  The campsite is located near the small village of Olasiti, where students can purchase basic supplies, meet the locals, and enjoy a simple meal and drink.

Financial Information

For all programs, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee.  The program fee for the ACM Tanzania program includes orientation, housing, several day excursions, and insurance.  Some meals are included during the homestay; all meals are included during the field research.

Here is an estimated budget for your Fall 2018 program:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee 


Program Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


Program Deposit (non-refundable)




Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, books, supplies, personal expenses, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018.

There will be an additional $149 liability insurance fee for students choosing one of the Masters & Workshops artisan classes or participating in an internship.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate.

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  Students pursuing research projects and are studying in Africa are highly competitive for Gilman and Boren awards, among others!

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php