Cityscape of Nairobi, Kenya

MSID—International Development in Kenya

  1. Program Details

    Study international development in Kenya, a country of immense geographic and cultural diversity. You’ll also contribute through an internship or research project with a nonprofit organization while you’re there. Explore the complexities created by issues such as the environment, globalization, public health, and social justice.

    Location Nairobi, Kenya
    Term Fall Semester, Spring Semester
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor Learning Abroad Center

    Program Eligibility

    GPA 2.5
    Student Type UofM Students, Non UofM Students
    Student Year Juniors, Seniors
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  3. About MSID—International Development in Kenya

    Learning from experience is the core of Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID). The program puts you in direct contact with the social and economic realities of actual communities and of the people working within them to address complex problems. Through classes, field trips, and an extended internship or research placement, MSID strives to establish a continual dialogue that links experience with theory and critical analysis. Learn more about the mission and educational philosophy at MSID Philosophy.

    Kenya’s geographic and cultural diversity make it a microcosm of the African continent. It includes hot coastal plains, vast plateaus, Africa’s largest lake and highest mountain, and hundreds of miles of the great Rift Valley. Home to more than 45 tribes, significant European and South Asian minorities, and a population of 28 million speaking dozens of languages, Kenya shares with its neighbors the challenges of forging a multiethnic, postcolonial nation. Most Kenyans are farmers or herders, yet the capital of Nairobi is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in East Africa and the base for many international and Kenyan organizations promoting development and social change.

    Housing & Meals

    You will live with a homestay family throughout your time in Kenya. Students who choose an internship or research placement outside of Nairobi will have a second homestay placement.

    Homestay families provide breakfast and dinner daily; you will be responsible for providing your own lunches. Host families can typically accommodate a variety of dietary needs, but if you have severe food allergies and/or restrictions, contact the program team prior to applying.

    Homestays are an integral component of the learning experience and often a highlight for participants. Your family provides not only housing and most meals but also a vital connection to Kenyan culture. Nearly all families have hosted program participants before and have been chosen for their genuine interest in sharing Kenyan life with an MSID program participant.


    Although excursions change from year to year, you can expect to visit a variety of sites that may include local markets, development agencies, and other areas of interest around Nairobi.

    An academic field excursion to Mombasa and the coast will also take place during the classroom phase.

    Traditonally orientation is held during an excursion to Lake Nakuru National Park.


    The Learning Abroad Center works with Village Travel, a local travel agency, to arrange a coordinated flight for program participants. The flight is optional, and is arranged for those who want to fly with other program participants. Group flight information is typically available by the program application deadline, if not before.

    All students will be met at the airport in Nairobi. If you take the group flight, or are able to arrive just before the group flight and wait, our staff will meet you at the airport and bring you to your arrival hotel at no added cost. If you do not take the group flight, we will arrange a taxi for you, but you will need to pay for it on your own. Specific arrival instructions will be sent out prior to your departure.

    For immigration purposes, you should purchase a round-trip ticket, since you must be able to show your entry and exit dates from Kenya.

    Learning Outcomes

    • Foster an understanding of the global context through classroom and experiential learning
    • Cultivate awareness and appreciation for development issues through engagement with diverse communities
    • Translate insights gained into thoughtful and respectful long-term perspectives on concepts of social justice and sustainable development
    • Strengthen communication skills through acquisition of local languages and cultural awareness
    • Gain cross-cultural competencies through extended engagement at a local grassroots organization

    Faculty & Staff

    A team of dedicated Kenyan staff based in Nairobi work to ensure that your MSID experience is safe, academically enriching, and rewarding. 

    Mohamud Khalif Maalim and Dr. Mohamud Jama

    Mohamud Khalif Maalim and Dr. Mohamud Jama

    Dr. Mohamud Jama

    Dr. Jama directs the program and has been with MSID since 1996. He has a Ph.D. and M.A. in agricultural economics from Washington State University and is an associate research professor and director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi. He has 25 years of teaching experience in the areas of agricultural economics, environmental and natural resource management, and development.

    Mohamud Khalif Maalim

    Khalif assists with the program coordination and has been with MSID since 2001. Khalif holds a bachelor's degree in human resource management and is pursuing his Master's degree in development studies at the University of Nairobi. He has over 20 years of experience working with community development projects in the public sector, the financial sector, and international nongovernmental organizations.

    All MSID courses are taught by Kenyan faculty who are experts in their fields.

    About the Learning Abroad Center

    Learning Abroad Center programs are:

    • Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
    • Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
    • Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
    • Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.
  4. Program Structure

    Program Type Field Study, Study Abroad Center
    Program Level 3000–4000 level courses

    You are required to take 16 credits for fall and spring semesters.


    Semester Program

    MSID Timeline

    Spend 7 weeks engaged in coursework in Nairobi, followed by 6 weeks working as an intern or conducting a research project with a local grassroots organization. MSID students enroll in 4 required courses, in addition to an internship or research project:

    • International Development: Critical Perspectives on Theory and Practice
      Choose a track to focus your studies and prepare you for your internship or research project. See track descriptions for more information.

      • Arts and Cultural Studies
      • Education and Literacy
      • Entrepreneurship and Alternative Economies
      • Public Health
      • Social Service
      • Sustainability and the Environment
    • Kenya Country Analysis
    • Swahili Language
    • Community Engagement in the Global South 

    Internships and Research Projects

    The  internship and research experience is the cornerstone of the MSID program, and may be where you will learn the most. Your placement will be with an agency engaged in grassroots work related your selected track, and will immerse you in the social realities of the poorer strata of the population.

    During the classroom phase, the on-site staff will review your interests and attempt to place you with an agency whose goals match your objectives. Most requests within a general field can be accommodated, but adjustments may be made based on availability. Details about the internship and research process are in the Program Handbook.

    The internship or research objectives will be agreed to by MSID, the agency supervisor and you, and will involve at least 25 hours per week of work. 12 contact hours are incorporated into the classroom phase and provide specific training on research methodology to prepare students for their research or internship project. 

    See a description of past internship and research placements for this MSID country.

  5. Fall or Spring Semester Curriculum

    The semester courses are outlined below. Sample syllabi are available. All classes are with program participants and are taught by local faculty. Through the coursework and the internship or research project, you have the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the complex and diverse nature of development as realized in your MSID country.

    Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Swahili
    MSID Swahili
    4 Credits

    Focus on practical skills while emphasizing conversation and vocabulary building.

    International Development: Critical Perspectives on Theory and Practice
    MSID 4001
    4 Credits

    Explore a wide variety of perspectives on international development, with the host country as a case study. This course begins with 20 hours of common discussion on international development. The remaining course is divided into sections, and students select from the following sections in order to prepare for their internship (see track descriptions for more information):

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Civic Life and Ethics theme.

    Syllabus for International Development (PDF)

    MSID Country Analysis
    MSID 4002
    4 Credits

    This multidisciplinary study of the MSID country emphasizes the social sciences and history, especially as they relate to development issues.

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Global Perspectives theme.

    Syllabus for MSID Country Analysis (PDF)

    Community Engagement in the Global South
    MSID 4003
    4 Credits

    An internship or research project with a host-country development agency or project provides an unparalleled opportunity to study community characteristics, development strategies and problems, organizational structure and culture, and cross-cultural communication issues. The length of the internship or research project is 6 weeks during the first semester. You typically spend approximately 25 to 30 hours each week at your internship or research site, although this may vary depending on the specific site and project. A list of sample past internships and research projects is available.

    Written assignments help link experiences to theories and issues raised in the classroom. A program faculty member or the on-site director visits you at least once at your internship or research site during the internship/research period. At the end of each semester, you gather in the host city or a retreat site for a seminar, which helps integrate your experiences and newly acquired knowledge. 12 contact hours of this course are incorporated into the classroom phase and provide specific training on research methodology to prepare students for their research or internship project.

    Liberal education requirement fulfilled: Social Science core and Civic Life and Ethics theme

    Syllabus for Community Engagement—Internship (PDF) 
    Syllabus for Community Engagement—Research (PDF)

    Optional Online Course

    Global Identity
    OLPD 3330
    1 credit
    Global Identity: Connecting Your International Experience with Your Future is an optional 1-credit online course that helps you process your international experience and apply what you've learned upon your return.  Global Identity gives you the opportunity to work individually with a trained cultural mentor, helping you articulate your newly acquired skills and differentiating you from your peers.

    This course is offered at no additional cost on programs six weeks or longer. The Learning Abroad Center will email out registration instructions, or you may contact a program team member.

    Syllabus for Global Identity (PDF)

  6. As an MSID student, you have the choice to do either a research project or an internship for six weeks as part of the Community Engagement course. In either option, you will be placed with a local NGO related to the track you have chosen for the International Development course (Arts & Cultural Studies, Education & Literacy, Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies, Public Health, Sustainability & the Environment, or Social Service). All academic year students engage in a research project during spring semester.

    Internships involve participation in and observation of the daily activities of a local NGO and focuses on applied learning. Internship students may be involved in a variety of different types of activities and experiences depending on their placement.

    Below are examples of the types of internships students have done in the past:

    Arts & Cultural Studies

    • Assisting with events at a visual arts center, and providing assistance to guests as well as visiting artists and curators
    • Working with a youth organization that provides dance, theatre, and music training programs
    • Using photography and film to assist a local organization in telling authentic stories of life in a slum

    Education & Literacy

    • Working as an assistant in an orphanage nursery school for HIV/AIDS infected and affected children
    • Working with the administration at a school for Maasai girls who have been rescued from early marriages to create promotional materials and to teach computer lessons to students and staff
    • Educating women about their rights through an indigenous nonprofit organization fighting for the rights and interests of the Ogiek hunter and gatherer community
    • Caring for children in a home for orphaned, destitute, and former street children and also helping with the school at the home that has very limited resources

    Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies

    • Assisting in a center that tries to alleviate poverty by training youth on sustainable use of available natural resources and helps them set up small enterprises
    • Marketing the products of a vocational training center, such as pottery and beadwork, to shops in Nairobi
    • Working for a nonprofit's micro-credit program to develop promotional materials and assess the utilization of the loans given to the community health workers in Nyanza
    • Working to produce and market products for a small flour-making factory

    Public Health

    • Working for a non-profit HIV/AIDS program, coordinating peer-counseling programs to promote health education and voluntary testing in a small village outside Mnarani
    • Shadowing doctors at a clinic run by the African Medical Research Foundation that provides basic health services to the Maasai community
    • Working with nurses on HIV/AIDS issues among underprivileged youth and women by teaching youth about reproductive health and teaching mothers about childcare and healthy living

    Social Services

    • Studying the psychological well-being of the Ugandans living in a United Nations refugee camp
    • Researching female genital mutilation and increasing awareness of the issue
    • Working with a girls club and women's groups to evaluate their progress in using credit from programs like Action Aid Kenya
    • Working with the HIV/AIDS social workers to help affected families with farm work and repairing their house
    • Teaching internet access classes at a community resource center that brings awareness to the HIV/AIDS reality

    Sustainability & the Environment

    • Developing a nature trail near a lake area with the World Wide Fund for Nature
    • Working at a sanctuary with a public organization to help solve the human-elephant conflict
    • Studying the costs, disease transmission, and genetic issues surrounding the translocation of rhinos and giraffes
    • Educating students about wildlife and environmental conservation
    • Organizing seminars on new agricultural techniques for a sustainable agricultural training center
  7. As an MSID student, you have the choice to do either a research project or an internship for six weeks as part of the Community Engagement course. In either option, you will be placed with a local NGO related to the track you have chosen for the International Development course (Arts & Cultural Studies, Education & Literacy, Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies, Public Health, Sustainability & the Environment, or Social Service). All academic year students engage in a research project during spring semester.

    A research project involves a systematic investigation of a specific topic, question, hypothesis, or theory. Research is conducted under the guidance of a project supervisor at the MSID program and at a local NGO. The project culminates in a final paper or project that demonstrates the knowledge gained through the investigation.

    The examples below illustrate the differences between the internship and research options:


    Track Internship example Research example

    Arts & Cultural Studies

    Work with a cultural preservation organization with a youth indigenous dance troupe

    Examine the cultural and historical significance of a specific type of indigenous dance

    Education & Literacy

    Assist in teaching English to primary and secondary students at rural schools

    Investigate effective methods of teaching English as a second language and examine curricular practices at the local and national level

    Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies

    Meet with micro loan applicants and review loan application materials

    Analyze the loan repayment rate at a microfinance organization  

    Public Health

    Provide support to faculty in a pediatrics department of a hospital that works with children who suffer from malnutrition

    Survey the hospital’s education and outreach plan to address pediatric malnutrition in the region

    Sustainability & the Environment

    Participate in an agroforestry project at a sustainability-focused NGO

    Compare and contrast local and national research on the environmental impact of agroforestry programs

    Social Services

    Provide support to an NGO that does job skill training for low income women

    Analyze the wage gap between men and women in various sectors of the local economy

    Research Project Examples

    • Examining School Dropout at Lifunga Girls Secondary: A Case Study of the Gender Gap 
    • Factors Influencing Provision of Effective Guidance and Counseling Services in Secondary School 
    • Rethinking Development Discourses: Rural Kenyan Women’s Experiences with Microfinance 
    • Provider Perceptions on Integrated Health care in Rural Kenya: The Case of Matibabu 
    • Utilization of Herbal Medicine During Pregnancy, Labour and Post-partum Period among Women at Embu Provincial General Hospital
    • Community Radio In Kibera: Efficacy and Impact of Pamoja FM
    • Livelihood Challenges and Coping Strategies among Elderly Rural Women of Nyeri County
    • Factors Influencing Youth Involvement in Agriculture: A Case Study in Kisumu County, Kenya 
    • Challenges of Waste Management and Disposal in Nairobi County: A Case Study of Mukuru Informal Settlements

    Human Subjects Research

    The governments of the United States and MSID countries have laws protecting human subjects of research. Due to the timeline for gaining the necessary permissions for doing research with human subjects, such research cannot be conducted while abroad on LAC program. However, there are still a wide variety of projects, that include interaction with people, that are available. See more information on options for Undergraduate Research Abroad.

    Research Funding (for UofM students)

    The Learning Abroad Center offers a number of programs (including all MSID programs) that include research opportunities and are eligible for the Learning Abroad Center’s International UROP scholarship of $2,500 (available to UofM students only). Learn more about IUROP funding.

  8. Academic Tracks

    Students are required to select a track as part of the International Developmentcourse, which will focus your studies and help prepare you for your internship.

    Arts & Cultural Studies

    Develop a critical understanding of culture through an analysis of the literature, art, film, and music. Discussion focuses on the perspectives, values, and lives of people and their relationship to development as revealed through different cultural and literary venues.

    Education & Literacy

    Analyze the educational system, government policy, and impact on local educational structures, the disparities in access to education, and the relationship between education and development. Discussions may include gender education, financial challenges, and current reforms.

    Entrepreneurship & Alternative Economies

    Examine the history, nature, and challenges of microbusiness and its role in the economic and social development of the local community. Includes an analysis of informal sector enterprises, the role of social entrepreneurship, and an overview of key aspects of microfinance.

    Public Health

    Examine health care systems, the management and prevention of disease, and the philosophical approaches to health care, including the role of traditional medicine. Specific topics for discussion include women’s health, children’s health, HIV education, and rural vs. urban health care facilities.

    Social Service

    Understand how government policies and local grassroots efforts serve the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, including the homeless, women, children, indigenous groups, the disabled, and the elderly. Topics include the configuration of social services, resource allocation, community development, and welfare reform.

    Sustainability & the Environment

    Investigate the relationship between environmental and natural resource challenges and the local community. Critical issues being faced may include sustainable food and water sources, natural resource utilization and management, climate change, wildlife management, and sustainable development.

  9. Dates & Deadlines

    Submit the online application and complete the assigned application checklist according to the appropriate deadline:
    Program Term App Open Date Deadline*
    Spring 2020 May 1 Oct 15
    MSID Kenya —Standard Jan 19 – May 3
    Arrival date Jan 19
    Classroom phase ends Mar 13
    Internship/Research phase Mar 16 – Apr 24
    Final seminar begins Apr 27
    Last day of program May 1
    Departure date May 2 or 3
    Fall 2020 Dec 1 Apr 1
    MSID Kenya Aug 30 – Dec 12
    Arrival date Aug 30
    Classroom phase ends Oct 23
    Internship/research phase Oct 26 – Dec 4
    Final seminar begins Dec 7
    Last day of program Dec 11
    Departure date Dec 12
    Spring 2021 May 1 Oct 15
    MSID Kenya Jan 17 – May 1
    Arrival date Jan 17
    Classroom phase ends Mar 12
    Internship/research phase Mar 15 – Apr 23
    Final seminar begins Apr 26
    Last day of program Apr 30
    Departure date May 1

    *Program dates are subject to change. Contact the LAC for verification of dates before purchasing your airfare.
    **If the deadline falls on a weekend, submit your materials on the following business day.

    Orientation Dates & Locations

    Orientation will be conducted in 2 parts: an online orientation, which is mandatory for all students, and an in-person, program-specific session. You will receive more information about the online orientation via email. Failure to complete the online orientation will impact your ability to go abroad.

    See below for tentative dates and times for your in-person session. You will be notified of the official date and time via email. Participants will receive applicable orientation materials via email approximately 1 week prior to the in-person session.

    Term Abroad Date/Time Location
    Fall 2020 Thursday, June 11, 2020, 2:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. online
  10. Fees for MSID—International Development in Kenya

    University of Minnesota participants pay the program fee instead of on-campus tuition and fees for the term they are abroad.

    Fall 2019


    Spring 2020



    Fees or tuition from home institutions may be added to or differ from the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center fees listed on this page.


    Billing & Payments

    Visit Billing for information about the billing process for application fees, deposits, and program fees.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Visit Financial Information for information on using financial aid and scholarships for study abroad.

    Bridging Loan

    Bridging Loan, a no-interest/no-fees loan that funds the upfront deposit and flights costs, is available for this program for eligible students.

    Cancellation Policy

    Before you apply to or confirm your participation on this program, review the Learning Abroad Center's Cancellation Policy to inform yourself of the timeline and financial obligations for canceling.
  11. Prepare

    Complete pre-application advising.

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.

    To complete the online application for this program, you will need to select or provide the following information on the online application:

    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term See Program Dates for term options
    Program Name MSID Kenya
    Track Name See Program Dates for track options
    Country Kenya


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.

    Non-University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Once you submit your application, Learning Abroad Center staff will create a University of Minnesota student internet account for you. You will use this account to access the Education Abroad Application System, and other University of Minnesota services. You will be charged a $50 application fee for this program.

    Our staff will contact you within 2–3 business days with your internet account information, and additional application instructions.


    Complete Checklist Items

    After you submit your application, you will receive an email notification confirming that your application was received. Submitted applications are assigned an application checklist, which will include the following items:

    • Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
    • Academic Recommendation
    • High School Diploma

    Additional Items Required for non-UofM Students:

    • Transcript
    • Home Institution Nomination

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist assigned to you.

    If you do not meet the GPA requirement for this program you will be required to submit two additional application items—the Low GPA Essay and Special Circumstances Recommendation.  Both items will be added to your checklist after you start your application, and you will be notified when they have been added.

    After your application checklist is complete, your application is reviewed by our program team.  You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email.  If accepted, you will be assigned an acceptance checklist, which you will need to complete within two weeks to confirm your spot on the program.  Once confirmed, you will have additional required forms to complete before participating in the program.  If you decide not to continue with the application process, log into the online application system and submit a Cancel Request.

  12. Visa Information


    A passport is required to enter Kenya. Your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your program. If you have not already obtained your passport, you should apply for one immediately. Information about applying for a passport can be found on the US Department of State's website.


    US citizens studying in Kenya must obtain a student visa. Non-US citizens should check with the host country embassy to determine any special regulations pertaining entry into that country.

    The visa you will apply for is a Single Entry Visa, and it is an online application. You do not need to send in your passport.

    Since you will be attending an accredited school in Kenya, you will get a Pupil Pass in Kenya. It is good for 1 year from the time of your arrival in Kenya. The visa expiration is not an issue if the pupil pass is valid. This will allow for multiple entries, so a multiple entry visa is NOT required.

    Country-specific Instructions

    1. To start the visa application, go to the Kenyan eVisa website, and select the green "Create an account" button on the top right corner.
    2. After your account is verified, you will login and select "Submit Application"
    3. Choose the Single Entry Visa option
    4. Complete all aspects of the form, and contact the Learning Abroad Center if you have questions

    A few things you will need to complete your application:

    • Digital passport sized photo: It must be 500pixels x 500pixels. You can try to do this on your phone, but I recommend coming in to our office and having one taken. They can make sure it is the correct size. This will cost $3
    • A copy of your signed passport with a remaining validity of 7 months and 2 blank VISA pages
    • Invitation letter: this will be emailed to you by the Learning Abroad Center about 60 days before the start of your program. You will be asked to upload this towards the end of the online applicaation.
    • On the visa application, it will ask for "Full Names and Addresses of Friends, Firms, or Relatives to Be Visited." Please use the following information:

    Dr. Mohammud Jama and Mr. Khalif Maalim
    PCEA Jabavu Road Flats, Block C, House No: 1
    Nairobi, Kenya

  13. Program Contact

    For further information or questions about this program, send an email to

    Ashley Metz or call at 612.626.6380.

  14. Contact Program Alum

    Below is a list of additional students who participated in past program sessions. They are ready and willing to answer your questions about this program. Feel free to contact them during your decision-making process or anytime during your pre-departure preparation to get a student perspective.
    • Cassidy V: Studied in Kenya during during 2019, Biology, Society, & Environment major, research project
    • Michelle H: Studied in Kenya during Spring 2019, Health Sciences major, research project
Program Handbook Visa Information

University of Minnesota students participating in a research project on this program may be eligible for the International Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (I-UROP) Scholarship