Sabrina Hassan is an alumna of the 2016 CLS Swahili program in Arusha, Tanzania. She is currently a junior at Boston University majoring in international relations and African studies. Sabrina was born in Zanzibar to a Croatian mother and a Zanzibari father, and moved to the United States when she was one year old. Since then she has lived in various parts of the U.S. including Alaska, New Jersey, Virginia, and Texas. When she is not travelling, Sabrina spends long hours in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes and unknown spices. She identifies as a female nomad and a cookie enthusiast.
I was born in Tanzania, but moved away before I could learn the language. In the States, I spoke English and only developed a true interest for Kiswahili and Zanzibar when I graduated from high school and was looking for ways to explore the world outside of the classroom. At the age of 19, I went back to Zanzibar where I lived in my father’s village and spent 7 months learning how to speak, cook, and live with my relatives. Today, learning to speak Kiswahili fluently isn’t only a professional and educational goal -- it is also largely personal, as it allows me to converse with my own family!
My most meaningful conversations as a CLS participant occurred in my host family’s home. For dinner, my CLS roommate (with whom I grew very close) and I would sit together with our two host sisters and discuss everything from our favorite movies to juicy relationship gossip. From the start, our conversations were always light-hearted and fun as our meals were flavored with laughter; however, as the weeks passed, I noticed that our conversations grew more serious. One day, my host sisters nonchalantly complimented my features, praising the “straightness” of my curly hair, and the “lightness” of my colored skin. Without a moment of hesitation, my CLS roommate and I dived into a conversation on beauty standards and race. To this day, I think back on that conversation, and the ones that followed, and remark on how satisfying it is to engage in meaningful conversation across continents!
In a Word…
When you’re in Tanzania, one of the first phrases you’ll learn is “Hamna Shida” which roughly translates to “no worries.” People say it all the time to vocalize how they won’t let little things bother them. You apologize to your friend for not paying them back on time? “Hamna Shida,” they’ll respond. The bus hasn’t arrived on time? “Hamna Shida,” you’ll tell yourself. The market is all out of passion fruit? Hamna Shida. You have 5 midterms, 4 applications to write, and are running on 3 hours of sleep? Hamna Shida.
Words of Wisdom
Language skills and the ability to communicate with others are important skills to have when conducting research! As a researcher, I don’t simply aim to sit behind a computer screen; rather, I want to be out in the fields directly talking to people. Learning Kiswahili helps make that possible as it diversifies the groups of people that I’m able to communicate with.
March 28, 2017