Where in the World is Miami Wednesday: Virtually in Kenya

In this week's Where in the World is Miami Wednesday, we meet Samantha Arner, a master's student in biology who had planned to study abroad in Australia for the Project Dragonfly Global Field Studies Graduate Program. When the pandemic changed her plans, she instead completed a virtual study abroad experience that explored conservation in Kenya during Summer 2020. 

How did the pandemic affect your study abroad plans?

In summer 2020 I was supposed to be traveling to Australia as my final trip for the Project Dragonfly Global Field Studies Graduate Program. Due to COVID-19 my summer looked very different. Instead, I juggled the stress of managing a full-time job, school, and my personal life in a time of a pandemic and social injustice. There were moments I felt defeated and mad at the outcomes of my summer.

Then there were times I felt encouraged to push forward in all entities of my life and pursue the change I had set out to do. I realized I didn't need Australia to reach my goals. Through encouragement from my schoolmates, friends, and family I pushed myself to continue exploring, educating, and pushing myself closer to the finish line. Now just months from graduation my exhaustion from a taxing summer is met with pride in the things I accomplished with my community.

Samantha holds a hawkWhat did you study with your program?

Instead of traveling to Australia, Project Dragonfly had us develop campaigns for global field partners around the world. During the Summer of 2020, my teammates and I created a plan for Kenya partners to develop a video series that could increase their global reach and improve conservation messaging around the world. By highlighting community voices of the SORALO and Lale'enok communities within the Kenyan South Rift, our goal was to help change the narrative of conservation at zoos around the US and increase the awareness of these Kenya-based conservation efforts.

What did you learn from your virtual study abroad program?

While I was devastated about not getting the opportunity to travel abroad, the Connected Conservations course, which replaced our summer Earth Expeditions, gave me the opportunity to network with organizations I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to. I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for Kenyan conservation.

What were the coolest virtual places you visited on your program?

Virtually exploring the history of SORALO and Lale'enok was extremely inspiring. It helped all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and helped us see the potential for community voices to be highlighted in conservation.

What was your favorite part of your program?

This program gave me the opportunity to have intimate conversations with Kenyan conservationists. I loved learning about the history that their conservation is based around today. In a time of great social injustice, it was really empowering to learn how Lale'enok community is owned and run by women.

How has the virtual study abroad experience changed you so far?

This experience has helped me see the full potential of community in conservation. It helped me see that by embracing differences and opinions, we can begin to find the common ground and positive change that benefits people and wildlife.

Editor's Note: Kenya is one of the countries that will be featured in this winter's MiamiConnects virtual global learning programs. Visit for details about available courses.

"Where in the World is Miami Wednesday" will be taking a break for International Education Week and the end of the semester. See you again soon!

Where in the World is Miami Wednesday is a news article series that features Miami students studying abroad/away and international students. Catch us next week as we continue to travel around the world to feature the amazing opportunities that Miami students are taking and the experiences our alumni have had since graduating!

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