Out of My Comfort Zone in Tanzania

on top of kilimanjaro

Jacob Kaplan is a fourth-year computer engineering/computer science major on co-op at Sikubora in Arusha, Tanzania. He is originally from Amherst in western Massachusetts. He is interested in sustainable energy and is exploring and considering career paths.

Written by Jacob Kaplan.

waterfallI am working at a company called Sikubora in Arusha, Tanzania. Arusha is a small-sized city North part of Tanzania between Mt. Kilimanjaro to the East and national parks like the Serengeti to the West.

Sikubora is a solar energy company but we have recently made the switch from small residential systems to larger solar systems and a whole array of other power-related services. It is a small team so sometimes I am asked to do all sorts of things, but my big projects are revamping the website, creating a customer tracking database for the new business model, and maintaining older databases and computer-related systems.

I declared my major in my sophomore year electrical and computer engineering but after my first co-op, I switched to computer engineering/computer science. There are not many computer-oriented employees at the company so I have a lot of responsibility. I am definitely using the concepts I learned in my computer science classes to try to create systems that not only work but are also easy to extend and fix in the future. That being said, I have definitely run into places where I have found gaps in my skill/knowledge and it has made me very excited to return to classes in the Spring.

This was the first experience of its kind for me. I went on a Dialogue of Civilizations to Brazil in 2017 but that was much more supervised than this. It was a pretty tough transition here at first and just figuring out how to do basic things was difficult. By about the third week, however, it started to click and I think that struggle and stepping outside my comfort zone like that was very good for me. I’ve also been trying to learn Swahili which has been very rewarding. All the locals are very supportive when I try to speak even when I am really not speaking well.

group photo Teaching an Ultimate Frisbee clinic in Dar Es Salaamsmiling group of players Playing an Ultimate Frisbee Tournament in Uganda

I traveled to Dar Es Salaam to teach an Ultimate Frisbee clinic. I traveled to Uganda to play in an Ultimate frisbee tournament. I hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. I went to Zanzibar and on Safari with my mom. I am playing in another frisbee tournament in Moshi this weekend. I have plans to hike Mt. Meru and do some other things around Arusha with my friend coming in a couple of weeks.

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering