Focus on Africa

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  • July 24, 2023 – August 25, 2023

Explore Kenya, East Africa’s most vibrant economy – with a focus on public health; media, technology and education; energy and transportation. 

From our base at The Co-operative University of Kenya, you will experience life in Kenya’s capital – visiting important cultural sites, media houses, non-governmental organizations, museums, medical facilities, and business centers. 

You will travel to the historic port city of Mombasa, visit Nairobi National Park, and the Great Rift Valley, and enjoy exhilarating game runs in the Masai Mara National Reserve. 

In the final week of the program, participants will assist in the presentation of a one-day public forum exploring areas of common interest between Kenya and the United States.

Language of Instruction: English 

Course(s): Focus on Africa (7 units)

Max Enrollment: 25

Faculty Leader: Melvin Cox, Lecturer – Merrill College (UCSC)


Quick Facts

Locations –  Nairobi, Kenya

Prerequisites and Application Requirements 

  • Minimum GPA: 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • Passport: a passport valid for at least six months after the program’s end date ordered before application
  • Signed Financial Terms and Conditions Document: As part of the application, you will be required to upload an electronically signed Financial Terms and Conditions document. 

Other Eligibility: good academic and disciplinary standing, 45 units completed by program departure, minimum age 18

Students from other colleges and universities: You are welcome to apply! If you use financial aid, please check in with your home financial aid office to see if they can package you for our program. Students will pay the same fees as UCSC students, but will be required to pay an additional $50 for registration in the UCSC Summer Session courses associated with the program. 


  • Cooperative University of Kenya (CUK) – We will build intercultural competencies through interactions with area residents and local scholars and artists, and discussions with students from CUK, including recent Focus on Africa course participants.
  • Nairobi National Museum – We will learn about Kenya’s rich heritage at the Nairobi National Museum through four distinct themes – Kenya’s culture, nature, history, and contemporary art. 
  • iHub Technology Incubator – We will visit the makerspace and engage with local innovators and business owners, exchanging ideas and be a part of the projects.
  • Nairobi National Park – We will visit the Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve with a large and diverse population of wildlife and habitats. 
  • The Great Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha – We will visit Kenya’s famed Rift Valley region, take a memorable boat ride around Lake Naivasha, and have lunch at the historic La Belle Inn in Naivasha.
  • Geothermal Development Company – While in the Rift Valley, we will visit the Geothermal Development Company, a government-owned entity created in 2008 as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to accelerate the development of geothermal resources in Kenya.
  • The Masai Mara National Park – We will visit the internationally renowned Masai Mara (northern extension of the Serengeti). During our time in the preserve, we will take morning and evening game runs, enjoy the pleasures of a luxury tented camp and visit the Maa Trust Community Center.
  • Mombasa – We will take a weekend excursion to the coastal city of Mombasa. The excursion will include visits to local points of interest including the Kenya Ports Authority Headquarters, Fort Jesus MuseumHaller Park, and the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
  • Swahili Language Lessons – We will take Swahili language lessons and have opportunities to put language skills to practice during engagements with local community members.

Class Project – FOA Public Forum

In collaboration with the Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA), The Co-operative University of Kenya (CUK), and a Nairobi-based news agency (tba), the Focus on Africa Program will co-host a one-day public forum on the CUK campus – during Week 5 of the summer course.

The audience for the live event will include CUK students, staff, and faculty; representatives of non-governmental organizations, public servants, members of the media and invited guests.

The meeting will focus on the major topics explored throughout the summer program and will seek to define areas of common interest between Kenya and the United States.

The forum will be conducted in an atmosphere that stresses academic integrity, personal respectfulness, and community building across the boundaries of class, ethnicity, gender, and nationality.

A panel of distinguished guests, selected by the forum co-hosts will participate in the discussion. It is anticipated that speakers will include representatives from the legal, political, financial, medical, technology, and business communities.

Focus on Africa program participants will research assigned topics, prepare questions, participate in breakout sessions and act as hosts and facilitators.


Application Fee

  • There is a Non-Refundable $200 UCSC Global Learning Application Fee. It is charged to your UCSC account after March 1, 2023.



Kenya, or the Republic of Kenya, is a coastal country in East Africa. It is home to many different ethnic groups and also has East Africa’s healthiest economy. Abundant wildlife lives across Kenya’s diverse geography ranging from mountains to forests to deserts to temperate and coastal climates.  Learn more about travel in Kenya here

Host Organization

The Co-operative University of Kenya (CUK) is a public institution that provides education and training with emphasis on co-operative development. It provides consultancy and research services to the co-operative sector and related economies.

Weather and Climate

Though Kenya sits along the equator,  the seasons are aligned with those of the southern hemisphere. This means you will visit Kenya in the winter months. High temperatures in July and August are usually in the 70s Fahrenheit with lows in the 50s. 

Travel Documents Required for US Citizens

Passport required for US citizens. If you are not a US citizen please email to learn about additional travel documents you may need to pursue this program.

An e-visa and proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is required for all travelers. Learn more about entry requirements here


Kenyan Shilling

Official Language(s)

Kiswahili, English


Co-operative Retreat and Conference Centre 

The Co-operative Retreat and Conference Centre is located on the grounds of The Co-operative University of Kenya. Rooms are shared with an open courtyard in the middle. Each room has an ensuite bathroom as well as a flat-screen TV with satellite TV, a hot shower and bathtub, mosquito netting, an iron, wifi, and a working station. 

Laundry services are available at an extra cost. 

Please note that elevators, air conditioners, and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.


Three-course meals are served buffet-style at the Centre’s restaurant. All meals are included.


Global Seminars are generally accessible, though some locations may present unique challenges regarding mobility. These will be addressed as needed and accommodations can be made. Please email to inquire more about if this program is a good choice for you. 

Students with Disabilities

If you need support services abroad, notify your UCSC Disability Resource Center (DRC) Coordinator

Identities Abroad and Away

UC Santa Cruz Global Learning is committed to inclusion and equity in our various program options as well as striving to make everyone’s experiences abroad enriching, positive, and safe.

Learn more on our Identities Abroad and Away webpage.


Course Description

Merrill 183: Focus on Africa (7 units) 

The Focus on Africa series at Merrill College has a dual focus: on current affairs on the African continent, and on specific methodologies students can use to build viable constituencies for Africa on campus and in their home communities.

Learning objectives for this course include: 

  • Gain knowledge about Kenya’s critical institutions in the areas of public health; media, technology and education; transportation, tourism and energy
  • Expand understanding of the commercial, political and social networks shaping life in East Africa’s healthiest economy
  • Work in teams across differences of culture, economic background, gender, sexual orientation and politics in order to speak with one voice from multiple perspectives
  • Acquire experience in navigating a variety of cultural, religious and ethnically specific spaces
  • Understand the impacts of foreign policy decisions taken in the United States, China, the United Kingdom, and other industrialized nations on Kenya and the East Africa region
  • Recognize, identify and articulate differing perspectives and engage effectively with others across differences
  • Learn and practice techniques for effective group work
  • Learn documentary approaches to reflection

Syllabus Coming Soon

Course Credit

Students on UCSC Global Seminars earn regular UC Santa Cruz course credit which may be used to fulfill degree, major, minor, General Education (GE) requirements. UC Santa Cruz students can use UCSC Global Seminar courses to fulfill their academic requirements as listed in the General Catalog. Students from other campuses should consult with the academic advisors from their home campuses to determine whether courses taken on our programs may be used to fulfill their specific academic requirements.