African Homestays and Community Engagement: A Case Study on Reciprocity and Neocolonialism


  • Michael Wairungu St. Lawrence University
  • Matthew Carotenuto St. Lawrence University
  • Njau Kibochi St. Lawrence University



Kenya, Africa, neocolonial, reciprocity, homestay


Do homestays benefit host communities, perpetuate neocolonial relationships, or both? While the St. Lawrence Kenya-Semester Program (KSP) has centered homestays as an essential component of experiential learning and community engagement since 1972, this article flips the script and places homestay families at the center of knowledge production on study abroad. Drawn from 15 years of homestay experiences in Nyeri and Kericho counties, we situate this program as an important case study to analyze host community perceptions of the benefits and challenges of homestays for rural agricultural Kenyan communities and the implications this has for study abroad assessment and community engagement.

Abstract in Swahili

Je, mpango wa wanafunzi wa kigeni kuishi kwenye nyumba za wenyeji husaidia jamii husika au hushadidia mahusiano ya kikoloni mamboleo ama yote mawili? Programu ya Chuo Kikuu cha St. Lawrence ya Kenya (KSP) imeuwekea uzito mpango wa wanafunzi kuishi kwa jamii wenyeji kama kipengele muhimu katika ujifunzaji wao wa kitajriba na mtagusano wao na jamii kutoka mwaka 1972. Ingawaje, makala haya yamebadilisha mtazamo na kuziona familia zinazohusika katika programu hii kama vituo muhimu vya uzalishaji wa maarifa katika masomo ya ughaibuni. Tukizingatia tajriba ya miaka 15 ya KSP kupeleka wanafunzi kuishi na jamii katika kaunti za Nyeri na Kericho, tunaitazama hii programu kama kifani muhimu cha kuchanganua mitazamo ya jamii wenyeji kuhusu faida na changamoto za wanafunzi kuishi na familia za wakulima vijijini na pia katika kutahini programu za masomo ya ughaibuni na mtagusano wa kijamii.


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Author Biographies

Michael Wairungu, St. Lawrence University

Michael Wairungu is Assistant Professor of African Studies and Assistant Director for Student Life and Academic Instruction at the St. Lawrence Kenya Semester Program based in Nairobi. He is an Anthropologist by training and specializes in urban youth cultures, study abroad and Swahili pedagogy.

Matthew Carotenuto, St. Lawrence University

Matt Carotenuto is Professor of History and Hanson Associate Dean of International and Intercultural Studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. His research and published work have focused on identity politics and social history in Kenya.

Njau Kibochi, St. Lawrence University

Njau Kibochi has worked for the St. Lawrence Kenya program in Nairobi since 1996 and is currently the Senior Driver and Head Mechanic. As a Research Associate and contributor to this article, he drew on his nearly thirty years of experience working with students in field courses and homestay settings throughout East Africa.


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How to Cite

Wairungu, M. ., Carotenuto, M., & Kibochi, N. . (2022). African Homestays and Community Engagement: A Case Study on Reciprocity and Neocolonialism. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 34(3), 141–167.