Houghton East Africa

Immerse yourself in the East African experience – the culture, people, and environment – for a semester unlike any other.

Houghton’s East Africa semester in Kenya will challenge you – to engage other cultures, experience life in community, explore God’s creation, and enrich your faith.

Gather wild honey alongside Dorobo hunter gatherers, and live with a Kenyan family. Practice your Swahili with merchants and villagers at the market, and volunteer with local youth to teach them about environmental sustainability. Climb dormant volcanoes, witness the grandeur of savannahs lined with elephants and giraffe, and study marine ecology on the Indian Ocean. Stargaze with friends under the vast African sky and worship around the campfire.


In Houghton’s East Africa semester, you won’t just learn anthropology, ecology, and language – you’ll do it.

Reinforce your studies with experiences such as travelling to nearby villages to learn about daily life, study biology and wildlife behavior at national parks, hike through gorges rich with ancient fossils, and more.

These experiences are supplemented by classroom discussion, readings, and guest lectures from local experts in business, development, ecotourism, global relief, missions, and more.

Core courses offered:

  • East African Anthropology
  • Human Ecology
  • Introductory Swahili
  • Wildlife Behavior
  • Additional courses may include Intercultural Experience, missions topics, and/or independent study options by request


Eli Knapp

Eli Knapp
Director, Houghton East Africa & associate professor of intercultural studies, biology, and earth science


  • Ph.D., ecology, Colorado State University (2005)
  • M.S., University of California – Santa Barbara (2003)
  • B.S., biology, Houghton College (2000)

Eli Knapp’s connection with Houghton’s semester in Africa began in 2003, when he worked with the Houghton in Tanzania program for a year before beginning formal doctoral research in Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania. His area of focus was on the interactions of humans and wildlife living on the western side of the park. In 2009 he returned to Houghton to teach in the intercultural studies and biology departments, as well as co-lead the Houghton in Tanzania semester with mentor and former professor Jon Arensen. Eli subsumed the role as program director in 2014 and has participated in 13 of these life-changing semesters.

He teaches Wildlife Behavior in East Africa, Human Ecology, Swahili, and oversees the Intercultural Experience class during the semester. At Houghton’s main campus in New York, he teaches Introduction to Global Issues, Geology, Conservation Biology, and more. In his free time, he loves to hike in the woods, play basketball, read, go birding, paint, and build Legos with his three children, Ezra, Indigo and Willow.

Linda Knapp
Adjunct professor and bookkeeper


  • M.S., cultural anthropology, Colorado State University (2010)
  • B.A., intercultural studies/Bible, Houghton College (2001)

Linda Knapp began as an adjunct professor of anthropology at Houghton in 2013, and teaches the East African Anthropology course during the East Africa semester. She also stays busy caring for the three children she shares with Eli, while also working behind the scenes on logistics and finances for the East Africa program. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, gardening, painting, reading, making jewelry, and taking walks.


Nestled in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and located along the gently meandering Melawa River, the Melawa campus maintains a remote feel while remaining only 20 minutes from the quaint town of Naivasha and two hours from bustling Nairobi.

Attend classes in an open-air building along the river, join professors for meals prepared by Kenyan cooks, and visit Naivasha weekly to navigate local markets, discover unique gifts made by local artisans, and sip a latte at the “Buffalo Mall.”

Take a road trip with the East Africa semester group every 10-14 days on outings that range from one-day excursions to week-long homestays. Visits include:

  • Aberdares Mountains
  • Arocha Environmental Learning Center at Watamu, Indian Ocean
  • Crescent Island at Lake Naivasha
  • Dorobo camping trip to live amongst hunter-gatherers
  • Hell’s Gate National Park
  • Lake Baringo
  • Maasai Mara National Reserve
  • Mt. Logonot
  • Narkuru National Park
  • Ragati Conservancy on Mt. Kenya

Typical Day

So what does your ‘typical’ day in Kenya look like?

7:00 a.m. – Take a short jog, dive into devotionals, or take a quick shower.

8:00 – Loiter over breakfast while chatting with friends in the golden light under an acacia tree.

9:00 – Gather for class session I.

10:45 – Break for chai, featuring a homemade baked good and tea or coffee, as well as time to chat or play a little volleyball.

11:15 – Reconvene for class session II.

12:15 – Time for Swahili class!

1:00 – Break for lunch, followed by free time for the afternoon. Study, read assignments, go hiking, play board games, take a nap, talk to a local Kenyan, and more.

4:30 – For those wanting some athletic competition, students and faculty/staff play soccer, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, or spikeball.

6:30 – Reconvene for supper.

8:00 – Engage in scheduled events at least twice a week, such as a Sunday night worship service at professor’s home, a mid-week campfire, movie night, or a time of listening to a guest speaker.

10:00 – Head to bed. Students regularly comment on how much easier it is to sleep well and go to bed earlier during their semester in Africa, as we rise and sleep more in accordance with the rhythms of nature.

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