SEGL in Rwanda 2021: Anticipated FAQ

Dear SEGL at ALA families,

We are excited to share more information about our (potential) adventure in Rwanda this spring! On this page, we have anticipated questions and provided answers about our time together. We will add more questions and answers to this list in the weeks ahead. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have a question that isn’t answered here.

Q: Why Rwanda?

A: First, we are confident that our time in Rwanda will allow us to keep our top three commitments to students and their families:

  1. Health and Safety: Rwanda is generally considered even safer for foreigners than South Africa, and its COVID-19 response has been considerably more successful.
  2. Academic Excellence: We have the facilities and staff to provide all traditional courses and our flagship Ethics and Leadership class.
  3. SEGL Mission: Rwanda offers countless extraordinary learning opportunities, including the chance to learn about the 1994 genocide, the enduring post-conflict reconciliation, and the country’s recent economic transformation.

Second, SEGL has a long history with Rwanda: We have studied with students there on three previous occasions: the summers of 2012, 2015, and 2018. Mairéad O’Grady led our 2018 trip and maintains many relationships throughout the country.

Third, in choosing Rwanda, we also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the country with Carl Wilkens, the only American to stay behind during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Carl has traveled with SEGL on each of its previous three trips, and his network in Rwanda is extraordinary. He has agreed to spend the first two weeks of the semester with us, and then return for several weeks at the end of the program.

Here are some recent stories you might find interesting and helpful:

NPR – “Why Rwanda Is Doing Better Than Ohio When It Comes To Controlling COVID-19

Ms. Magazine – “Safer in Rwanda: Other Countries Are Taking COVID-19 Seriously, and It Shows”

CGTN Africa – “Rwanda Maintains Single-Digit Daily COVID-19 Infections”

All Africa – “Rwanda: COVID-19 – How Schools Are Ensuring Learners’ Safety”

Q: What are the dates for SEGL in Rwanda?

A: January 17 – May 1, 2021 | The East Africa Tourist Visa allows us to spend up to 90 days in Rwanda. The standard SEGL semester length is 105 days. (The SEGL at ALA semester is slightly longer in order to align with ALA’s schedule.) Therefore, we plan to spend 90 days in-person in Rwanda, followed by two weeks of virtual learning to conclude the semester. We will replace our traditional mid-semester Spring Break with a series of memorable excursions and opportunities for restoration throughout the semester.

Q: What is the visa process for entering Rwanda?

A: Rwanda has a much simpler visa process than South Africa, and you can apply now! We will apply for the East Africa Tourist Visa, which grants us 90 days and the ability to travel freely among Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. (We do not currently have plans to travel to those other two countries, but this visa gives us that freedom and also gives us the longest possible stay in Rwanda.) The Rwandan Embassy has informed us that SEGL can submit all visa applications simultaneously, which will be much more efficient than individual applications.

There are only 5 pieces to the visa process:

  1. A simple two-page application form (completed by SEGL, signed by student/family)
  2. One passport photo (provided by student/family)
  3. A notarized letter of consent (provided by SEGL, signed in front of a notary by family)
  4. A notarized copy of the student’s birth certificate (provided by student/family)
  5. A letter explaining the purpose of travel (provided by SEGL)

If on November 16th we announce Rwanda as our spring destination, we will follow up immediately the next day with next steps for this visa process. The turnaround time, according to the Embassy, is approximately two weeks.

Q: What flight route are you planning to take?

A: We are currently holding an itinerary from New York City’s JFK airport to Kigali with a 1 hour, 10 minute layover in Amsterdam on Delta/KLM. This route minimizes time in airports. Delta has been ranked as the best airline in the time of COVID-19 by Forbes and numerous other sources.

Q: Is there anybody that I can talk to for more insight on Rwanda vs. South Africa?

A: Yes! We have asked two SEGL graduates who traveled with us to Rwanda in 2018 to make themselves available to you. Their parents are also available.

Alex Lehman is a current student at Brown University. Her email address is and her parents, Nick and Tracy, can be reached at and

Valeria Gonzalez is a current student at Stanford University. Her email address is and her parents, Ricardo and Angela, can be reached at and

I have also asked some of last year’s SEGL at ALA families to make themselves available in case anyone would like to hear their perspective on traveling abroad for a semester with SEGL. Although they cannot comment specifically on Rwanda, they can speak to SEGL’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis last spring, our team’s priority on health and safety, and the academic and interpersonal experience.

Kevin Rendino and Tina Jordan, parents of Riley Rendino, are reachable at and Finally, here is a short video that one of the participants in our 2012 Rwanda summer program put together to give you a broad sense of Rwanda.

Q: If my family decides against participating in the Rwanda trip, will the School return my deposit and tuition payment(s)?

A: Yes. Of course, we hope you will decide to join us!

  1. Questions about Health & Safety

Q: Where will I/my child live?

A: Our faculty and students will have exclusive access to the Iris Guesthouse, which we used on each of our previous three trips to Rwanda. Located in a safe neighborhood in Kigali, the nation’s capital, the guest house has both indoor and outdoor (covered and uncovered) spaces for classes, guest speaker sessions, and group discussions. It is within walking distance of many significant landmarks in Kigali. It is in an extremely safe neighborhood, on the same block as the French Embassy. Iris will provide three healthy meals each day, as well as snacks and drinking water. We will be the only guests in the entire guest house.

Q: Will you be able to accommodate my/my child’s dietary restrictions?

A: Yes. We have informed the guesthouse staff of all food allergies/restrictions and they are able to accommodate them all.

Q: How will you ensure my/my child’s health and safety in transit to Rwanda?

A: Health and safety is our most important commitment to you. Rwanda requires that all travelers present a negative COVID-19 test result from within 120 hours (5 days) before departure. Each of our students and faculty must be tested and must self-quarantine in the days leading up to our departure, in order to maximize the chance that each of us is COVID-free. This process is required for all travelers on our flight.

We will preorder masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer to bring with us in addition to what each student will pack for themselves. We will have mandatory periodic hand-washing throughout our travels.

Q: What will quarantining look like upon arrival?

A: In accordance with Rwandan government protocol, when we arrive in Rwanda we will travel to a designated quarantine hotel, where we will be tested again and quarantine until test results are available (approximately 24 hours). SEGL will cover the cost of testing and hotel rooms for this short quarantine. You can read Rwanda’s published arrival protocol here.

After receiving our negative test results, the group will move to the guest house, where we will continue to quarantine for an additional week. We will test again one week after our arrival and, provided all students and faculty test negative, we will consider our guesthouse to be a “bubble.”

If a student tests positive upon arrival in Rwanda, a designated faculty member will remain in the quarantine hotel with the student until the student is able to produce a negative test result. The student will Zoom into orientation sessions and classes until they are able to rejoin. If the student becomes symptomatic, we will seek medical care in consultation with the parents.

Q: What will the testing process be in Kigali? How often will it happen?

A: Testing in Kigali takes place through the Rwandan Biomedical Center. After the initial testing and quarantine period, we will test our community each month.

Q: What will you do if a student or faculty member presents COVID-19 symptoms?

A: If any member of our community presents COVID-19 symptoms, we will first isolate that student in one of the four rooms we have designated for quarantine at Iris Guesthouse. We will then organize testing for that person, her/his roommate, and any others considered to be close contacts. If the test comes back positive, infected individuals will remain in quarantine for another week, at which point we will conduct another test. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the student will likely continue to attend classes via Zoom. We will be in communication with parents throughout treatment.

Please note that SEGL’s DC program developed a COVID-19 handbook for the fall semester. We are in the process of adapting that handbook to Rwanda and will share it with families in the coming weeks.

Q: What will you do if a child is sick with something other than COVID-19?

A: In this case, we will follow the same policy that we have in all of our programs. If a student is too sick to attend class, our policy is that the student must be seen by a medical practitioner. If the student is well enough to attend class, we will monitor symptoms and proceed accordingly.

Q: What medical practitioners/sites will you use?

A: Our primary care facility will be Kigali Adventist Medical Clinic, a reputable clinic less than 20 minutes from our guesthouse. Dr. Tommy Wuysang, the lead doctor there, is a personal friend of Carl Wilkens and has treated SEGL students with medical needs on prior trips to Rwanda. Our referral hospital will be King Faisal Hospital, located just 12 minutes from our guesthouse. These are the top two medical centers recommended by the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda.

Q: How will I/my child travel within Rwanda?

A: We will contract with a reputable tour company called HIGA Group Ltd, operated by Christophe Uwitije. Christophe is the former manager of Iris Guesthouse and now runs his own private tour company. He has long been a trusted SEGL partner. His buses are equipped with seatbelts and his drivers are licensed by the Rwandan national police examination. In addition to meeting this national standard, Christophe provides additional training in language and other skills specific to the tourism industry. In partnering with HIGA, we will ensure that our drivers are tested for COVID-19 whenever they will be transporting our students and we will abide by national guidelines for social distancing in transit (i.e, mask-wearing and 1 person per 2 seats).

Q: I am/my child is an athlete. Will there be exercise opportunities?

A: Of course! Our faculty is excited to lead group exercise opportunities every day. There will be group runs through our neighborhood and workout sessions on the grounds of our guesthouse with basic equipment we have arranged to purchase upon arrival. As with everything we do, we will abide by COVID-19 guidelines when exercising, including wearing masks and distancing in public spaces.

  1. Questions about Academic Excellence

How will you cover the courses normally taught by an ALA faculty member?

SEGL has secured additional faculty members to cover these classes and is in the process of hiring at least one Rwandan local to collaborate with our team.

What will you offer to replace the African Studies course available at ALA?

We are terrifically excited that SEGL friend Carl Wilkens, the only American to remain in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, who personally saved hundreds of Rwandan lives, has agreed to travel to Rwanda be part of our program. He will travel with us in January, stay for 2 weeks, then return home to the U.S, and he will rejoin us in person for the final two weeks of the program. In between, he will offer a weekly class via Zoom that replaces the African Studies elective some students would have taken at ALA.

How will AP exams work?

Our 90-day visa will have us in Rwanda from January 17 to April 17. We will then return to the U.S. and complete the semester with two weeks of virtual learning, concluding the program with a virtual graduation ceremony for all students and families on Saturday, May 1. These two virtual weeks will also serve as the recommended quarantine period after international travel and as additional prep for the AP exams for those planning to take them. Students taking AP exams can then do so in person at their home schools during the first two weeks of May. (Our registration through ALA will be transferable back to their home schools.)

  1. Questions about SEGL’s Mission

What will Ethics & Leadership class look like?

Our team is hard at work developing case studies that bring a uniquely Rwandan flair to some of our classic case studies like media literacy, climate change, and speechwriting. Every cohort of SEGL students meets with Carl Wilkens to explore the theme of U.S. intervention around the world–when and where it happens, should happen, and why. We look forward to expanding that case study in this program. Finally, in the months following a contentious and close U.S. presidential election, we are excited about the many lessons our students can learn from Rwanda’s reconciliation process before returning to their own divided country.

How often will I/my child be able to leave campus and explore?

We anticipate opportunities to leave campus for outings every weekend, while following all COVID-19 guidelines. There will also be 1-2 opportunities during the school week to travel off-campus for guest speaker meetings, though we will try to have most sessions take place on campus in our tent to minimize the potential exposure to COVID-19.

Will I/my child get to spend time with any Rwandan youth?

This is one piece yet to be determined in detail, but we are excited to explore the possibilities for safe cultural exchange with young Rwandan leaders. We know that this is one of the most exciting elements of the SEGL at ALA program and will aim to recreate some elements of that in this alternative program.