Looking for something different? Try Uganda. Past Review

By (International Relations, Third World Studies, Bethel University) - abroad from 08/22/2011 to 12/14/2011 with

BestSemester: Mukono - Uganda Studies Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a little more of who I am, and I learned how to more faithfully live out that person in my everyday life. I learned that poverty is so different than what we think it is, than what I thought it was. Africa will be completely different than what you thought it was (even if you've been there before on missions trips). It's so much more independent, unique, content in the best way possible. Don't go to Uganda if you hope to save it. Go to Uganda if you are ready to learn and to experience beauty, and if you think you maybe need to be saved from a domineering, conceited Western mindset.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Uganda Christian University
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic rigor in a traditional sense was minimal. USP's priority is not giving students more information so that they can conquer the world with scholarly excellence. Instead, it is a semester to truly learn - to integrate faith and action, classroom learning and real-life experience. The classroom component was extremely helpful in learning about the culture and history of East Africa, and there are endless opportunities to learn as much as you want about such things. But be ready to have your Western educational philosophy challenged. Descartes may have been right, and intellectual thought processes may be the most important part of your existence. Then again, he may have been completely wrong, and you'll have a lot to learn from a non-Western viewpoint on life and learning.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The USP staff was great. The combination of American and Ugandan staff made the semester both accessible and challenging.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The home stays were absolutely wonderful, but if you choose to stay in the dorms, know that it will be tough. You will have to be really intentional in getting to know others in your hall, and you will be "feared" more than once by your next-door neighbors (you may be the first white person to ever talk to them). But... put forth the boldness and effort to get to know your dormmates and it will be worth it. If you live on campus, the housing facilities are more than adequate - running water, showers, electricity most days. In home stays, you most likely won't have running water, but you will have electricity at least a few days a week. Don't worry though, you'll get along just fine without those things. I promise.

* Food:

Food is mostly rice and beans. Portions are huge so you will not go hungry, but if you live on campus (and even possibly if you live in a host family) you will have to get used to much less variety and flavor than in the US.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I feel like I learned A LOT about East African culture. I could have a short conversation in a few different local languages, and I knew how to get around fairly well by the end of the semester. I really did feel like I understood much of the culture, and I definitely integrated with groups of students on campus. In the culture as a whole, though, I was never welcomed as "one of the locals." I am white, and in a homogeneous culture that is noticed. Therefore, I was constantly noticed and pulled out of the crowd. It was a valuable experience being a minority, and though it was hard, I wouldn't change it for anything.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

USP has a British doctor that they send their students to. I didn't want to pay the money or spend the time to get to the doctor, though, so when I had health issues I either took care of them on my own or went to the health services office on campus. The typical Ugandan doctor has a lot less training than an American doctor, but they also weren't dumb. Doctors know how to treat ailments that are common to their area, like malaria, much better than a US doctor would. All the students were expected to be on a prophylaxis to prevent contracting malaria during the semester, and we had to be vaccinated for yellow fever and other diseases before entering the country. Also, USP staff was trained in First Aid and helped with remedies for simple ailments.

* Safety:

Because of USP's position with universities in the US, they had to have really strict safety guidelines. Mukono is an incredibly safe place if you abide by the guidelines they give (just be smart about watching for theft - as a tourist you're an obvious target).

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $2-5. Just on random snack food that wasn't even necessary. (There's an extra cost for excursions, but they're worth it)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

It was good to use the local language as a way to honor our host culture, but we were also at an international university where the common language was English. Therefore, it was common even amongst East African students to speak mostly in English.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? none
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Learn from your host family and friends. Don't be afraid to practice even before you're perfect at speaking - Ugandans will be touched that you are learning some of their language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Emphasis on relationships
  • Outside perspective of American Christianity
  • Integration with local cultrue
* What could be improved?
  • Living at honors college, or smaller dorm setting
  • More opportunities to experience life outside of UCU (or life after 7 pm....)
  • Experiences with real-life poverty (visiting the slums, interacting with those who can't afford a university education)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The Uganda Studies Program is what you put into it. You can go all the way to Africa and remain trapped in your American mind, in your American beliefs, in your American lifestyle. Put yourself out there, jump out of your comfort zone, allow yourself to be changed, to feel tension. You won't have all the answers at the end; in fact, I'd be surprised if you have any. But you have to learn to live in the questions, live in the tension. Don't go to Uganda expecting to figure it out. Go to Uganda and expect to live in a different way and change a little along the way. If you live on campus, get involved right away in some sort of on-campus activity - fellowships, choir, athletics (even if you would never have the talent to do so at a US campus, your participation will be valued here and you won't regret it).