In September 2021, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, welcomes a new staff member with Ugandan experience. Lauren Elaine Nagy, hired to be a nurse in the Pediatric Inpatient Rehab Unit, was part of the Uganda Studies Program (USP) at Uganda Christian University in 2018.
Nagy’s employment follows her May 2021 graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Messiah College in Pennsylvania and certification as a Registered Nurse. She most recently was a health care provider at a Christian summer camp, Woodcrest Retreat.
Two years before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nagy traveled more than 7,000 miles away from her home as part of the American students who went to UCU for a four-month study abroad program. The trip was under the USP, a two-decades-old program that earlier this year shifted from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to under the administrative umbrella of the non-profit, UCU Partners, headquartered in Pennsylvania.
While at UCU, Lauren and other USP colleagues were part of the Global Health Emphasis (GHE). GHE provides an opportunity for students pursuing biomedical and public health-related disciplines to complete global health coursework and international field internship in Uganda.
The USP affords international students an education within an African context. In addition to studies on the UCU Mukono campus, students get a chance to make trips to different parts of Uganda, visit the Equator and sometimes have a 10-day excursion to Rwanda. Some of the students live in the student dormitories on campus, while others are attached to host families.
For Nagy, nothing about UCU stands out more than the institution’s “commitment to integrating faith into all aspects of education.” She says it “created an atmosphere that pushed me to grow in my faith in more ways than I could have expected.”
While on homestay, Nagy lived with a Ugandan family about five minutes away from the university campus. Her camaraderie quickly acclimatized her to the Ugandan culture of the family of Robert Kibirango and Esther Nakato. In fact, she takes pride in the name Nakiryowa (Luganda word for a type of tree) that the family bestowed on her.
She has fond memories of the days she was involved in domestic work that included a unique way of peeling bananas. Clearly, the trip to Uganda gave her another family in addition to her biological one in Pennsylvania. Nagy is the daughter of Daniel Alan Nagy and Karen Lynn Nagy.
“We spent time wandering through fields, exploring plants and anthills, feeding the new calf, picking fresh beans from the garden, and cooking dinner together. It was a beautifully simple time with my family,” she recalls, saying she has continued to keep in touch with the family of Kibirango.
Nagy highly recommends that American university students consider the UCU experience.
“As many people as possible should experience the transformational growth that I did,” Nagy, who attended Chippewa High School in Doylestown, said.
She lauds UCU for the fusion of faith and books in the grooming of nurses because it enables them to dispense care, compassion and comfort. The culture of faith at UCU seemed to rhyme with Nagy’s sole goal in life – living in the center of God’s will for my life and glorifying Him to the fullest.