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USP students share UCU experience

Since September 2021, Uganda Christian University (UCU) has welcomed two groups of American students through the Uganda Studies Program (USP). The first group of nine students returned home in December. The second group of 11 students arrived in January 2022. Coming from five North American-based universities, they are studying Global Health (GH) with a Social Work Emphasis (SWE). Their arrival on the Mukono campus in August 2021 followed 18 months that USP was suspended due to Covid-19 concerns and the subsequent lockdown measures that included no in-person learning in Uganda. During a four-month stay, the first smaller-than-usual group of USP students were engaged in more online learning than those from the pre-virus cohorts. Jimmy Siyasa caught up with some of the USP students to learn their expectations and experience, so far.

Yiji Kim

Yiji Kim- Trinity Western University, British Columbia, Canada
“I like all the greens and the animals I have seen. The people are very kind and generous, and the university tries to implement Christian values, whether it be through the dress code or the people and students that attend class here. I hope to learn to be very open and to adapt and later use what I have learned here to shape my future endeavors.”

Kate Miller

Kate Miller- Messiah University, Pennsylvania, from the state of Maryland
“The campus is beautiful. We have met some really nice people and experienced great hospitality. And I hope to learn more about myself and how my own culture influenced me when I see how different this culture is. I have a practicum site I go to and they have been very hospitable and I am learning a lot. I chose UCU because I had heard of the Uganda Studies Program and that they offer great practicum sites, and an opportunity to engage Ugandan culture.”

Sara Max

Sara Max- Wheaton College, Illinois, from the state of Virginia
“The first thing I have noticed is how welcoming and friendly the people are.  It is amazing how beautiful the campus is and how constantly the people [cleaners] are working to keep it clean.

Over my time here I hope to learn how to excel in another culture and how to be comfortable in an environment that is foreign to me.  I also hope to build relationships with Ugandans and to understand their culture. Actually, the main reason I came here was one, to experience a new culture, and secondly, to draw closer to God because I feel like the fullness of his beauty and of his closeness is found in so many cultures, and in turn, learn more about God through Uganda.”

Lydia Liz Rivera

Lydia Liz Rivera- Southeastern University – Florida She is from Puerto Rico, and lives in Florida
“I love that there’s so much diversity; the many tribes, regions and cultures. I really want to learn a language. I am taking Luganda for a class and, hopefully, instead of it being a challenge in itself, it will be a learning experience. I chose my university because I knew they had the USP program. I always wanted to study abroad in an African country, and Uganda stood out for me. I wanted to experience a diversity of cultures.”

Natalia Vander Zanden

Natalia Vander Zanden- Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and lives in Minnesota
“It’s exciting to be here! I feel privileged to have traveled. I have never been to Africa; it is my first time being out of America. I chose the USP program because I wanted to have a global health perspective in a different country. And, I was also drawn to the fact that UCU is a Christian university. I am from a Christian university back in the US, and so, I wanted to be around as many Christians as I could be.”

Jake Thorsteinson

Jake Thorsteinson – Dordt University, Iowa, from Canada, Alberta
“I chose to study under the USP program because it offers a great cultural experience, where you are pushed into the Ugandan culture and you get to learn as you go. The program is hands-on and highly interactive, unlike others. The other programs that I saw either have more of the North American setting that we are used to or they are a little more limited in interactivity; for instance, they would never let us go out into town shopping, unsupervised.”

Mattie Shoenfeld

Mattie Shoenfeld – Gordon College, Massachusetts, from Kansas
“I am excited to be here because I have been looking forward to studying abroad. I felt like I wanted to be somewhere new, where I wasn’t as comfortable with the culture; where I could also learn something new. And, I like UCU because it has put systems in place to keep us safe from the pandemic.”

Hanna Smith

Hanna Smith- Wheaton College, Illinois, from Arizona
“I have been looking forward to coming here for a long time. I am excited they allowed us to come. I was concerned about how the pandemic in Uganda would impact travel plans and the safety of everyone here. But,I was ready to follow the protocols – wear a mask, and do everything to make me safe. The campus does a great job, making students feel safe here.”

Laura Nagg

Laura Nagg – Wheaton College, Illinois, from Pennsylvania
“For the time we have been here, I have noticed that the people are so hospitable. I like the outdoor part of it. It’s such a beautiful campus, with nice weather; and that we can sit out here and observe nature all the time. Hearing the birds sing in the morning when you wake up is just amazing.”

Allyssa Milligan

Allyssa Milligan – Wheaton College, Illinois, from Illinois
“I am enjoying meeting the people and studying at the university. I love the library. My home institution (Wheaton College) collaborates pretty well with UCU, and that’s how I was able to get connected. I hope to grow in my faith first and get to understand other cultures. I also hope to grow in my knowledge of global health.”