Interviewing Myself about Nkozi
I decided that it would be better for me to discuss my summer experience through question and answer format. The following is a self-interview I made, hopefully giving you a taste of my experience in Uganda.
1. Tell me about your trip.
This summer, I was an Intern for the Ford Family Program, funded graciously by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. I lived at Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi, and completed my work at the nearby Nnindye Parish. My included two tasks: to provide teaching support to St. Francis Kankobe Secondary School (the only school in the parish), and to develop any research project for the school. I ended up completing research on Teacher Retention at the school. Through teacher interviews and questionnaires, I was able to provide some suggestions on how the school may reduce teacher attrition without increasing salaries/benefits.
2. What did you teach?
I taught Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. It seems ridiculous but I only taught some sections of each so it wasn’t too bad. It was little rough for some subjects like Physics and Biology because those are iffy subjects for me. Math was fun because I could help students one-on-one through exercises. In hindsight, I should’ve offered to help in English because I think that would have allowed me to develop stronger relationships with the students. I watched a friend teach English and was jealous to see the students write and talk about their life experiences to him in class.
3. Did the kids understand you?
I’m not totally sure. I got in a habit of asking, “are you with me?” or “have you understood?” after hearing actual teachers say such. I would usually get a head nod or two from the more attentive students in the class. Math was nice because I could see who was struggling individually. Physics, on the other hand, would sometimes be a mess, as I would lose the attention of my students.
My experiences have led me to believe that English slows development in rural communities like this. I understand that English is needed for the country as a whole to connect those of different languages, but in a village like Nnindye where it is barely spoken in or outside of school, learning abstract and complicated science concepts in English is extremely challenging. At times, I had a hard time communicating with the teachers at the school, so I could only imagine how much some students understood me.
4. How was Uganda Martyrs University?
UMU was great to me. I loved living in a dorm with Ugandan students. After working in the field for the day, I would go in my friend Rocky’s room, and a group of us would talk, “jazz”, and joke around. Sometimes, we would go play basketball, before going to dinner. The food was actually a pleasant surprise for me. After having eaten plain white rice all my life at home, the rice and bean sauce was in some aspects an upgrade in taste. Campus truly is beautiful and I will miss it.
5. What was your favorite part of your experience?
The people. I became very good friends with several of the UMU students and will miss them dearly. They were so fun to be around, and I learned very much from them. I loved my interactions at the school as well. I liked talking to teachers about education and Uganda and interacting with students.
6. What was the coolest experience you had?
I had many great memories. We took many trips that were memorable, like to Martyr’s Day, Fort Portal, a National Park, and more. However, my favorite memory was seeing Tom’s giving away shoes to each student at St. Francis. It was cool to see that Tom’s actually does gives away pairs of shoes in Africa. Though I have to question how important one pair of shoes was to the wellbeing of these students. At the time, it was on the bottom of my list of things that the students needed. When I asked the students what they would be using the shoes for, they said, “martial arts!”. Too funny.
7. What is your favorite Ugandan dish?
Posho and beans from St. Francis Kankobe Secondary School.
8. What shocked you most about Ugandan culture?
The most interesting aspect about Ugandan culture for me was religion. Religion is a huge aspect of life for many Ugandans. At times, I felt that my environment and the country around me were saturated in faith and spirituality. Simply driving through Uganda I found Mosques and churches everywhere. One person I met at UMU was so confused about why I was not religious that she tried to convert me to Christianity. While I cannot say that I have been converted, I definitely felt more faithful and spiritual in this country.
9. What was the biggest challenge you faced?
In the very beginning of the trip, I had a major insect problem. I came back after day 3 with a bunch of bites all over my legs and arms, scared out of my mind about what was to come for the rest of the summer. It turns out that I really attracted fleas during the day and their bites were really pesky. By the end, I was getting less and less bites, and it was no longer a problem. I am a little paranoid about potentially getting malaria after my week of medication at home is over. I got too many bites not to have any complications.
10. Would you recommend this program?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I loved my summer here. I think this program is unique compared to other Uganda summer programs because of the University and/or village life experience. I was shocked at how much I connected with the Ugandan students and felt like I was having a study abroad immersion experience.
I want to thank the Kellogg Institute, Ford Family Program, Uganda Martyrs University, UPFORD, Nnindye Parish, and St. Francis for providing me with this opportunity and helping me learn and grow through it. I hope to come back one day in the future and visit the friends I have made, and continue to experience this country.