Tuesday, 3 October 2017

USP's General Studies Emphasis: More than Meets the Eye!

USP's General Studies Emphasis (GSE) gives exciting cross-cultural learning opportunities to students from any major. The GSE is designed to provide the most flexibility in order for students to choose courses and experiences that relate to their specific interests and degree requirements, all while studying alongside Ugandan students at Uganda Christian University. 

Fall 2017 General Studies Students enjoying Chapati together.
Classes: GSE students have the opportunity to take one or more USP Core African Courses: African Literature, East African Politics, Contemporary Religions in Uganda and African History. Students can also gain unique insights and meet general education requirements by taking Foundation Studies courses at UCU with Ugandan lecturers and students, such as Old Testament, New Testament, World Views, Ethics and Health and Wholeness.

Practicum/ Internship: The Cross Cultural Practicum course is an elective most GSE students opt to take, through which they gain professional and cross-cultural experience conducting an internship at a local organization, supervised by a Ugandan professional. Many students are able to obtain internship credit towards their major. Our internship partners include schools and tutoring programs, Compassion International child development centers, children’s homes, a campus discipleship program, an international student/ESL program, as well as community-based organizations that serve the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations.

Living Context: GSE students can choose whether they want to live with a Ugandan host family for the semester or on campus in the dorms with USP and UCU roommates. Both give students opportunities to build relationships and learn about Uganda through unique contexts-- by becoming a part of a family, or in relating with peers on a University campus. 

Meet our fantastic General Studies Emphasis students this semester and learn how they have chosen to engage:

Jenna Comstock is a Psychology Major at Azusa Pacific University
(Studying on campus)

"As a General Studies student, I still get to explore my vocational interests as a Psychology major. My internship (through the Cross Cultural Practicum class) at Salaama School for the Blind fulfills a psychology internship required by my home University. Not to mention, my supervisor is intent on incorporating activities to help me grow as a psychologist, as well as a well-rounded culture-crosser. I get it, at first glance "General Studies" doesn't seem to translate directly to psychology, but what it really means is that USP is an all-inclusive program. You can study and live in Uganda while also moving forward in your degree at home.” ~Jenna Comstock

Rachel Land is an Education Major at Bethel University
(At home with her host mom)

“I was shocked to find out that I could be an intern in a school through the Cross-Cultural Practicum course that USP offers. The experiences that I have had at my practicum site are far more useful and relevant to my future vocation than I ever would have expected.” ~Rachel Land  

  Julianna Kabakjian is an Elementary Education Major at Messiah College
(At home with her host brother)

“As I was planning to come study in Uganda, I wanted to be sure that my credits would transfer back to my home campus. I’m currently taking New Testament (which counts for my Bible credit), Health and Wholeness (Health credit), Faith and Action (Sociology Disciplinary Focus), and Religions of Contemporary Uganda (another Bible credit). As a General Studies student, I had some freedom in choosing classes, and I am glad for the opportunity to study along with Ugandans. My major is Elementary Education and I am sure that no matter what your major is, you can be able to find classes here that work and that you’ll enjoy.” ~Julianna Kabakjian

Megan Beam is an International Studies and Journalism Major at
George Fox University
(At home with her host cousin)

“As a General Studies student participating in Cross Cultural Practicum (CCP), I have been able to experience many cross-cultural interactions and relationships which are beneficial to me since I am pursuing a degree in International Studies. My practicum is with an organization called Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM), where I am able to use and develop varying skills and get involved in various communities around Mukono. I get to use my journalistic skills to write and edit newsletters and sponsor letters at my site, providing me with the opportunity to further pursue and practice my degree in Journalism. Taking an African Politics course helps me meet my requirement for a politics course at my home university as well. USP has allowed me the chance to strengthen both degrees in various ways.” ~Megan Beam

Brooke Helder is a Business Communications Major at Trinity Christian College
(At home with her host siblings)

To be 100% honest, as a Business Communications Major coming into the USP Program as a GSE student, my expectations were high for learning, but low for expanding my knowledge about my specific major. Boy, was I wrong. Through the Cross-Cultural Practicum class that USP offers, I have been working at one of Compassion International's Child Development Centers. The work that I am doing includes spending time with different employees such as the manager, other interns, and the accountant. Trough these interactions I have learned both the behind-the-scenes and relational aspect of running a nonprofit. In addition, I am studying Religions here in Uganda which is expanding my knowledge as a Church Ministry and Leadership Minor. We are learning not only about the different religions in Uganda, but also how we should respond as Christians. We will have the opportunity to visit different religious sites, both Christian and non-Christian, such as a mosque. Overall I am expanding my horizons in ways I did not expect to and in ways that I will carry on with me after graduation." ~ Brooke Helder

The General Studies Emphasis encompasses many unique ways of learning, through UCU classes, at practicum sites, or living with a host family or UCU roommates. All of these experiential learning opportunities provide avenues of growth and development that shape student’s perspectives and help them pursue their future career goals.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hosting USP students

Lessons from a Host Parent

Guest Blogger: Eddie Tokpa, USP Homestay Coordinator 

Coming to Uganda to live and study for a semester is not just about taking classes, it's also about getting to know people, learning the culture and moving beyond one's comfort zone. There is no better way to do this than by becoming part of a family and sharing life with them. The homestay is an enriching learning experience for both the student and the host family. I had the opportunity to interview one of our longest serving, dedicated and caring host parents, Mrs. Robinah Lubanga and this is what she shared about her experience as a host parent. (Along with some great photos from her albums!) 

Mama Robinah with Katelyn (Spring 2011)

ET: Mama Robinah Lubanga, how long have you been hosting students?
RL: I joined the host family program in the fall of 2004, which is about 13 years now. Since then, I have enjoy hosting although it had ups and downs but overall it has been a great opportunity for me.

With Jamie (Fall 2010)
ET: What made you decide to host a USP student?
RL: When Johnson came to tell me about hosting USP student I was hesitant but after I thought about it, I said, ‘why not’ --God has given me many gifts and hospitality and service are some of them, so I decided to host. Furthermore, being a Christian, I felt it was my responsibility to entertain guests. “So for me, it’s like a service to God!”

Kelsea (Spring 2012) with various family members
ET: What does hosting a foreign student mean for you?
RL: Well, hosting means sharing your home, culture and hospitality with a student and loving them like your own children. At first it was sort of a challenge but after trying out the first semester I realized it is possible and I can do it. Since then, I have never looked back and have never regretted hosting a student.

At the Farewell Dinner with Erin (Fall 2006)
ET: What are some of the lessons you have learned from hosting?
  • Satisfaction! Right now what brings us satisfaction in our home is hosting visitors. Our students bring joy and excitement in our home. Our time with Leah was very fun and right now Rachel is something, she does everything in the house up to mopping the floor. She does not mind getting on her kneels to clean!
  • Learning to relate well with foreign people.
  • Learning to be creative in preparing food because sometimes students come with dietary issues and some don’t like our local food, so I have learned to try lots of new ingredients and ways of preparing them.
  • Learning to be flexible, knowing that adapting to a new environment and new culture takes time. Thankfully, the students that have stayed with me have been highly motivated individuals who are determined to make the most of their time and quickly respond to any guidance. We have enjoy ourselves living together.
  • Learning the value of diversity and the uniqueness of personality. This experience has taught my children the values of cultural diversity. I listen to their conversation as the USP students shares with my children about America and it helps them to see life with a new lens. All the students I have hosted vary in their personalities and it is the differences that make us stronger. We have been able to relate very well.
  • Learning that USP students are not angels, and hence do make mistakes and need to be corrected. I take time to talk to them just as I will do with my children. 
Natalie and Dana and Mama Robinah 

ET: Are there any challenges you have encounter hosting USP students for 13 years?
RL: Oh yes, there have been some challenges:
  • It is difficult for me to help students cope with homesickness. When they are feeling homesick, it’s hard for them to interact with the family. Sometime they just stay in their room. 
  • Sometimes students are allergic to certain types of food, this can make it hard to prepare meals but I have been able to cope and have learned what to do.
  • When students get sick it really worries me.
Rachel and Rachael (Fall 2017), Mama Robina's current students, enjoying cupcakes with the family. 

Homestays are an important part of USP. All students do both an urban homestay (here in Mukono) and a rural homestay (in either Kapchorwa or Serere, depending on the semester). During the application process, students apply to be "Homestay Students," who live with a host family for the full semester, or "On-Campus Students," living in the dorms with Ugandan roommates for the semester. The on-campus students just completed their two-week homestays here in Mukono. 

We are so grateful for the families who open their homes and their families to welcome our students. We know that in the process-- through the highs and the lows, both leave changed the better for knowing and loving one another. Thank you Mama Robinah for your many years with USP!