Saturday, 26 September 2015

2-Week Homestays!

A core part of the USP student experience is the homestay. Last weekend, each of our eight students who live in the dorms at Uganda Christian University moved in with a Ugandan host family for their two-week homestay in Mukono!

Packed in and ready to go! Both nervous and excited... 

Moving in to a home full of complete strangers is never easy, but the host parents welcomed their students with laughter and warm smiles and open arms. Our host families are some of the most hospitable people in the world. They refer to their USP students as “son” or “daughter”, even within minutes of their student’s arrival.

Laura meets her host mom, mama Odeta.

We spend a lot of time reflecting on concepts of Ugandan culture in our classes, but it’s in the experiences like the homestays where these concepts become everyday reality. Over the last two weeks, students have experienced pieces of life in a Ugandan household: preparing meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, playing with little sisters and brothers, watching soap operas, taking tea, relaxing, talking, laughing, singing – and even going to special occasions like parties and introductions!

Kat meeting Mama Margaret

During the homestay, students still come to UCU on weekdays to take classes, so walking to and from school each day is another important part of the experience. Getting enthusiastic greetings from the neighborhood children yelling, “Bye, muzungu!” becomes another part of the daily routine. And nothing beats coming home at the end of a long day to a hearty welcome from Ugandans who consider you family (especially when that welcome includes tea!).

Geralyn and her host mother, Mama Monica

The homestay is definitely a challenging experience – it messes with our expectations and makes us question the lives we live in the West. But it’s also so worthwhile – it grows into a new perspective, a lifelong reminder that differences are beautiful, and that it is truly a gift to be loved by people all around the world.


USP students also have the option to live with a host family in Mukono for the entire semester. We’ll hear more about our semester-long homestay students in the coming weeks…

Post by: Prudence Gordon, USP Program Assistant

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Rwanda Study Trip: Fall 2015

14 USP Students,
10 Honors College Students,
8 Staff Members,
 2 Drivers:
1 grand adventure to Rwanda...

Every semester we travel to Rwanda to learn about the unique history, culture and development of Rwanda, one of Uganda's five neighboring countries. We reconnect with old USP friends and organizations and connect with new ones.

Here are some of our trip highlights!:

We spent our first two nights at the Kibungo Diocese where we heard from the Anglican Bishop and participated in the community work day, Umuganda. On the last Saturday of every month, everybody in Rwanda is required to participate in a community work day to work on various community improvement projects. This year, our group partnered with community members, mothers, fathers, children, police officers, soldiers to dig trenches for a new water supply. 

On Sunday we separated into three different groups, visiting several churches in the local community. Our students and staff had the opportunity to participate in the services and enjoyed worshiping with our Rwandan brothers and sisters in Christ.

As part of studying the history of Rwanda, we spent a day visiting the Kigali Memorial, a museum commemorating the 1994 Genocide, and Nyamatta Church where one of the massacres occurred 

We also spent a day with CARSA, a local non-profit dedicated to the reconciliation of those affected by the genocide. We watched their powerful new documentary, Unforgiven, then had the amazing opportunity to meet and ask questions of some of the inspirational individuals featured in the film

To learn more about the exciting developments happening in Rwanda today, we spent an afternoon with Hope International, an organization specializing in micro-finance and loans. We traveled to the outskirts of Kigali and were welcomed by members of the community who come together to pool their resources and empower each other to combat poverty.

Students got a taste of the artistic cultural community of Rwanda when we visited Amahoro Ava Hejeru, a cooperative of women making beautiful quilts, bags and other items, supporting one another and their families. We heard from the women who work there, how it has changed their lives and were able to purchase some of their beautiful crafts. 

We also had an inspirational visit to Inema Arts Center, an art gallery advocating for social, economic and personal growth in the community.

 After an intense week of travel, seeing, learning, hearing and participating, we spent a couple of days debriefing on an island in Lake Bunyoni, just across the Ugandan border. We took a much-needed pause to share with each other what we learned in the past week, while enjoying each other's good company and this beautiful world we live in.

Life is not about the destination, but the journey! There is something about spending 30+ hours in a bus together that makes you grow closer. Here’s to all of the conversation, questions and musical melodies this long and beautiful ride Rwanda gave us!

See you next semester, Rwanda!