Thursday, 21 December 2017

Farewell Fall 2017!

One of our favorite USP traditions is the farewell dinner. After the last of the exams has been taken and papers written, the USP community (staff, students, host-families, practicum supervisors, Honours College roommates, lecturers and various members of the UCU administration) gathers together to celebrate the accomplishments of the students and the completion of the semester. In true Ugandan fashion (all protocols observed!) the event is kicked off with speeches from several different individuals who speak briefly (or perhaps not-so-briefly) about their time with USP, and what it has meant to them. Hearing about the relationships that have been formed, the lessons that have been learned and the memories that have been made over the course of the semester is powerful. The journey is not an easy one, but pausing to look back and reflect on the semester together is immensely good. It is pure joy and satisfaction, being together and celebrating as one big community before the students leave to return home. 

The speaches are followed by the presentation of certificates to the USP students and a big Ugandan buffet dinner. The USP students take the opportunity to serve the food to all the guests, as a gesture of appreciation for the love and hospitality they have been shown in so many ways throughout the semester. The evening is brought to a close with the cutting/eating of the cake. Again, as per tradition, the cake is ceremoniously cut by all who made speeches earlier in the evening, before being served to the guests. 

We are so grateful for a fantastic semester, for a terrific group of students, and for all the people who make up USP, from host moms to roommates, to drivers, to lecturers and supervisors-- webale nyo!! 

Fall 2017 Farewell Dinner 

Sam, Paige, Brianna, Jamie and Lauren ready to celebrate!
Paige, Benji and Morgan, our Program Assistants and the MC's of the farewell dinner
Megan Beam arriving with her host family, the Magera's.
Rachel Land with a co-worker from her practicum site, Off Tu Mission.
Julianna Kabakjian delivering her speech on behalf of the General Studies Emphasis 
The social work cohort, thanking Lisa Tokpa, the Social Work Coordinator.
Joanna Hipple with her host mother, Mirica Kisitu, as she receives her certificate of completion.

Alexa Bragg with her host father, Mr. Kavuma, receiving her certificate from Dr. Musinguzi.
Jessica Fox with her host mother, Jacquline Mugabe.
Students serving dinner to the guests.
The cutting of the cake by all the speech givers. 

The USP staff, grateful for Fall 2017! 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Student Takeaways

As we enter into the last weeks we are encouraged to look back over the course of this semester. Students entered into the challenges and joys of life here in Mukono, Uganda. Through engaging with their host families, roommates, practicum sites, travel, and studies they have gained new insights and understanding of the world. While USP is definitely not about easy answers tied up in pretty packages (just ask any USP student ever), students learn, grow and see God at work throughout the their time in Uganda in some pretty profound ways. Here are some insights that our Fall 2017 USP students want to share with you.
Jamie and John in their matching kitinge outfits.
“There is so much importance in living into your community, wherever and whoever that may be. Love comes like a hurricane when you stop holding on so tight to individualism and let others in”.   - Jamie Gendimenico (Eastern University)

Mr. Odwagacen, Alexa, Megan and Joanna on field trip to the Buganda Parliament for Politics.  
“It is honestly hard to string together words that will encapsulate this semester, but in all this I have learned that true community isn’t just about getting coffee or passing by a familiar face on the street. I think it goes back to not only a recognition of human brokenness, but the universality of pain across all individuals and cultures”.    - Alexa Bragg (Gordon College)

Jessica Mount participating in an ice breaker at The Recreation Project in Gulu. 
“In Uganda, I've learned to live in the tension. I've been able to break free from unhelpful black and white realities. This is an invaluable lesson that I'll carry with me in my career as a social worker and my everyday life when I'm back in the states”.                                                                                                                  -Jessica Mount (Point Loma Nazarene University)

Rachel Phillips baking for carmel rolls for our USP Thanksgiving.

“At ACHERU, I have seen how connected faith is to healing. The staff often remind each other that "We do the work, and God does the healing”".  - Rachael Phillips (Westmont University)

Dr. Opol, Brooke, Jenna and Julianna visiting a mosque for their
Contemporary Religions in Uganda class.
“I learned the importance of admitting I need help. When I was vulnerable and shared my struggles with others, I was overwhelmed with an acceptance and support than couldn't have come from any other place. We all like to be strong and have it all together, but I think when we lean on others we recognize that we are dependent creatures, and it's a humbling experience”.                                                           -  Julianna Kabakjian (Messiah College)
While the semester is coming to a close, we are excited for our end of semester debrief retreat where we will process through the experiences our students have had and insight's they've gained as well as discuss how to integrate their experience here into daily life as they look ahead to  re-entry into the US. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Love Language

The following is a journal written by Jenna Comstock, psychology major from Azusa Pacific for
the class, Cross-Cultural Practicum ( Jenna is at the practicum site, Salaama
School for the Blind, a site that USP has partnered with for over 10 years.

 At my internship with Salaama School for the Blind, I am constantly exposed to a group of people whose circumstance I am foreign to. They are blind and I am not. In the early days of my internship, I wondered if I would eventually be able to relate to these students and staff members. An answer came in the form of a bundled bunch of perforated papers bound with string: the language of Braille. Yet, without a local who was willing to invest in me, I would have never arrived at this conclusion. 

Without a student who was willing to invest the time to teach me, I would not have found a satisfactory way to relate to my Ugandan friends at Salaama. Titus, a member of the Primary 7 class, has spent much of his free time teaching me how to read, write and type Braille. One day, during our third Braille lesson, Titus instructed me to write a story using the Brailler and to bring it to him when I had finished. I was able to recall certain contractions and letters with such an ease and efficiency that even I was surprised by. Sure, the story was riddled with mistakes, but it was a story written in Braille. It seemed I was approaching literacy. The surprise that turned into delight in Titus’ reaction to my prompt completion of the task filled my heart with much needed measures hope. I could tell how much it meant to Titus that I bothered to learn the language that he communicates with. This is when I understood that Braille is something I can use to bridge the gap between myself and “them.” 

Teaching me Braille, Titus was an exemplary manifestation of a Monk. According to Cavanaugh’s Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age (2008), a Monk is someone who remains stable in a host culture. Monks welcome visitors into their homes. Essentially, Monks allow visitors to authentically experience their host culture, to the extent that it is possible. Titus inviting me into his world and culture through teaching me how to read and write in the same way students at Salaama do has prompted an authentic participation in the community than I ever could have created on my own. I am enduringly grateful for the considerate efforts of Titus.

From this experience, I have also gained further insight to the welcoming aspect of
Ugandan culture. Uganda is filled with people who are overtly welcoming. I experienced this from the moment I stepped off of the plane. Not only this, but they are willing to help me better understand their ways of life. Titus teaching me Braille is a paramount example of a Ugandan taking the time to not only get to know me, but to also teach me how to communicate with other Ugandan students and staff members at Salaama. Through learning Braille, I have become more aware of how willing Ugandans are to put in the effort to include and teach visitors in their community. I have learned what it means to welcome someone into your family.


Cavanaugh, William (2008). Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age. 340-356.

Salaama supervisors  Lawrence Tusiime and Francis Kinubi

Former USP student, Deanna Shaub, learning braille at her USP practicum

Monday, 13 November 2017

Student Reflection on Rural Home Stays: Lauren Schaupp

(Originally Posted on: 


A week ago the USP team went to rural Kapchorwa, a town nestled in the foothills of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda. I went into the experience feeling dry and empty and left feeling full and so sad that I had to leave such a beautiful place. I honestly don’t know how to put into words the joys that I experienced while I was there, so I have compiled a list of both practical and emotional things that I learned. Here is what I have learned on rural homestays:
  • Picking coffee is harder and dirtier than it looks, but it is also so much fun.
  • Carrying 40 pounds of beans is much easier on your head. It is also humbling when you realize your 9-year-old niece can carry more than that. With no hands.
  • Eating at 10 pm can become the norm. This is because it takes so long to cook the food, and leftovers aren’t really a thing since there is no refrigeration.
  • Some of the wisest people you will ever meet are farmers and teachers. They taught me what patience looks like, how to be compassionate but not a pushover, how living the way Christ lived can be played out in small things, and so much more.
  • It’s a lot harder to cook for a lot of people using 3 charcoal stoves, and it takes upwards of 10 hours.
  • Sometimes you have to pick either your poop or your pee going into the latrine- you can’t have both.
  • Rural doesn’t necessarily mean uneducated. Both of my parents had college educations, and all 9 of their children did as well.
  • My mama really wanted me to get married to a Ugandan, to the point that we discussed it every night.
  • Warm bucket baths on cool mountain nights are one of the best experiences ever.
  • The stars in rural areas are indescribable.
  • I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
  • Good conversations over a cooking fire are something that is hard to find anywhere else.
  • I love the rural life. It is a lot of hard work, and sometimes it can be tiring and feel like you aren’t getting what you need to get done, done, but there is nothing like it. the community of people that welcome you in, the family that you become a part of, the experiences that you have, whether it’s a conversation or picking beans; it’s all a part of something so sweetly simplistic that I was loathe to leave at the end of the week.
My trip to Kapchorwa was way too short but so rich and full of experiences, thoughts, and rest. I know that one week is not a long time, but it was a life-changing week in more ways than one, and I look forward to going home to my family there one day.

This week's blog was written by Lauren Schaupp (Pictured with her Kapchorwa host dad). She is a current Global Health Student with USP and a senior at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina where she studies 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Global Health Emphasis-- Diverse Opportunities to Learn and Grow

USP's Global Health Emphasis (GHE) provides students the experiential and interdisciplinary opportunity to learn about health in the Ugandan context. The GHE curriculum is designed to meet the requirements of undergraduate health science majors while studying abraod in Uganda for a semester. Global Health internships combined with course offerings of Nutrition, Cross Cultural Practicum in Global Health, Infectious Diseases & Epidemiology, and Microbiology, allow health science students to gain insights into their personal, ministry, and vocational goals. GHE internships require a minimum of 150 practicum hours allowing students to learn from nurses, doctors, midwives, physical therapists and public health educators

Having now passed the halfway point this semester, the GHE students have completed the August module during which they took Human Nutrition in Global Health, they participated in a study trip to Rwanda at the end of August and experienced a week in a rural context on Rural Homestays. Students continue to press into their living contexts with either Ugandan host families or UCU roommates, and of course and are feeling much more comfortable in their classes and at their practicums.  

This semester’s ten Global Health students are from Westmont College in California, Gordon College in Massachusetts, and Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina. Through our partnership with Westmont, Dr. Ogechi Nwaokelemeh, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Westmont, taught the August module course. She challenged our students academically and encouraged them to integrate their new knowledge of nutrition into the healthcare preventions and interventions in Uganda. Our students, faculty and staff enjoyed working and learning from Dr. Nwaokelemeh!

Visiting Westmont faculty Dr. Ogechi Nwaokelemeh with Micah Hughes, GHE Coordinator and Avrey Hughes, RN.

“The partnership between Westmont College and the Ugandan Studies Program has been exceptionally enriching! Students from Westmont joined students from other US academic institutions to participate in the August Modular Nutrition course here at Uganda Christian University. Topics ranging from the intricacies of the digestive system to the impact of malnutrition on public health were explored throughout the module. It was a great start to what will be a tremendous time of growth, maturation and discovery for the students in Uganda.”~  Dr. Ogechi Nwaokelemeh 

Global health internships are often the most challenging and rewarding aspect of GHE experience. Students have the opportunity to learn from Ugandan professionals at hospitals, clinics and research centers.

Rachael Phillips (Westmont College), is completing her practicum at ACHERU, a local pediatric occupational therapy center. “At ACHERU, I have the opportunity to learn from the physiotherapists, the nurses, the orthopedics officer, the classroom teacher, the receptionist, and I get to go out with my supervisor into the community to do home visits. I am learning about so many different aspects of the healthcare field, and I am loving every minute of it!” ~Rachel Phillips 

Rachel meeting her host mom on rural homestays.

Madison Cherry (Westmont College), is completing her practicum at ROTOM (Reach One Touch One Ministries). "ROTOM's vision is to see older persons living dignified and fulfilled lives! It is inspiring to see the staff truly care about every Jjajja (grandmother) they work with. I have been to many home visits where the doctor first made the jjajja's bed or tidied up the room. They do not only care about treating physical sickness, but they aspire to improve their quality of life. They put on fellowships for the jjajjas where they gether in community, learn about nutrition, and of course there is always dancing and food involved. I am constantly humbled by the staff's passion and the jjajjas' joy. I have so much to learn from ROTOM!" ~Madison Cherry 

Madison  encouraging an elderly client at ROTOM (Reach One Touch One Ministries) clinic.

USP has built relationships and a developed a framework of engagement over its fourteen years of partnership with Uganda Christian University in Mukono. The Global Health Emphasis, now in its third semester, has been a natural addition to the program, giving students the opportunity to engage practicum supervisors, host families, roommates, and professors, and learn through the lenses of health. 

We are also excited about our upcoming semester and the opportunity to offer our inaugural May Module in May 2018, through which spring GHE students will have the opportunity to travel to northern Uganda for two weeks to learn first-hand about the global health challenges of refugee healthcare and pediatric malnutrition from Ugandan doctors, nurses, and community educators at the therapeutic feeding center of the Ugandan Ministry of Health District Hospital. Through this experience, students will gain deeper understanding of the links and complications between nutrition, poverty, and public health.

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!