Sunday, 29 January 2017

USP reunion

We're excited to announce our second
All-USP Alumni Reunion
July 1-2, 2017
 Trinity Christian College 
Chicago, Illinois
Meet up with USP students from your semester and make new connections with students from other semesters! 
Connect with former and current staff members!
Learn what's happening currently at USP and UCU!
Plan a fun day in Chicago with others from your semester!
Five years ago, USP had its very first all-USP alumni reunion in Washington DC with 60+ in attendance spanning the ten years of the program. It was a fun and meaningful weekend of connections and re-connections. Students from the same semesters had a good excuse to get together and reminisce, and those who shared the same host family or practicum sites finally had the opportunity to finally meet one another. Staff members from various USP eras were present, as well as a number of Honors College/ UCU students who were living in the US at the time.

Our hope is to have a USP reunion every 5 years in a different region of the US. We are excited to head to the midwest this year, to the great city of CHICAGO! This is a fantastic destination city to explore with friends... its relatively easy/inexpensive to get to with two major airport hubs, has a great public transportation system, deep dish pizza, the best Ethiopian food in the country and... the CUBS!

We'd love to see you and catch up... so get in touch with others from your semester, plan a fun weekend together and COME!

Reunion 2012
Chicago 2017 Details:
Days/times: 11:00am Saturday, July 1-- 1:00pm Sunday, July 2. 
Location: Trinity Christian College (Southwest suburbs of Chicago) We have reserved suites which accommodate up to 4 people. You can book a whole suite, if you plan to come with your family, or get a group from your semester and book a suite together. 
Cost: Our goal is to keep the cost as low as possible. Accommodation for one night plus two meals will likely be approximately $50 per person. (There will also be a family rate...) More details coming soon!
Registration: Our registration link will be live by March 01, 2017. We will use the USP FaceBook page to announce when it is open, and post updates on reunion plans as we go. If you are not on FaceBook and would like to receive updates, please send an email to:  

USP Staff sure to be there:
Mark and Abby Bartels -- USP's founders (along with kids Daniel, Mary and Rachel)
Rachel Robinson -- Former IMME Coordinator and current USP Director
Micah Hughes -- Global Health Coordinator (with his family Avrey, 
and daughters Ella and Zion)
Julie Darcey-- Program Assistant 2011-2012
Julia (Yoder) Rawlings Onghetich -- Assistant Coordinator 2014-2015 (with husband and HC alum Bob Rawlings Onghetich, and their son Tim) 
Katie Green -- Program Assistant 2014-2015/ Assistant Coordinator Fall 2015
Innocent Atimango -- Program Assistant 2013 / current Administrative Assistant (PRAY for her visa, folks!!!) 
Becca Stripe-- Program Assistant 2016-2017
Fingers Crossed!!: Ruth Berta (PA 2012-13), Hannah Groves Cowman (PA 2013-14),
Courtney Beiler (PA 2015-2016)
Take Action:
1. Put the reunion on your calendar and plan to come!
2. Email with any questions:
3. Send photos from the last reunion: 
4. If you are connected with others from your semester, and are willing to get in touch with them via email so that we can try to get in touch with as many folks as possible, email

Any and all of these actions are a huge gift to us as we try to nurture the threads of community that began in Mukono and have now spread through time and place!

💥Fun photos from our last reunion!💥

Mark and Gwyn on registration:

Getting to know who's who:

The contingent from USP's Spring 2007 semester:

All the 'sons and daughters' of the Etokoit host family in Mukono:

UCU and Honors College alumni in attendance:

...There may have been some debriefing 😀:

...and sharing experiences:

Updates, greetings and epic slide shows from USP/ UCU:

Creative Processing (aka gorilla art!):

See you in Chi-Town this summer!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Two-Week Mukono Homestays

A unique and special part of the USP semester is the Mukono homestay experience. Living with a Ugandan family is one of the most enriching and valuable parts of cultural immersion. All of our 18 'On-Campus' students (those who have chosen to live in dorms for the semester) live with a family in Mukono for two weeks. They’re currently halfway through their homestays and so far they’ve had a lot of great stories and photos to share.

Getting ready to be dropped off with their new families!

Ugandans are known for their incredible hospitality, which is evident in the way they welcome their
 new sons and daughters with big hugs and warm smiles.

Lauren Kenley meeting her Mama Margaret!
Students learn through participating in the daily life of their family; helping prepare meals and washing dishes, joining in as family members clean the house, feeding the chickens, making fresh fruit juice etc. They also spend time relaxing and having fun with their family, drinking tea, watching TV or having Bible studies and playing with little brothers and sisters. Some students may even have the opportunity to attend special occasions or events with their families, such as Ugandan parties, introduction (engagement) ceremonies and weddings. 

Lauren Wilkes with her new sisters!

During their homestays, students walk from their homes to campus and back every day, which adds to their experience as a local university student. Often times there are many neighborhood children eagerly waiting for them to walk by so they can greet them. Being called “Muzungu!!” by excited children becomes a familiar part of the routine, as is arriving home after a long day and taking evening tea with whoever is around. 

Jenna Gibbons with her mama Aida!

The homestay experience can be challenging at times, but stepping outside of what is comfortable and known is often when we grow the most, gaining new perspectives and insights. 

What some students are saying about their homestays...

“I’ve loved getting to know my host family. They’ve accepted me as one of their own by calling me ‘baby girl’ and serving me copious amounts of food.” - Paige Schaefer

“Every night my family comes together to read scripture, pray and sing Luganda worship songs. They truly work so hard in making sure I feel a part of the family.” - Delaina peek

“One evening when I got home from a long day of internship, I was met with a big hug from my 13-year-old host sister. This is a perfect description of how warmly I’ve been welcomed by my host family.” - Maya Rowland

“One of my favorite parts of my homestay is walking down the hill to my house and seeing my two younger siblings running up the hill to eagerly greet me after a long day of school or internship. It’s been so amazing getting to develop relationships with my host parents and eight siblings.” - Julia Stanch 

Rebecca Carswell with her host mama and sisters!

Before they know it, they’ll each have a 'home away from home' here in Mukono where they can return throughout the semester!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hello, Spring 2017!

USP Spring 2017 (and our three Program Assistants)
Every semester brings us a unique combination of students from various schools, academic disciplines and interests, giving each group its own distinct flavor. This semester we have 18 students from 11 different schools in the US: Messiah College, Bethel University, Calvin College, Waynesburg University, Anderson University, Wheaton College, Dordt College, Liberty University, Olivet Nazarene University, Southeastern University, and Cornerstone University. We have 12 students in our Social Work Emphasis (SWE), eight of whom are seniors and four juniors. We have three General Students (GSE) students and three Global Health (GHE) students. All of our students this semester have chosen to live on campus in the dorms, so will be focused on getting to know their UCU roommates/ hall mates, as well as exploring various ways to get involved on campus.

With one full week of classes and practicums under their belts, students are settling in to their two-week homestays in Mukono this weekend, getting to know their Mukono families and learning what daily life is all about for many urban/suburban Ugandan families.

A few fun snapshots from Orientation:
Rachel, Alex, Julia, Paige and Nate arriving at Entebbe Airport

Program Assistant, Benji, teaching the students how to wash their laundry by hand,
a necessary skill to start to develop!

Eating at the Dining Hall (DH)

Debriefing the Mukono Scavenger Hunt

Discussing expectations at the Faith & Action retreat

All ready to get dropped of at their 2-week Mukono Homestays! 
We are excited about the semester ahead and all that it holds; for the opportunities for learning and growth for all us as we walk this journey together, both staff and students.