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! 


  1. Mama Robinah is the best! I am still grateful for everything she taught me and the incredible hospitality she showed me. From helping me deal with my homesickness to cooking special food for me as a vegetarian, her family has really turned these challenges into strengths. She's a true "monk" to our pilgrims!

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