My time for studying abroad in Uganda has come to an end.There really is no way to capture this semester succinctly.
However, I would say one of the most significant lessons I have been convicted of is that I need to relinquish my expectations and be open and expectant to God’s plans.
I didn’t know exactly how this semester in Uganda would look. Mostly, I knew I would be taking classes, having an internship, and living with a homestay family. Like many other people my age, I am very academically and professionally-focused. I have always loved interacting with and learning from people who are very different from me so studying Global Health for a semester in Uganda seemed like a good step to pursuing a career in that area in the future.
However, now that the semester has come to an end, I would say that my original goals were very narrow in scope. It is so freeing to know that God teaches us through all kinds of experiences, not just through time spent in a classroom. God has taught me quite a lot in ways I didn’t expect while I was in Uganda.
This semester, I lived with a homestay family who taught me the importance of extending hospitality to others. I loved the definition of hospitality that Duane Elmer gave in his book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood. According to Elmer (2006), hospitality is “when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing.” (p. 43). “You are welcome” is a phrase I love that Ugandans constantly say, whether you’re entering their home or their store. Whether you are visiting or staying for a while, Ugandans love to sit and talk over some small, small escorts (snacks) and tea. Throughout the rest of the semester, my host family treated me with so much love and grace. They truly made me feel like part of the family as they utilized me in cooking occasionally, introducing me as their daughter/sister, taking me to their graduation, showing me around Kampala… I never felt out of place because they always made sure that I was comfortable and felt like I belonged.As I look at the impact that hospitality had on me, I am considering ways in my own life that I can extend hospitality as I return home.
At my internship, I got to develop relationships with many incredible staff that continually inspire me. “Be present” is one of the many common phrases said amongst Uganda Program Studies students. I constantly have to remind myself of this because I tend to be very future-oriented and have a desire to be productive constantly. I hate waiting and especially spending time waiting without being productive (multitasking is key, right? (also, it’s a bit ironic that I’m writing this post while waiting for my flight home to Colorado)). There were many hours at my internship where I was tempted to work on homework as we waited for patients. Yet, I gained so much from resisting this temptation and by simply being present with the people around me. From this, I not only built trust with the other staff members but I also learned about Ugandan culture and history, the importance of being respectful in a cross-cultural environment, how to show compassion in a healthcare setting, and much more. As I realized my own impatience, I was convicted about how much I could learn by simply investing in the people around me, rather than trying to be productive and busy constantly. I am so grateful that this internship taught me not only how to be a better healthcare worker in the future but how to be a better person.
It’s honestly incredible how God can teach us so much in ways we don’t expect. I am truly thankful for everything I have learned from my time in Uganda.
As I begin the process of returning to my home culture, I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I process my semester abroad and continue to find ways to integrate what I have learned in Uganda into my daily life back home.
I wish you all blessings during this holiday season!