“This is challenging!” – Getting used to Uganda

Lake Victoria Botanical Gardens
Lake Victoria Botanical Gardens
Pacific interns Chris Yankowski, Brianna Tracy and Lonnae Hohman at the Lake Victoria Botanical Gardens in Entebbe, Uganda.

By Brianna Tracy ’18
Major: Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences

Uganda is a country full of interesting people, food, and overall atmosphere. I have been here for over a month now and can honestly say it’s felt like a roller coaster. I like to think of it this way because although you may be scared or feel sick at times, and there are ups and downs, it is an exciting ride and more likely than not you are going to want to do it again.

Let me start by saying this is not a trip for the weak. I have learned a lot about myself and about how to overcome everything that may bring me down. It hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

As for how I am doing emotionally and physically I would say “fine” as any Ugandan would answer that question. Although they mean they are “good” as Americans would say, to me (and most Americans) “fine” may mean something a little different. I have experienced culture shock and homesickness while being here more than I had originally expected I would.

At around week three or four I was feeling pretty defeated and wanted to go home. In the first few weeks we were distracted by exciting trips and spending time with professors who had been there before. The only problem I had during those weeks was that it took me a while to get adjusted to the time change which caused some exhaustion, but nothing too bad.

Once the professors left and all of our trips exploring the country were finished, the culture shock and homesickness that I had been distracted from caught up with me. I was not just on a vacation anymore but actually trying to live a somewhat normal life in a different environment for another whole month.

It took going to a westernized/Americanized mall to ease a lot of tension. That day, I finally came out from the dark cloud I had been stuck under as my body constantly tried to adapt to everything. Since then, I have mentally been able to overcome these challenges and stay positive.

Sadly, my body has not always been doing well physically. I think I may have had a fever once or twice, but after taking Advil and some additional sleep, I became fine. I don’t think I’m too sick.  It may be the malaria medication, dehydration, and/or just my body not liking the atmosphere or diet. I am trying to do better about my hydrating, but I am fine.

You may ask how I have been able to stay positive. I just see this trip for what it truly is now. I see that this experience has given me more than just the ability to experience another country, but the ability to persevere and find an inner strength I never knew was there. Granted, I believe I may have been faced with a harder time than most will or have experienced, but regardless I’m overcoming it and will have so much more to bring back than expected.

Uganda Bureau of Statistics
Pacific interns at their orientation meeting, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Kampala. Brianna is 4th from the right. The others are Chris Yankowski, 5th from left, and Lonnae Hohman, center.

As for my experience at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, I have enjoyed my time here regardless of challenges I’ve faced. The people who work here are always so kind and happy to see one another. The office environment here is nothing like ones I have seen in America. Here they don’t seem to have assigned desks and if they do, then they are just very open to sharing it with anyone. You will see groups of people working together at one desk and think that it may look too crammed, but to them it’s just fine.

I like the atmosphere and truly appreciate the amount of respect we receive as university students from America. Sometimes I think they may give us way more credit than we deserve. I just mean that the assignments they give us are assignments they would give to an employee here who has at least a bachelor’s degree in statistics.

When we were first given one of the data analysis assignments I felt very discouraged that I didn’t know what I was doing because I didn’t even know two of the words used in the vague, two-sentence directions we received. After we began working on it, I realized that Pacific implements statistics, graphing and analyzing in many of its classes. My graphing skills have improved since working on the assignments here, but I would not have even known where to start if it wasn’t for General Biology.

I honestly couldn’t be more proud to be a Pacific student because even though our classes may be harder than other schools, I am getting a well-rounded education that can be applied in the real world. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the first assignment was a challenge, but we learned that we knew and could handle a lot more than we originally expected.

All in all, I am enjoying my experience and appreciate this amazing opportunity. I am so thankful for the things I never expected to learn and skills I never expected to gain. I know I will be coming home a different person than I was when I arrived here over a month ago, but I am proud and thankful to be this new person.

I am always the one who will look at the biggest roller coaster in a park and, despite the absolute fear I have in my stomach, want to ride it. The anticipation is scary, but once the ride begins there is no turning back. I pride myself in having the courage to ride the scariest rides and put myself through the most difficult challenges. That is why I believe I chose this trip and why I am proud that I did.

Again, this is not a trip for the weak. I can’t wait to come back and be faced with challenges I once was afraid of because now I know I can handle so much more than I could before.

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