When I embarked on a semester-long study abroad experience to Uganda, I was looking to get out of my comfort zone, try new things, grow as a person, and come home with a new perspective. That is exactly what happened to me.
The majority of those experiences happened because I had the opportunity to live with a family in Kampala for two months. This homestay was the most challenging part of my SIT Uganda study abroad experience, but it was also the most rewarding.
Every morning at 6 o’clock, mami Kiaga would knock on the door of my small room to wake me up. I would roll over on the thin mattress, emerge from my tangled mosquito net, use the pit latrine, take a bucket bath, put on my skirt and blouse that had been ironed the night before, and help my four-year-old sister Hannah put on her uniform. Then we would all take tea and bread, pile in the van, and navigate Kampala traffic before making it to school by 8:30.
This was very different from my previous semester at a US college. My day-to-day routine in Uganda took some getting used to. But I was contributing and I was learning. Every day was a lesson in culture, humanity, and self-discovery.
Living in a homestay was also rewarding because I was able to build such a close relationship with my family. Despite our differences, I feel like a daughter to the Kiagas. From day one they were always looking out for me, and making sure I had everything I needed. I know I can always count on the Kiagas to be there for me.
They taught me how to cook beans and peel matoke[plantains]. They also helped me practice Luganda (and were excited when I would use it on my own). I had some great conversations about some of the issues going on in Uganda and was able to get their perspective on many things we learned in class. They shared their struggles with me and made the issues personal, giving me a deeper understanding of what it means to live in Uganda.
I had the opportunity to travel back to Uganda a few months later, and my Ugandan family was anxiously waiting. We spent many hours catching up, and I will never forget the joy on my homestay sister’s face when we surprised her at school.
Studying abroad is not just about taking classes; it’s also about getting to know people and moving out of your comfort zone. It’s about having experiences that give you direction for the future. There’s no better way to do this than becoming a part of a family and sharing their ups and downs. Part of my heart will always be in Uganda because of the amazing people I was blessed to have met there, including the members of my homestay family.
- Kelly Muenchen