Study abroad with SIT is a bit different from most programs. The first two months abroad are spent listening to lecturers and traveling around Uganda. The program concludes with a six-week independent project where students either complete research or intern with an organization that works in development.
I’m currently interning with Impact Ministries in Mbale. Here’s what I thought I would be doing: Working with their school and orphanage by putting on my best camp-counselor self and leading the kids in awesome games including (but not limited to) the human knot, magic carpet, and I’m going to the picnic. Within about 10 minutes of my first attempt I realized this wasn’t going to work. The kids can’t understand my English and when I ask them if they do understand they all answer, “yes” in unison. Even if I ask two questions in a row that contradict each other: “Am I speaking too fast?,” “Yes,” “Do you understand me,” “Yes.” Sorry kids, one of those answers had to be “no.”
What I’m doing instead: I’m working with people between ages 18-30 (rough guestimate) and teaching them things like resume writing, business letters, time management, budgeting and most importantly computers. It’s interesting trying to teach five people at one time how to use Microsoft Word, when there is only one functioning computer. I’m also teaching typing. Thankfully I have about 5 keyboards, even if they are missing the rest of the computer. Never did I think that I would have to physically curl my student’s hands to show them how to properly line their fingers up on a,s,d,f,j,k,l,; . It’s an interesting dynamic to tap their fingers to show which is the proper one to move up to the “y” key. Essentially, I play various versions of Scrabble against myself and to give them words to type, and they type them. Such fun! But seriously, I am really enjoying it and they are all so grateful. Most of them have never used a computer before, and I need to remind myself this often. The biggest challenge is African time. Despite my sign up-sheets and constant reminders we start on Muzungu (white-person) time (a suggestion they all kind of laugh at), people still arrive at 5:45 for the class that is meant to go from 5-6. People come to the classes they didn’t sign up for and don’t come to the ones that they do. I have students who are getting pretty good at Word and students who have never typed before showing up at the same time, despite the fact that I have created different classes for these things. In the end though it’s worth it, and it has given me the patience of a saint!
Megan Henning is studying abroad in Uganda with SIT Study Abroad.