Six years ago I stood in their shoes as I departed for Uganda as a young graduate student with the MHIRT Program at CBU. This experience was truly transformative. Living and working in rural Uganda, alongside Ugandan university faculty and students; learning firsthand about health disparities impacting the Global South; exploring the history of political conflict and its impacts on individuals and communities; led me to my current position as the MHIRT Program Coordinator and Uganda Site Director, and enabled me to continue my graduate studies in anthropology and pursue doctoral fieldwork in Uganda. My life and my career were indelibly shaped by that one summer experience.
To the MHIRT 2012 students, I want to pass along what one of my mentors told me:
"This summer experience may or may not change the course of your life. But it will will forever shape the way you think about the world and your place in it... You will return home more critical in your thinking, more empathetic, more inspired, and perhaps a bit disillusioned as well. You will form friendships that may last the rest of your life, both with one another and with the Ugandans [and Brazilians] you meet. And hopefully you will leave something equally important behind, something you co-create with Brazilian and Ugandan friends and mentors - the sense that human solidarity can always transcend the arbitrariness of our birth and nationality. From that realization great things can follow."
Be yourselves. Be students. Soak up everything. Eat something you've never seen before - even if it's a fried grasshopper. Get homesick...then get over it (trust me, you will miss the country once you return to the US). Listen before talking. Observe before judging. Learn. Grow. Enjoy!
I wish you all safe and inspiring journeys!