Frequently Asked Questions
You have probably heard a great deal about East Africa and Uganda, but like any region, the specific details within one area will vary greatly. Read our FAQs to find out more about where you will be for the semester.
Where does the program take place?
The program takes place in the beautiful country of Uganda! During most of your semester you will live in Mukono, Uganda, where USP's host institution Uganda Christian University is located. The town of Mukono feels a bit like a small town in the US - one main strip lined with storefronts and busy residential streets that sprawl out into the surrounding area. Mukono is about an hour drive from the capital city of Kampala. While your primary home will be in Mukono, you will have the opportunity to visit Kampala through field trips, with your UCU friends and on your own. A few of our practicums sites are located in Kampala.
Throughout your semester you will also travel with USP to locations within Uganda and to the neighboring country of Rwanda.
What is the climate like?
Uganda’s climate is pretty close to paradise! Day time temperatures are warm, between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit throughout most of the year, with evening temperatures of 65-75 degrees. There are two rainy seasons each year: from March-May and again from November-December. Even during the rainy seasons, a day rarely passes without sunshine!
You will spend a few weekends in the highland regions of the country, where temperatures can become cooler, into the 60s, so be prepared to layer on those occasions!
What is the geography like?
Uganda is located in East Africa and is literally on the equator. It is sandwiched between Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, and it also shares part of Lake Victoria with Tanzania.
You will be living in the central region of Uganda, just north of Lake Victoria. Mukono is between the capital city of Kampala to the west, and the source of the Nile River in Jinja to the east. The terrain is quite hilly in the central region of Uganda, and it is also very green! Uganda Christian University is on a sizeable hill, so you will get plenty of exercise walking to and from class and into Mukono Town.
When you travel to the east for Rural Home Stays, you will see the plains of Uganda and the highlands of the Mt. Elgon foothills. The plains are covered with sparse vegetation, including various palm and acacia trees, and are flat as far as you can see, and it is typically much hotter and drier in the plains. The highlands, however, are marked by tall hills and lots of green vegetation and cooler temperatures.
Will I get to travel throughout the semester?
Yes! You will get to travel through much of Uganda and Rwanda during USP. While you will live in Mukono for most of the semester, your coursework will take you to Eastern Uganda to see the plains and highlands, to Southwestern Uganda to see the deepest lake in the country, and to Central Uganda to see the source of the Nile. You will also travel throughout Rwanda for a week at the beginning of your semester (Fall semester) or at the end of your semester (Spring semester).
Additionally, students often plan their own weekend trip to Western Uganda for a safari, and many also revisit the town of Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile.
In the United States it is easy to stay connected to family and friends. But what about in Uganda?? How can you get in touch with USP classmates and new local friends? How will you stay up to date on what is happening back home? In the FAQs below we discuss common questions related to communication and technology.
Will I be able to use a cell phone?
Absolutely! Cell phones are widely used throughout Uganda, including the most remote areas. USP will issue you a Nokia cell phone to use during the semester. This is for emergencies, but it can also be used for regular communication with your USP peers, Ugandan friends and family, program staff, and even family and friends back in the US! You will receive more information about this upon acceptance to the program.
Additionally, most students bring their smartphone to connect to wireless internet on campus, or whenever it is available. Some students get an international call/data plan, but this is often quite expensive and isn’t necessary.
How can I best communicate back home?
You can communicate back home in many of the same ways you do from college – phone calls, WhatsApp, emails, Skype, blog, or Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/insert-social-media-platform-here...
You will be able to access various “bundles” on your USP@UCU-issued Nokia phone to make calling home cheaper. (Though you may want to have friends/family check their plans to see what it costs them to receive your calls!) Otherwise, you will have internet access substantial enough to support your regular communication back home. While internet-based video calling typically requires more bandwidth, and doesn’t always work, you can also call through WhatsApp, Messenger and other platforms fairly easily.
Can I have visitors while I am in Uganda?
To be honest, it’s just not a great idea to have visitors while you are in Uganda during the program. Your schedule will be pretty packed all semester with program-related activities and coursework, and your active participation and engagement is essential for the most in-depth experience. You are welcome to seek ways to have visitors before or after the program dates, though. You will be responsible for arranging your own travel and accommodations, but after four months in Uganda, that will be much easier to do than you think!
Should I bring a laptop or tablet with me?
Yes, we recommend that you do! While there are ways for you to access the internet and complete assignments on campus computers, it will be inconvenient if you don’t have your own laptop or tablet, preferably with Microsoft Word. The computer lab on campus is far from the dorms and the internet access can be spotty with the wired connection.
Most course work is submitted online, either emailed to your lecturer or through UCU’s eLearning platform. This will prove challenging without your own laptop/device. For the lecturers who only accept printed papers, there are a number of small print shops on campus. They will print documents from flash drives for a small fee (less than $.05 per page).
It is important and fun to read about life in the Uganda Studies Program at UCU, but at some point, you need to actually get there. So what do you need to know before you step on that plane? Read these FAQs about travel to find out!
How will I get to and from the program?
We recommend an airplane! You will need to buy your own ticket to and from Entebbe Airport (EBB), Uganda. Once you are accepted to the program, we will send you information about booking your flight, including suggested airlines and the arrival window in which the program staff will pick you up at the airport.
Will I need a passport?
You will definitely need a passport! More specifically, your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months after the date of your return to the United States. If you do not yet have a passport, start looking into it now! Be ready to apply for one, or renew if necessary, once you are accepted to USP.
Be advised: There are a number of requirements needed for the passport application. And after you submit the application, it generally takes 4-6 weeks until you receive your passport. To apply for a passport, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. To renew your passport, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
Will I need a visa?
Yes, you will need to apply online for your East Africa Tourist Visa. Once you have been accepted to the program, we will send you detailed instructions for this process. The East Africa Tourist Visa is $100, which you will pay online when you apply.
NOTE: The visa you receive through the online application will be a tourist visa
, valid for three months (which happens to be significantly shorter than the USP semester). When you are in Uganda, you will receive a student visa
through the program that will cover you for the entirety of your semester with USP@UCU.
While your time with the USP@UCU is sure to be an eye-opening adventure, your main purpose in being there will be to learn. In fact, we think this is half the adventure, especially since you will be learning through doing
in addition to time in the classroom. Read these FAQs to find out more about the program’s academics.
How many credits will I receive? What exactly will I be studying?
We recommend that you enroll in 13-16 credits of coursework at USP@UCU, but this may vary by student and by which emphasis you choose. All students will take a core course called ‘Faith & Action in the Ugandan Context’ for 4 credits, which follows the entire trajectory of the program from classroom learning, to your experiences staying with host families and traveling to Rwanda.
Beyond Faith & Action, your credit load will depend on your emphasis. USP@UCU is unique in that it offers two specialized academic tracks in Social Work and Global Health. Students from all other majors will apply to the Interdisciplinary Emphasis. All three emphases give students the opportunity to complete and receive credit for internships while studying in Uganda. Other USP coursework is in areas of theology, politics, literature, and language, all in relation to Uganda and East Africa. You can also choose from several General Education or Foundation Studies Courses at UCU (Old Testament, New Testament, Ethics etc.)
For more information about coursework, see the USP@UCU Academics page: https://www.ugandastudiesprogram.org/academics
Where will I be taking classes?
All of your classes will take place at Uganda Christian University (UCU), the host of the Uganda Studies Program at UCU. The campus is absolutely beautiful: the lush green of the flowering trees that bloom intermittently throughout the year contrasts with the bold red dirt of the paths that connect the academic and residence buildings. You can walk from one end of campus to the other in twenty minutes, and you will frequently find yourself running into friends and lecturers on your way to class or the canteens (campus snack shops).
The Faith & Action and practicum/internship courses will take you outside of your classroom into home stays, non-profit organizations, ministries, and historical and cultural centers throughout Uganda and Rwanda.
How do internships work?
Did you know that you can intern at a local Ugandan organization for credit while at USP? It’s true!
Students in the Interdisciplinary Emphasis
(IE) and Global Health Emphasis
(GHE) have the opportunity to take a Cross-Cultural Practicum (4 credits minimum), which includes a practicum of 80-160 hours throughout the semester for IE students, and 150 hours for GHE students. IE students will complete these hours at partner organizations such as schools, child development centers, community-based organizations, public health programs and more. GHE students will do their internships with a local clinic, hospital, public health organization, or other health service provider. You will be matched with a practicum site based on your interests and placed after arrival in Uganda.
If you are a social work major the Social Work Emphasis
(SWE) offers a rare opportunity to complete a junior or senior level social work practicum of 150 or 400+ hours, respectively, under the supervision of the USP Social Work Coordinator (Lisa Tokpa, MSW). Please note that you should be a declared social work major to apply for the Social Work Emphasis. Exceptions to this are on a case-by-case basis and in communication with the Social Work Coordinator.
For more information about the Cross-Cultural Practicum (IE or GHE) and the Social Work Emphasis practicum, visit the Academics
page of the USP@UCU website.
Can I study a language in Uganda?
Yes, you can study one of two languages in Uganda! You can either study Luganda, the most widely spoken language where you will be living; or Kiswahili, the most prevalent African language in East Africa. Better still, you can take up to 6 credits of Luganda or 6 credits of Kiswahili! Language courses are offered as UCU elective credit.
If you study Luganda, you will most likely be able to practice your new language skills with your host family and at your practicum or internship site. Although Kiswahili is not spoken by as many Ugandans, it is a very useful language to study if you plan on returning to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo where Kiswahili is more widely spoken. This truly is an incredible opportunity!
Who will be teaching my classes?
Your classes will be taught by North American lecturers who work on the USP team as well as Ugandan lecturers who work at Uganda Christian University. Language classes are taught by our partnering language school.
Rachel Robinson serves as the director of the Uganda Studies Program. She is a graduate of Gordon College, where she studied visual art, and the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she earned a Master's in Community Art.
Lisa Tokpa and Micah Hughes are each program coordinators who teach the emphasis-specific classes and coordinate practicum experiences. Lisa completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology and Business Administration at William Jewell College. She also has a Master’s in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Micah completed his undergraduate studies in Biology and Anthropology at Wheaton College, and has a Master’s in Biotechnology from Rush University.
Eddie Tokpa also works for the program as an adjunct faculty member. Eddie graduated from Daystar University, and then Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya where he received his Master’s in Global Missions. In 2016, Eddie received another Master’s in International Development from Eastern University. Eddie oversees homestays and coordinates much of the academic travel within USP@UCU.
Who will be in my classes? Local students or USP students only?
You may have the opportunity for both! Most of your classes will be with your fellow USP@UCU students, but there are a few electives offered by Uganda Christian University (UCU) that will have other UCU students enrolled in them. These electives include New Testament, Old Testament, Health and Wholeness, Worldviews, and Ethics. SWE Seniors and some GHE students have the least flexibility in their schedules due to required coursework through USP@UCU, IE and SWE Juniors tend to have the most flexibility.
You have probably already figured out that your day-to-day to life in Uganda will look quite different than it does right now. But you are probably wondering exactly how different, right? In this FAQ series, we answer some common questions about daily life in USP.
Where will I live? Will I be living with a host family?
During the application process, you choose and apply to one of two living contexts: On-Campus or Homestay. On-Campus students live in the dorms on campus at Uganda Christian University (UCU), and Homestay students live with a host family for the full semester. When you fill out your application to USP, please consider the following:
Homestay students will walk to and from campus during the week for your classes and spend evenings and weekends with your family. Host families live between 10 and 45 minutes away from UCU.
On-Campus students will live in the dorms on UCU’s campus. You will share a room with between one and three other USP students, UCU students, or both. If you prefer this option but still want a glimpse of life with a host family, don’t worry! You will have the chance to experience a two-week long home stay in Mukono at the beginning of your semester to get a taste of life with a Ugandan family and will be able to visit them throughout the remainder of your semester in Uganda.
No matter which living context you choose for the semester, you will have the opportunity to live with a Ugandan family in a village for a week in the middle of your semester when we do Rural Homestays. This is an experience described by USP alumni as truly unforgettable.
How will I get around?
In your day-to-day travel you will mostly walk! Your dorm or host family’s home will be within walking distance of your classes on campus.
At other times, you may taxi (but they are not taxis as you know them). In Uganda, a ‘taxi’ refers to a 14-passenger van with a ‘conductor’ who shouts out the window where the vehicle is heading. A slight nod of your head will tell him to pull over and let you on board, where you will pay him your 2,500 shillings (~$1.00) to get to the capital, Kampala. Alternatively, you may take a ‘private hire,’ which more closely resembles in practice (and in price) what we call a taxi in the US.
On any program-related travel, including to/from your practicum site, you will travel by private van or bus provided through USP@UCU.
Can I attend church?
Absolutely! There are many different kinds of churches in Uganda, just like in the US. You will be able to engage in unique church experiences through your time with your host families and while traveling to different parts of Uganda and Rwanda, including church in a rural setting.
The host of USP, Uganda Christian University, is part of the Anglican Church of Uganda, and has a service on campus every Sunday. Many other denominations are represented in Uganda as well. Students say that they experience substantial spiritual growth and renewal through regularly attending a local church in Uganda as they see their faith through a new cultural lens.
What is a typical day like?
In a typical week, you spend each day much like you would at your home college or university, except that you will be in UGANDA! You will wake up to a warm sunrise, share meals with your host family or classmates, study politics, literature, public health, microbiology, religion, Luganda or Kiswahili, and other topics in your classes. You will walk the dusty roads into Mukono town to go to the market to get fresh mangos and bananas.
Regardless of your chosen academic emphasis, you will work alongside Ugandan colleagues at your assigned internship site. During those times, you will build relationships with the clients served by that organization and learn from your Ugandan supervisor and coworkers who serve them.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays you will join the community of Uganda Christian University in Community Worship. This equivalent of a chapel service brings together students, faculty, and neighbors of the university in a lively worship service.
In your free time, you might spend time getting to know Mukono and the capital city of Kampala, going on safari, or rafting the Nile River!
Of course, this will all vary on occasion: When you are experiencing life in rural Uganda, you will dig in the garden, care for livestock, and prepare food. On debrief retreats, you will enter into reflection and discussion with your peers and USP staff as you process your experience. And when traveling through Rwanda, you will learn about the country’s culture and history.
What will I eat?
Rice and beans! Not kidding, you will eat a lot of rice and beans in Uganda. This will usually be accompanied by other local foods like matooke
, g-nut sauce, cassava, beef, fish or chicken soup, and a variety of wonderful fruits like mango, passion fruit, pineapple, jackfruit, papaya, and avocado. Have we mentioned the Rolex? You and your friends will definitely go ‘Rolling’ to pick up this delicious Ugandan specialty consisting essentially of an omelet rolled up inside a chapati
Excited to try some unique, local cuisine? Your Ugandan hosts will introduce you to lots of new foods if you’re up for it. Give the following a try if you’re feeling adventurous: white ants, chicken gizzard, fish brains, or grasshoppers!
What is the program community like?
It is likely that you will make some of the closest friends of your college experience while in Uganda. There are typically about 20-25 students from various Christian colleges and universities across North America who participate in USP@UCU each semester. Your new friends and roommates will share in the profound experiences that happen throughout the semester - naturally, this will draw you close to one another. And what’s more, the community built between you and your peers at USP@UCU will last long after your time together in Uganda. USP@UCU alumni are known for staying connected through email, Facebook, and in-person mini-reunions! These will truly be life-long friendships.
These bonds within your USP community will be a wonderful complement to the new relationships that you will also build with Ugandans: your host family, fellow students at UCU, coworkers at your practicum or internship site, and many others with whom you will interact during your semester.
One of the most thrilling, and simultaneously challenging, aspects of your time abroad will be learning about Ugandan culture by actually participating in it. How will that happen? What will it be like? Read these FAQs for answers to your questions about culture and language.
Will I need to know the language?
Lucky for you, English is the official language of Uganda! It is also the primary language of instruction, so you will be able to understand all of your lecturers in class. That said, there are more than 40 additional languages spoken in Uganda, and you will hear many of them! Most excitingly, you will have the opportunity to learn Luganda, the most widely spoken language in the town where you will live, and Kiswahili, the most widely spoken language in all of East Africa.
Will I be interacting with local people? What are they like?
Every day! You will live with Ugandans (either in a campus dorm or with a host family), go to school with about 4,000 Ugandan and other African students at Uganda Christian University, and meet Ugandans just about everywhere you go! Ugandans are incredibly hospitable and welcoming toward Americans and other Westerners.
What are the most significant differences between life in Uganda and life in the US?
We hope you’re up for an adventure! The pace of life is much slower than life in the US, and there will be a lot of adjustments to make. But the USP@UCU team, as well as your many Ugandan hosts, will help you to become acquainted with your new home and school.
There are many differences between life in Uganda and the US. You will spend the first couple of weeks in Uganda going through what is called “country shock.” During this time, you’ll adjust to the most tangible differences about life in Uganda. Some of these include:
- Weather and climate: Uganda is on the equator, so it is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny for most of the year.
- Food: Ugandans eat mostly grains like rice and potatoes with sauces comprised of beans or meat stews.
- Laundry: You will be doing laundry by hand all semester – no washing machines or dryers!
- Getting around: Expect to do a lot of walking to get almost anywhere within the university and surrounding town. The area is very hilly, so you will get plenty of exercise.
- Expressions: Even though your Ugandan peers speak English, there are some phrases that will be strange to hear. For instance, if someone hasn’t seen you in a while they might say, “you have been lost!”
After a few weeks, this will all be second nature for you!