Charlotte during her studies in Uganda
Charlotte left the Netherlands to study in Uganda: "Most Ugandans have an abundance of social skills when compared to most Dutch people".
- Living Abroad
What was the first thing you thought when you got off the plane/bus/train/car?
"Jesus, I forgot how hot it gets here." And also: "I missed the smell of the air around here." (The air in most of Sub-Saharan Africa smells has a very distinctive smell, it smells very much like firewood. I always miss it whenever I'm back home in Holland.)
What was the most shocking difference between your home country and your new country?
I'd probably say.. People's manners. Most Ugandans have an abundance of social skills when compared to most Dutch people. Although that wasn't really shocking to me, as I'd been to Uganda before -- but I vividly remember being shocked by it the first time I visited the country. Also, due to people being so polite, whenever you're having a conversation with someone it will take at least ten minutes before you get to the actual point of the conversation; they will go through all of your family members first, ask how they're doing and such (which at times can be a little annoying when you're in a hurry -- especially since I'm Dutch and generally very direct).
Did you ever feel homesick? How did you cope with this?
Rarely, but whenever I did, I'd call my family members or surround myself with some Dutch people. The Dutch community in Uganda is pretty large, so I'd run into Dutch people everywhere. Also, my family came to visit me in Uganda, so that made it far easier.
Did you feel at home in your new country? Why (not)?
I did, mostly. Again, thanks to most Ugandans being so kind. I've always said I would move there in a heartbeat and I probably will, after I finish my master's degree. On top of that, I love the warmer weather (although it sometimes gets a little too warm around December and January) and the nature is just so pretty. But in the end, you'll always run into some minor problems whilst trying to adjust to the local way of life.
Please give us tips about who to befriend when living abroad. The Russians? The Irish? The Chileans?
There weren't that many international students studying at Makerere University, although I befriended a girl from Finland that I hung out with every day. She was very chill and feminist rants were kind of her thing, so we immediately hit it off. Besides that, I hung out with some Dutch people, although I generally thought they were way too loud and often way out of line when it came to how they behaved around the locals (i.e. racist remarks, not trying to learn the local language at all, even if they had been living there for years, making their personnel clean their underwear, even though that's one of the biggest taboos amongst Ugandans). Most expats in Uganda are American and they are mostly there to spread Christianity and homophobia, so I avoided them like the plague.
Describe the inhabitants of the new country in three words.
Kind, chill, curious.
What did you learn from your experience abroad? Was it the loving community you liked? The cheap cocktails? The overwhelming nature? Or was the experience less helpful than expected? Details, we want details!
I would say a combination of the loving community, the overall experience (attending university on the other side of the world), becoming a more independent person and the overwhelming nature. Did I learn a lot while attending university in Kampala? No. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world either way.