May 13th, 2015
It hit me when I sold the couch. I was standing in the rain outside my garage in downtown Halifax, helping a friendly British woman load my couch onto her friend’s trailer. It had been a staple in all of my student apartments over the past four years, and before that it sat in the living room in my childhood home. Needless to say the couch and I had history. But it wasn’t the only sentimental piece of furniture I’d sold that week. In the proceeding month I’d posted numerous Kijiji ads, gotten several vaccinations, bought plane tickets, and a whole slew of other logistical things. In the marathon of planning that leads up to any big trip my focus was on ticking things off my to-do list rather than thinking about the big picture. The weight of the various things to do obscured any view of WHY I was doing all of this prep. But selling the couch was the last thing on my to-do list. And that’s when it finally hit me: I’m going to Uganda!
Now, eighteen hours later, I’m sitting on a flight from Brussels to Entebbe, which is the third flight I’ve taken today. Looking out the window I can see the Sahara desert sprawling out below me with no end in sight. The plane is flying parallel to the Nile, and for the better part of the last hour my nose has been pressed to the window trying to take it all in. But before I get too excited, let me back up and explain some context. Several weeks ago, I was selected to participate in the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships Program. The purpose of the program is to:
“Increase collaboration between Canadian universities and Commonwealth country partners, via student scholarship placements, to lay the foundation for the next generation of entrepreneurs, public servants, community leaders and academics with innovative minds and a sense of commitment to Canada and the Commonwealth.”
The program is currently in its first year and was created in response to a recommendation by the Queen herself. It is administered by Community Foundations of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Universities Canada, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFAIT). Dalhousie University was one of the lucky schools across Canada to have received funding to send students on international placements. As a result, this summer five students will be going to work abroad: one to Barbados, one to Tanzania, and three of us to Uganda.
For the past few weeks we’ve been attending pre-departure training sessions to prepare for our in-country placements, where we will be working for 90 days.The three of us going to Uganda will be interning for two NGOs that work to address issues of food security within the country and the region. As food security is a topic that I’ve become very interested in the last few years, I couldn’t be more excited to get hands on experience in the field. Moreover, as I am a Political Science and International Development Studies student, this internship will utilize the skills I’ve learned thus far in my degree. Not to mention that I’ve never been to any country in Africa, which in itself will be an incredible experience!
All that to say that as I stare out the window at the continent far below, I can’t wait for the adventure to begin.
Link to an article about the QES II Program: http://cfc-fcc.ca/news/news.cfm?intNewsID=2222