Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University junior Jennifer Coplen is spending her spring semester on a different continent. Working with the Food for the Hungry organization, Coplen, an elementary education major from Fort Wayne, Ind., is studying in more than one African country.
For the first part of her experience, she resided in Kampala, Uganda, but on Feb. 8, she left for Kigali, Rwanda. She will remain in Rwanda until April, when she will return to Uganda. While in the program, she will take four courses and a practicum. The course titles range from “African Traditional Culture and Religion” to “Issues in Peace-building: Genocide and Religious Diversity.”
a little girl in Kampala standing in her home
The classes involve a great deal of lecturing, some discussion and lots of field trips into the city. The students also have at least one major project in each of their classes that constitutes most of their grade. Most classes are held in the building they live in, although one class takes place at Makerere University in Kampala.
Coplen says in her spare time she enjoys traveling to the Italian market down the street to shop or snack on gelato. She also likes playing volleyball in her backyard with the other students in her house.
“I really do love being here,” Coplen said. “It is so much more than what I ever expected it could be.”
Elissa Plourde, a sophomore at Houghton College, and Coplen (right) on their way to their rural visit with an assistant that helps them adjust to the culture
Coplen says there is no one else from Huntington University with her in Africa, so she is able to see the world from an entirely different perspective, and she is excited to see how this will change her over the next few months. She says her growth so far is simply being outside of her comfort zone and being open to new friends and relationships.
Coplen says the culture is quite different in Kampala. Women are not allowed to show their knees or wear pants, and must have at least a thick tank top on, and men can usually wear shorts, although they are occasionally required to wear pants.
In Kampala, the students stayed in a Food for the Hungry guesthouse with three bunks per room and a private bathroom for each bedroom. The house also comes complete with a security guard, who is on duty 24/7; a cleaning woman; and a cook.
The food the cook makes for the students is American, but Coplen has experienced some traditional food such as matoke (steamed, mashed bananas), posho (corn meal cakes) and cassava (steamed root).
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