The Paradox of Being a U.S. Intern in a Ugandan Refugee Settlement

There are things in life that all of the reading, videos and frantic Googling cannot prepare you for. My experience providing emergency relief and humanitarian aid for newly-arrived refugees in Uganda was one of them.

I am currently residing in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, where I spend my weekdays as an intern under the Humanitarian Aid sector for Action Africa Help (AAH), a non-governmental organization that supports communities in conflict and post-conflict situations (e.g. refugees and internally displaced people).

“The issues you will see here started long before you came and will continue long after you are gone.” This was one of the first things one of my intern supervisors at AAH told me when I reached the settlement.

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Student by Day, Tourist by Night

Before I arrived in Bangkok, I had a very clear idea of what my role here would be. I was going to be a student. I don’t mean to flaunt, but with a whole life of experience and a passion for learning, I think I’m pretty good at being a student. This confidence made me feel as though I had a leg up on the competition. It made me feel like taking the leap and spending six weeks in Thailand would be easy. I was both right and wrong.

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A Valuable Lesson Learned

When I decided to take a journey across the world five months ago, the first thing I was warned about was homesickness. “The first week will be the hardest,” they said. “You’ll miss every little thing about home, especially the things you wouldn’t expect.” Professors, fellow students, family and friends reiterated this more times than I can count. They made the first week sound absolutely treacherous.

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How to Afford Traveling (Working Student Edition)

I’ve been traveling internationally for the past 10 years and one question that I’m consistently asked is “how can you afford it?” As a full time student and restaurant server paying her own way in life, most people cannot understand how I could whisk off on an extended vacation every summer. Well, the answer lies in the bag of tricks I’ve accumulated along the way and below are a few of my best tips!

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LGBTQ+ Pride in Quito

I thought before I came to Quito that I would have to step back in the closet. My biggest fear was not travelling to a new country and learning a new culture, but it was the unknown of how the people would accept and perceive me. One week after arriving, I realized that you cannot have the experience of a lifetime if you are not true to who you are.

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How to Intern Abroad like a Boss

Interning abroad is a completely different experience than studying abroad, obviously. You can’t hide in the back of the lecture hall because you’re bored or slightly hung over. You will be constantly kicking yourself for not having paid more attention in second year German. You will be giving your best efforts to produce quality work by another culture’s standards (most likely for free). You’re handed tasks that range from doing dishes to doing things beyond your job title, often resulting in confusion and anxiety. However, if the first week jitters subside and your internship is falling short of your expectations, it helps to know how to turn the tables in your favor.

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