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Volunteering in Curitiba, Brazil by Susana Mpinge

Growing up I have meet so many people from different countries in Namibia and with that came the curiosity of wanting to experience a different environment and culture. So an opportunity arose and I grabbed it. I came across AIESEC Namibia exchange programme and decided to go do a volunteering internship in Curitiba, Brazil, for 2 months.

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I was working in the Gira Mundo project in a NGO responsible for young girls who have suffered abuse, crime or cannot stay with their families due to the place not being safe. I with other interns from other countries taught the girls through workshops, lectures, games and other activities on four different subjects: social responsibility, entrepreneurship, cultural differences and sustainability.

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Before I got to Brazil, I was expecting it to be as they advertise in the movies: everyone beautiful with perfect bodies. Don’t get me wrong they are beautiful but not perfect but I must say their culture is amazing, loving and unified.

During my stay, I traveled to the following places: Sao Paulo and Rio de Janerio. The language (Portuguese) was the main challenge but I was crazy enough to go without knowing even basic Portuguese. The trips were amazing and I got to meet different types of Brazilians from different states of Brazil.

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I would say that the experience has made me a better individual. The way I reason is different, the way I see life and opportunities are different. My personality has defiantly improved, so is my understanding of other peoples cultures. I have built a network of friends around the world. I can go somewhere now and know I am safe as I have friends that I know personally.
I would recommend anyone interested in the exchange programme to go abroad, it’s a different world out there. It was the best challenge andI now know how it feels like to overcome my fears.

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People will always have something negative to say about any place but it is until you get there and experience it yourself that you realize it came be  a home away from home. I now have a family in Brazil that I can go back any time. My host family have treated me far better than some my own family. I love them so much.

My volunteering experience in Maputo by Tuli Pandeni

In Nov/Dec 2013, I decided to step out of my comfort zone (Namibia My Motherland), to break out of this hard shell that has confined me to the four corners of my room and be amongst the first generation of AIESEC Namibia members to go on an exchange, but little did I know what awaits me on the other side of the borders. A two day bus trip to Mozambique was the longest trip I have ever taken, but a long comfortable ride it was, thanks to Intercape.
So I’m embarking on a journey that is supposedly to be the most incredible experience of my life. I’m a victim of Matthias Kunz & Djamila’s (AIESEC Namibia founding president and first lady) exceptional sales skills: “Mozambique is so beautiful, you would love it there, sounding all convincing to most.

In my head, been my typical wambo negative self I was like “BLUH, WATEVA” What could be so beautiful about this African country, falls, beaches, forests & bushes? I’ve seen them all, Namibia is the one, we got it all, been there seen it all, but I went anyhow. All I wanted was a breather, a change in scenery, a holiday where I didn’t have to travel to the north ( with its 40 ◦C weather ) and I wanted to get my experience , do something productive and grow.

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On my arrival in Maputo, I was so shocked. What I virtualized about Mozambique was not what I saw in reality: not as clean as Namibia.
Looking on the brighter side, WOW! What tall buildings this town had, I swear if you were on top of one, you where an inch closer to touching the clouds and heaven itself (now that’s my imagination running wild), but this were the tallest buildings I have ever seen, tallest but very old. We arrived at a 14 flight apartment building, which was going to be my new home for the next 6 weeks, I and 20 other students in a five bedroom apartment and did I mention we lived on the 13th floor, the second last floor in a building where it was all stairs, as the elevators broke down centuries ago by the look of things, talk about a home gym….

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My attachment was at an orphanage called Reencontro Orphanage, where we were mainly interns from South Africa, Botswana and I from Namibia. Our job description was mainly to fundraise for the orphanage home, we were a group of ±interns who teamed up on a project to conduct workshops (on personnel hygiene, dreaming big, self –esteem etc.) and having one big fair for children of 9-15 years of age. A tough 6 weeks it was, a lot of trials & tribulation and language barriers along the way, but a successful internship and project we had. This is where every intern contributed the little they could; be it a smile or a hug to brighten up someone’s day, to the workshop presentation or the organization of the fair. I for one was privileged to have been part of the team, to have helped and added value to someone’s life especially the children of Reencontro Orphanage.

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On the fun side, for leisure there was so much to do. Partying, shopping , sightseeing, Mozambique is a beautiful country I should conclude from the little is saw , even though because of finances I was not able to visit all the touristic attractions , I’m definitely saving up to go back and be the explore some more. Mozambique, Maputo is amongst, if not the safest country/city in the world.

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“Life is a long journey, just make sure you take the right road”- Unknown

Well I have surely taken the right road that taught me so much , an experience I would never forget , an experience that opened my eyes to new opportunities & Goals , that has connected me to other strong- minded, ambitious student, visionaries , some of whom ,I’ll cherish as friends despite the geographical distances. I meet different personalities & cultures that have taken and added different values and aspects to my life that changed me in more ways than one; mentally and emotionally.

My life will never be the same again, that “Wambo” negative girl is no more, a better me was born.

My Maputo Volunteering Experience by Tutala Uushona

Naturally, I love to work. Every holiday I am working. So this time I was browsing the internet and I stumbled upon the global internships. I have heard of AIESEC and its professionalism. Browsing through the website, I saw the Kutenga project and immediately I knew that it was something I wanted to spend my holiday doing.

I had very high expectations of AIESEC Mozambique, not only because of the level of competence that was portrayed by AIESEC Namibia, but because of the way they handled the whole interview process. Little did I know I was in for a big mess of a surprise.  I expected for everything to go as it was presented to me, a welcoming, and an internship with Kutenga. I expected to acquire new skills in the profession, and to improve where I slacked.

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Things started going wrong upon arrival. Firstly, I was left to fend for myself for an hour, my calls were being answered and dropped and then I finally got an address, which by the way, they forgot to mention was the wrong address. I was lucky to have made a friend on the bus who was helping me with everything, going to the wrong address and returning to the station until eventually an AIESEC UEM member showed up. So I didn’t get the big welcome, which was disappointing, and already I felt not welcome. And the next six weeks were not easy either.

I was placed with a family in an apartment were we were sharing one small room with four other trainees. I was greeted with, who is this? You didn’t tell us you were bringing another girl, and complaints about AIESEC UEM. The family was not so pleased either.  All I could think of was, this will be worth it when I start working. The next morning after my arrival I was ready to go to work, but after a while, I was still in the same apartment. The answer I always got was, there is no work today. I was then placed at Impact Weeks, which was an amazing project as the children were so eager to learn and they were such a delight. I also helped with the Christmas party at VGV which was a tremendous success.

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Although the period of no work were fun, traveling with other trainees, I didn’t go to play tourist in Mozambique. The main challenge for me was the level of mediocrity within the organization in Maputo. They had no respect for time whatsoever, nothing was ever done the way it was said to be done and the biggest challenge of them all COMMUNICATION!

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I was quite impressed with the one thing that was done right for me, which was my birthday. It was the one day that things were done accordingly as I had mentioned in my wish list. My birthday for me, is as important as the consumption of water is to humans. The one thing that shocked me during my birthday party was the way the people are so touchy; it was so extreme that one of my roommates cried harassment.

Through all this, I can truly say that I have learned perseverance and patience. I was always the one giving them guidelines on how to communicate, and eventually I accepted that I would just have to keep repeating the lesson. I had met amazing people from around the world, some of them have become my best friends, like two in particular Kiito (Namibia) and Nadine (Germany) of whom we almost did everything together. I would say that the people of Mozambique outside of AIESEC were very nice and interesting. Mozambique is a very beautiful country that I would travel to again. My experience has taught me to appreciate what I would naturally disregard, like punctuality at work.

I would definitely recommend people to go on such exchanges because they test you, and teach you that you are stronger than the limits set. It is a chance to not only discover yourself, make friends but to also learn and be a global citizen that is not oblivious to things that happen outside your perceived world. And if you do choose to go to Maputo, my advice to you is, be strong and try to exercise patience.

Volunteering in São Luís – Brazil by Israel Gawiseb

Brazil, a country I have admired as a kid. Seeing the opportunity in AIESEC, I knew this was it. I had to go there. I decided this was the opportunity to see the country I’ve always wanted to see. I told myself that I wouldn’t have any expectations going there, that I have an open mind and embrace all the differences of a new continent. I went to Northern Brazil, in the state of Maranhão to a city called São Luís. I arrived there on the 29th of November 2013 and stayed there until the 17th of January the next year, a duration of seven weeks in total.

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Along with a partner from Mexico, we worked in a project called Mozaiko. The voluntary work involved working as “assistant” managers to the owner of an NGO that taught capoeira (a kind of martial arts dance developed by African slaves) to kids and adolescents.

My stay in São Luís was truly the best experience of my life, of which the most treasured is the host family I lived with. I tried not to be a typical tourist, only going to museums and restaurants and did the little things the inhabitants would do. Lunch in the streets, mini shows in town centres, beach football, and the likes. This experience developed me in more ways than one. The way I look at the world, and cultures different from mine…

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As soon as the airplane door was opened in São Paulo, my first shock was the humidity. I never understood when people said Namibia was a dry country until then. Coming from a somewhat conservative town (Khorixas), seeing Brazilians on Tv in little clothing, people would tend to call them naked. Having gone and lived there made me realise one important reason why, the weather. It was hot and too humid. My shirt would be wet before I reach the yard gate from sweat and humidity. This is an example of how we easily judge people when we don’t understand where they are coming from.

My biggest challenge was the language! I found it so hard to find someone that spoke English and that also made me appreciate the importance of communication, especially body language. Everyone would caution me not to make it too obvious I was a foreigner, but everyone that realised I was from Africa was so warm to me. Looking back on it, I don’t have an ounce of regret, considering how much that experience has changed me and made me grow. One of the greatest things about this experience is the people and global network that I got. Besides my (host) family, I have friends in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, US, Germany, Argentina, China, and many more from over 10 countries, and above all, this would be my greatest reason for recommending exchange.

You can take me out of Namibia, but you can’t take Namibia out of me by Janice Tobias

My experience in Mauritius was interesting to say the least and it was all a big adventure from the very beginning. In typical Namibian fashion, I was late for the airport. I got there just as the plane was boarding. It wasn’t my fault, I was leaving home for 6 weeks and all the grownups stopped by to say goodbye and put in their orders of what they want from Mauritius.

I missed the connecting flight in Johannesburg going to Mauritius; again, it was not my fault. I got to OR Tambo airport on time but that airport is massive and I got lost. I was in contact with four other Exchange Participants (EPs) (Yvonne, Alan, Nader and Giovanni) who were on the same flight as me and they tried to find me. Long story short, I left on the next flight which was two hours later.

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I got to Mauritius and waited for almost two hours to be picked up from the airport because I had missed the pickup due to missing my flight. MTC does not roam in Mauritius, I couldn’t make phone calls. THANK GOD for free airport wifi. I was on whatsapp with my father and he called Badulla, my EP buddy, who was not picking up his phone because he was driving the others to our new home. My parents were about to have me buy the next ticket back home if I was not picked up by a certain time. My imagination went wild; I thought that it was scam and I was about to be sold into sex slavery. I wasn’t.

When I arrived to the apartment building and introduced myself, all the outgoing EPs knew I was the one who missed my flight. I was already popular. I was the 5th person from my cycle to arrive. We got there at the beginning of arrival week and had nothing to do so we spent a week on the beach, swimming, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and going to various islands.

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There were so many EPs from India. I basically learned Mauritian and Indian culture. I made so many friends, my next EP experience has to be in India. The way of life in Mauritius is actually expensive compared to Namibia. Imagine, the price of one uncooked piece of meat is N$ 76??? And the hunt for a decent piece of steak was on. This Namibian cried after a week and a half of no decent meat!!!! Jarita told me about a restaurant that had good steak and I made seven people run with me to the restaurant.

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As for the work, I was part of the micro-financing project which had the responsibility of raising funds for women entrepreneurs and we in turn give them interest free loans. We had a pool of 18 women and we had to choose 3 to 5. This was going well until they decided they want to join up and have one business. So now we are basically funding them and the overall business is selling of food, socks, flip flops, clothes and plants. This has turned into a full on project. The next cycle of EPs would continue with the same group instead of getting new entrepreneurs.

We had a go karting event where we approached the go karting company and we negotiated with them to give us N$ 20 for each race. One race per person is about N$ 150. Our next event was a game night we hosted at a local bar where we got to keep all monies made from the games. We also had an all you can eat pizza night at a local restaurant where we got about N$ 50 for every person who paid the initial fee of N$ 160.

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I extended my stay by an extra week because I was going to be one of the first people to leave and I wanted more time with my new friends.

Mauritius was fun and I got a new family. I don’t think I grew enough though, I was and still am financially irresponsible (there was talk of having to confiscate my credit card because I was always spending money). I recommend that everyone goes on whatever AIESEC exchange program because I saw growth in people who arrived immature and immediately grew up and were suddenly able to take care of themselves. The work and seeing other people struggle is eye opening and it made me more grateful for the life that I have.

My South African Volunteering Experience by Sorry Ameya

I am of the opinion that travelling is best way of acquiring massive knowledge about different people and their cultures. When the AIESEC exchange programs were fully explained to me in detail, I was left intrigued, and my keenness grew big and bigger, so I decided to go on exchange to South Africa, because I was sick and tired of having long unproductive holidays, so I decided to use my long holiday to travel.

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My exchange was supposed to be in Pretoria but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to move to Johannesburg. In Joburg I was working on a Project under the Human Empowerment Revitalization Drive (H.E.R.D) initiative called BOSASA.
BOSASA is a prison for juvenile criminals. I was so scared at first when I was told that I will be working with juvenile criminals, but as soon as I introduced myself to the boys, they smiled, giggled and laughed. They actually found humour in my name (Sorry) which made it easy for them to open up to me and share their stories. I felt hounoured to mingle with such enthusiastic young boys.

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Unfortunately cameras were not allowed on site, so we couldn’t take pictures with the boys. I was serving as career guide for the boys, showing them different ways on making an honest living without getting themselves into trouble again. I also gave them advice on how to behave once they were released from prison. After giving advice, some boys were remorseful and were full of regret over their sinful doings, I so proud to have had an impact on other people’s lives.

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That was the Internship, The exchange in particular was beyond awesome, as interns were lived in a big house, that we called the GAUTENG BIG BROTHER HOUSE, the house was always filled with laughter,. We lived in the house with five Indians, two Ghanaians, two Mozambican and one Motswana. Since we lived together as a family, my fellow interns and I became close friends. Apart from working, we visited a lot of touristic places in Joburg like Soweto, Hector Peterson museum, The Top of Africa (the tallest building in Africa), Loin Park, Joburg Zoo, Monte Casino, Gold Reef City and Sandton City Mall, to go see the big Mandela statue. We also attended awesome parties that were thrown for us by AIESEC alumni, and former AIESEC members.

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My exchange was really awesome and it had massive changes on my perspective towards life, and it taught me to be more appreciative. Through my exchange I saw the importance and values of voluntarily work and the values in doing something positive for society. What I really loved about SA was its people, the people I was constantly in touch with were really nice, and the reception was excellent. Another thing that wowed me was the fact that South Africans highly value their cultures, and speak their native languages with so much pride, I was really impressed.

Respond to Every call that excites your spirit by Kristophina Shilongo

I had a deep, piercing and urgent calling in my spirit to live beyond how I was living. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are about to be changed. Being lost in service to others will leave you scared for life. The type of scares that you’d take pride in for having.
Wanderlust (n):
A strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world.
Volunteer (n):
A person who does small things with great love. They are paid in smiles.

For 6 weeks I did the most heart thrusting and life fulfilling things at the same time. Wrapped in a beautiful but scary experience called volunteerism.

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I’ve met volunteers before, many from The United States of America and Germany. The misconception is that they are rich, bored or both. I too believed so. The concept of working for free and beyond the comfort and safety of your own country never made sense to me. Why would any sane person live in a village somewhere in Africa to teach kids who might not even understand the importance or relevance of education? Funny how the tables have turned, I’ve been handed a new set of eyes.

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As you can imagine, I had utopia like expectations of my stay in Mozambique. Early morning jogs to the beach before work, late night swims, endless conversations about life and our experiences with the countless number of people I would meet. And most importantly working with the most adorable kids in the world. Firstly, the internet betrayed my trust and secondly reality has no mercy. It hit me, hard!

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Although my (somewhat unrealistic) expectations were not met. I take with me the greatest life experience. When working with entities or companies there are some misunderstandings and miscommunications, AIESEC was no exception. It’s is impressive though the passion that the members served with. I cannot express how much the people I met have changed my perception of the world, of life and mostly importantly of myself.

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The most challenging thing about being in Mozambique for me was finally meeting me. I stared at myself, flaws and strengths. It was painful but it was essentially, looking at myself as if I were somebody else allowed me identify my flaws so that I can work on them and use my strengths effectively.

Mozambique is a beautiful country. I’ve enjoyed my stay so much I plan to return for a minimum of 12 months.

In conclusion, I’m thankful for the cultural experiences that have painted a new worldview for me. I’ll forever treasure the skills that no University will ever teach me and the history lessons that no History book will ever give justice to.

My Beijing experience by Tonata Shaningwa

I’m a person who lives for adventure and travel. I love going to places I have never been to, meeting new people and living new experiences. I decided to take part in the AIESEC GCDP exchange program, because I wanted to push myself a little further outside of my comfort zone and embrace new opportunities.

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I was fortunate enough to do a voluntary internship in Beijing, China. Together with AIESEC interns from Vietnam, Hong Kong and South Africa, I worked at the China Green Channel (Pty) Ltd. with a social enterprise that manufactures and sells stationery made from recycled paper. I worked closely with the CEO of the company, marketing and working on strategies to boost the sales of the company, as well as participating in marketing campaigns and awareness functions on recycling and ‘green products’.

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Looking back at the experience, I can say that I am now more conscious of environmentally friendly products and their relevance. One of the significant things I have learned from my experience is the ability to focus. Because Beijing is such a huge place with so much going on all the time, it’s very easy to get distracted and side-tracked, however, I have learned to keep focus on my goals and objectives and be able to prioritise, without forgetting to have fun and live through the moments. Chinese people are always on the move, always in a hurry to go somewhere and get something done. China is a huge country with a lot of people but more importantly, the Chinese people are generally stereotyped to work like ‘machines’. Therefore, I anticipated non-stop WORK. This experience has definitely added a boost to my work ethic.

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I’ve met loads of new friends from all over the world and we spend most of our spare time in restaurants experiencing the awesome Chinese foods and exploring / visiting touristic places like The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, and so on.

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I have learned that in life, there is no reason to be stagnant; if you have energy, get up and be on the move…. always, be proactive and adventurous because great opportunities await those who are willing to get away from their comfort zones. I can genuinely say that I had the time of my life and I would not only love to do it again, but I would also love to recommend this type of internship and experience

My Indian experience by Sem Uutoni

Love, Compassion and Giving are a few of the aspects that define my personal truth. My name is Sem Uutoni, at 19 I am very honored to be part of AIESEC Namibia’s first bunch Exchange Participants. At university I am in my final year perusing a degree in Development Studies and aspire to work within the United Nations Framework. I travelled to India in 2013 for an AIESEC internship in Hyderabad, India. I worked for Project Conserve which is a social initiative by AIESEC India that aims to raise environmental awareness and thus making a positive impact in the society. I also worked with a NGO that is AIESEC Hyderabad’s learning partner for this project.

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I did not know what to expect, I had so many questions and some I believe had no answers. Not knowing has been something that makes me nervous, but also makes me so excited. As soon as I landed I knew-it was happening. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. One of the wonderful opportunities I had was to work with different Indian schools and NGO’s. Having visited more than 3 NGO’s I have seen how the work they do can better the lives of those in need. This experience made me realize that one person cannot change the world however the little that we all do contributes to the greater change. That is I what inspired me to continue working regardless of the magnitude of the work, because eventually it does contribute to the greater change. I know I might never meet this kids again, however they shall continue to hold a special place in my heart, and I am most proud of the fact that I played a role in the growth and development of kids from a different society.

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One of the aspects that made my experience most exciting was the different people I met on my exchange. I made friends from different countries like Malaysia, Kenya, Brazil, Taiwan and Colombia amongst others. I had various fun and rewarding moments with all this interns. We laughed clubbed, traveled and gate-crashed parties together. I believe the most important thing is that we all acknowledged that we were from different societies and thus we were open to meeting, celebrating and living our different cultures together. Apart from that I also met wonderful Indian friends that made my experience breathtaking.

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I am most grateful to my father God for providing this opportunity unto me. My passions have always been driven by the love for others, respect and serving purposes greater than my own and I believe my internship has been a great platform to practice those. It is under that juncture that I would definitely go for more volunteering opportunities. I think I have reached a point in life where I want to dedicate my time to helping others. Many have questioned this however I tell them that my believe of life is not about having expensive goods however its more about getting down on my hands and knees and really giving back to the world because I am blessed to have a great life myself.

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Volunteering in Uganda by Christine Haansende

Going for an AIESEC exchange program was an opportunity I was willing to take. I decided to go on exchange because I thought to myself “such opportunities don’t always come easily”. And it turned out to be a great opportunity. From this experience I wanted to meet different types of people. I also wanted to develop and improve some of my skills like social-networking and communication skills.
I was on exchange in Kampala, Uganda for 2 months. Sometimes I wish I stayed there longer. It’s a friendly country and busy indeed. I worked with an NGO called Agape World Ministries. The NGO takes care of street kids and children that cannot afford to go to school. Facilitating them and teaching them various subjects like English language and mathematics.

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I really enjoyed my stay in Uganda. I got to meet so many people from different countries like Brazil, Botswana, Kenya, Germany, Taiwan and the list goes on. I got to eat interesting foods like Rolex, Kikomando and Jack fruit. When someone told me about rolex I actually thought it was a brand of a watch. I was so confused I laughed hard when I was told it’s food. I had fun with friends and visited different places like the Gadaffi Mosque and the source of the nile. Did you know Mahatma Ghandi’s ashes were thrown in the river nile?
Many people there thought I was Ugandan so they would speak to me in their language and sometimes they thought I was just pretending not to be Ugandan because I responded in English.
One shocking but interesting thing I found was the way they prepared some of their food. But one thing that impressed me was the construction I saw late at night on the roads. I have never seen that anywhere else.

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I learned a lot from my experience. I had a chance to build a global social network and improve on some of my skills. After my exchange experience I was a changed person. I became a better me. Going on an exchange program will help you open your mind to all kinds of things out there. You will be able to understand why people do what they do because you will connect with them personally. And you will be able to decide to have a positive impact on them.

Taught the kids to make French doughnuts