After two full days of plane flights followed by another day’s drive on bustling Ugandan roads, my arrival in Jinja was met with both relief and anticipation. I was relieved to know where I was finally staying–a house perched on top of a mountain with an unreal view of Lake Victoria and surrounding mountains where priests, brothers, and seminarians reside. Waking up to that view every morning as the sun peeks out from behind a mountain, spreading an array pink, orange, and yellow into the deep blue sky as I walk to daily Mass down the corridor reassures me of God’s constant and comforting presence in my life here.
Yet, I was also met with anticipation, knowing very little about my role in the school or what would be expected of me. As I proceeded through my first week, feelings of homesickness crept their way into my daily life without a steady routine. When I found out I would be serving as an English teacher to a class of 60 7th graders (called “senior one’s” here), I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least as I have no teaching experience. However, being surrounded by Catholicism—whether that be daily Mass in the house with the priests, brothers, and seminarians or during Ugandan Martyr’s Day where a million people gathered from all over Uganda to celebrate a 3+-hour-long Mass and surrounding countries—has grounded me in a world where I feel far from the ground, unable to find the routine I so often crave as a necessity in my life. Trusting in God to help me navigate these trying times of adjustment has turned out to be the necessity in my life here.
Just two weeks of being here and living in a new culture and environment has taught me so much about myself and the world around me. In making a commitment to serve for two months, I realized that my call to serve doesn’t stop at the end of July. Though I still anticipate entering the corporate world rather than a profession more often associated with service, I more fully recognize the value of taking even just an hour out of a week to help out an underserved community, wherever that might be. I have also noticed how little people here complain, taking life as it comes rather than constantly striving towards more control as is typical in the U.S. I am trying to adopt that philosophy here as I seek to stay in the present rather than looking forward to seeing friends and family again, as well as eating my favorite meals back home. I also hope I continue striving towards being grounded in the present and in God’s presence in my life past this summer.
By: Anna Koeberlein, one of nine students who served at Holy Cross missions this summer through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns.