It’s been a while since I posted my last blog. I’m sorry about that. The reason is that it’s actually been pretty hard for me to acclimate.
Initially, this made me think that I’m not in the right mindset to be writing a blog, but maybe I am. Part of this blog’s purpose is to educate the next group of Minerva Fellows about how to move your way through the fellowship, and what to expect. It would be wrong to only write about easy moments that I’m going through—that would be unrealistic.
When considering the scenario, it might make more sense that I’d still be getting used to being here, rather than if everything felt completely natural. For context, I had just spent the past four years of my life where nearly every hour of my day was planned and structured. Between classes, homework, work-study, clubs, socializing, staying in shape, and trying to get enough sleep, there were very few times in college where I found myself wondering what to do with my time. With this, I had also spent the past four years living on the same grounds, surrounded by the same people. Many of the friends that I made as a freshman were the ones that I carried with me through to my senior year. This being said, I do not think that it’s completely unexpected for me to still be feeling a little unsure of myself.
There’s no denying it that things are very different here. The pace of life is much more relaxed. The people are new, and have viewpoints on life unlike any that you’d hear back in the United States. The houses are different, the transportation is different, the food is different, the language is different, the types of things that people do during a regular day are different. Lots of things are different, but that means that I get to experience things that I would never get to experience back at home. Even if it’s hard to get used to, I’m glad that things are different.
Something that I’ve taken comfort in, is that even through a world of differences, there are still so many things that are much the same. The staff here at the clinic, the scholars, along with many of the other people that I’ve met so far have all been great. People are just people. It doesn’t matter that we grew up on opposite sides of the world. The scholars—the students that Engeye sponsors through school—are some of the friendliest and most driven kids that I’ve ever met. They each have their own passion and plans for what they want to study in university. One boy wants to be a pharmacist. One girl is in school for fashion design. Another is studying to become a tour guide. Some of the adversities that the kids have had to overcome brings me to tears, but they’re still just kids when it comes down to it… and great kids at that. Also, the staff at Engeye have made me feel welcome, and I’ve made some friends here. That helps a lot. The village kids know me now, and every time they see me, I’m met with smiles and hugs. They always want me to play, draw, or read with them. Since the name “Lauren” is hard for a lot of the Ugandans to pronounce, the kids know me as “Nakato” which means “the younger twin sister.” Sometimes when I go for a jog through the village, I’ll have kids shout “Nakato” after me and will run with me for a little while. This happens even when I’m miles from the clinic and haven’t officially met the kids before. I’ve realized that it’s nearly impossible to jog alone, and I’m okay with that. It makes me smile.
So, some things are the same, and it makes being so far away from home a little more comfortable. Some things are different. I’m adapting to them, and I know it means that I’m learning.