The Impact of a Summer

Now that our UNC intern, Brianne, is home from Uganda and back in class, she reflects on her summer in Africa.

Since returning to campus for the start of the semester, I have been asked no less than 50 times, “What did you do this summer?” I answer with the same spiel about the projects I worked on and the skills I gained as a result of the internship with Blood:Water. But in reality, when someone asks me that question, the reports I submitted are far from what comes to mind.

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I think back to all of the friendships I made, to walks around the clinic grounds bustling with patients, to my attempts to learn to cook traditional Ugandan dishes. I realize that I am homesick for a place that I only called home for two months. The time was short, but the impact on my outlook was immense.

As a student of global public health, I am often bombarded in class with the issues faced by developing countries. Struggles such as lack of basic health care and water insecurity paint a dire picture. But after only a couple of days at the clinic, I was overwhelmed by the joyful and optimistic attitude of the Ugandan people. They are certainly experiencing hardships, but they are not defeated and hopeless. On a daily basis, they rise to the occasion of bettering the lives of their children, their pregnant mothers, their sick and impoverished. The list goes on. It is a colossal task, but they are not daunted.

This is the very beginning of my career, and I am sure to face many challenges ahead. If I can address them with a fraction of the grace, courage, and zeal as my Ugandan friends, then I will be on the right track. I began the internship with the mindset of teaching the clinic, but as cheesy as it sounds, they taught me infinitely more. For that I am truly grateful.