Brittany Cobb has been a CALS study abroad peer advisor for the past year. She is a senior biology and environmental studies major and is completing a Global Health Certificate. In winter of 2016, Brittany participated in the UW Agricultural Health and Nutrition field study abroad program in Uganda. Learn more about her experience:
How did I prepare to go abroad or how did I choose my program? Most of my preparation was done in our weekly seminars the semester before we left. I read online newspapers and articles from Uganda and wrote short reports. Additionally, I went to University health services for not only vaccines, but also travel advice and health evaluations. I went to orientations, listened to safety talks, and did research on gender norms, traditional food, and safety.
How did I choose my program? Since I am earning the global health certificate, I went through the Global Health certificate website to find study abroad programs that fulfilled the field experience requirement. I was between two programs at first but really looked into the academics and past student experiences. I choose UW Agriculture, Health and Nutrition in Uganda because I became very interested to see the ways in which a country with a very different culture practices agriculture and how this affects their health and nutrition.
What was the academic experience like? The academic experience was quite different from a typical semester long study abroad program. Instead of enrolling in an university and learning in a classroom setting, we learned more in the field at places such as sustainable farms, hospitals, malnutrition centers and in the homes of midwives. I preferred this experience because through the program leader’s connections, we were able to meet people in professions related to malnutrition, health and agriculture that taught and showed us a lot of their work.
Most memorable moment? The most memorable moment for me was visiting a sustainable farm. This farm has such an innovative approach to farming, which I think is a key aspect of environmental health, food justice and food security. I took back a lot from the way the people on this farm approached problems such as hunger in their communities and how they do not expose themselves or others to harmful pesticides. Additionally they are not depleting the land and water in the area and they were so in tune with the needs of their farm. The best part was that it was also a school, so not only are they growing the food and helping their community, but also they are teaching youth sustainable farming. With so many resources becoming depleted in the world, I think it is crucial to have management practices that reflect such care and innovation.
Advice for future students? To get the most out of your study abroad experience, I would definitely choose a program that fits your academic and/or career interests. Do not make the decision solely based on location, such as going somewhere you think sounds nice for a vacation or fun. Also going somewhere that you think will be very different or possibly uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing. Going to Uganda I was nervous because I thought I may be uncomfortable from culture shock but being abroad is all about having new cultural experiences, going beyond your comfort zone and for me about learning from people who have different life experiences and perspectives.