I would have thought that the biggest barrier would be the logistics of organising the trip and reaching Mbale where I was based. However, because I was working for the university, they took care of a lot of it, and I was also able to benefit from the experiences of my bosses, for example, using the same taxi driver to pick me up from the airport. There were a lot of advantages of working for an organisation with substantial infrastructure and experience in place, but even if you aren’t in a similar situation, asking around can produce a lot of useful help and tips.
Was it difficult to fit in with a new culture?
Quite difficult, although rather than the culture, it was more the fact that I was travelling on my own and it was quite hard to meet people/find things to do. In the end, one day I took a chance and went to a new café off my beaten path, and ended up going back again and again, making a lot of friends, leading to other experiences like going to a ‘traditional’ Ugandan wedding.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working abroad?
Challenging yourself to do things you’ve never done before in very unfamiliar environments
Did you know the language before going and how did you deal with the language barrier?
English is quite widely spoken in Uganda, I wasn’t able to learn much of any of the local languages, but I was lucky to be able to work with Ugandan colleagues who did
How did you fund your trip?
Salary/stipend from the research project budget
Have you got any advice for other students considering a global opportunity?
Build good relationships with your lecturers and then don’t be afraid to ask, even if they don’t have anything, they may know someone who does.
If you are traveling alone, based in one place and working full time, be prepared for the novelty to wear off very quickly. You might have to put quite a lot of effort into finding things to do, but there’s likely to be a lot out there!
How did taking a global work opportunity help your career prospects?
By working in research, I was able to apply skills I had developed in my studies to a professional context, which massively improved my credibility when applying for jobs. The international experience showed my ability to adapt to new environments and work effectively in spite of challenges. I would say it was key in me getting a place on the Civil Service Fast Stream, where I now am, working at Department of Health, and finding it extremely rewarding.
What is your favourite food and cultural event from your host country?
- Food: paneer masala (excellent Indian food in Uganda!)
- Event: Ugandan weddings (very long, but very bright, colourful and entertaining)