By: Margot Girerd-Barclay
In August 2013, my mom began a two-year post with REACH, (an initiative, formed through UN agencies: WFP, UNICEF, FAO, WHO, and IFAD, that is committed to creating a renewed effort against child hunger and malnutrition) in Kampala, Uganda. Originally from Vermont, my mom has worked overseas her entire life, creating the pathway for the rest of my family to follow suit. In my lifetime, our family has lived in over eight different countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Although her current job placed her in Uganda, away from my dad who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, it created an opportunity for me that I could have never predicted.
My name is Margot Girerd-Barclay and I’m a student at Colorado State University studying Theatre, Speech Education, and French. As part of my final semester as an education major, I’m required to Student Teach. From what I’ve gathered, Student Teaching is supposed to be one of the most stressful semesters for a student. We’re not fully teachers, but we’re not students either. We’re not getting paid, yet we’re not supposed to work an outside job (because our school work load will be too overwhelming).
So why would I do something crazy like move to Uganda in order to complete this education requirement? One major reason was so that I could spend some quality time with my mom, but another was because having attended international schools my whole life, I realized that I wanted the opportunity to practice teaching in an international school and living in a country where things aren’t so easy.
Now I’ve been living in Kampala for about a month, in a lovely apartment in Nagura (map below) and Student Teaching at the Kampala International School of Uganda (KISU). Life here is surreal. There are many things that I had to get used to, such as not having hot water in the kitchen, frequent power cuts, and having to go through security everywhere you go, but I’ve also been given this entirely new perspective on life. I’ve started making friends and exploring Kampala. Last Friday, I went out with my neighbor and met a bunch of great people from all over the world. I spoke to one couple and learned that although they met in Madrid, she was from Sri Lanka (but she lived most of her life in the UK), and he was from Germany, they now live happily in Uganda, with the possibility to go anywhere in the world! It was just incredible listening to people share about where they’ve been, where they’re going, and happily realizing that this could become the norm for me.
Moreover, being a Student Teacher is nothing like what I thought it was going to be. Although I am working every day, I love what I’m doing which makes it easier. The school is technically walking distance from the apartment, but I get there by “boda-boda” (motorcycle taxi) which is a hoot! My cooperating teacher is Nichola Frances, who, originally from the UK, has taught in Bangkok and Cairo. She’s really fun to be around, always coming up with great ideas, and has done a good job of introducing me to everyone and making me feel welcome. I am in two of her English and Drama courses and I’ve already taken on two of the courses as my own. Although I haven’t fully gotten over my teaching nerves, I love being in the classroom and sharing my passion with the students.
Another great thing about KISU is the school itself. The school community is thoroughly international with students from all over the world. This adds a delightful mixture of culture within the classroom that I’ve never experienced before in Fort Collins. Additionally, as an international school, it truly lives up to its high standards. KISU is beautiful and has amazing facilities including a pool, basketball court, football (soccer) field, and more than four different performance areas ranging from the small and large amphitheaters, the outdoor stage, and the indoor stage in the auditorium. Pretty wonderful for an incoming Drama teacher!
Living in Kampala isn’t easy, but it’s a lively city that I’m growing to love; and with only three months left to go in my Student Teaching contract, I feel like this experience is going by much quicker than I would like. I suggest that if you are interested in going abroad, make it happen! In one short month, I have learned that teaching theatre is my natural calling, that I want to continue to work in international schools, and that I want to spend the rest of my life travelling. If Student Teaching is in your near future, and you’re interested in going abroad, visit www.unioosi.weebly.com, which is CSU’s connection to Student Teaching Abroad. There are some schools that the university has already made a connection with, but they are open to creating new connections with schools if you have a specific interest in one, (just like I did). If you are interested in going abroad in general, CSU offers many programs to study/work/teach abroad. Take advantage of these amazing programs because –as corny as this sounds– you never know what you might discover about yourself along the way.
If you’re interested in reading more about my experiences in Kampala visit my weekly blog site: www.mzungumargot.wordpress.com