Germany student reflects on experience studying in Uganda

Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/02/germany-student-reflects-on-experience-studying-in-uganda%ef%bb%bf/

Feb
28
Christian Heddergott at Uganda Christian University (UCU Partners Photo)
Christian Heddergott at Uganda Christian University (UCU Partners Photo)

NOTE: Over the years, hundreds of students have come from around the world to study at Uganda Christian University (UCU). Christian Heddergott is one of these students. A master’s student of Environmental Engineering from Leipzig University of Applied Sciences in Saxony, Germany, he began taking UCU classes in August 2018. Some of his experience is reflected here in an interview edited for clarity.

By
Brendah Ndagire

How did you hear about Uganda Christian University?
Leipzig University of Applied Sciences in Saxony, Germany, and UCU have a partnership. I was checking some study abroad databases, and I identified UCU. I have always wanted to do a semester abroad and recognizing that my University has a partnership with UCU, I decided to have a semester in Uganda. I had never been to Sub Saharan Africa, and  this was a great opportunity for me, mostly because it gets difficult to travel and experience new ideas, culture and perspectives later in life. It is usually easier when you are younger and a student. I have always been interested in new cultures in new countries, and that’s part of why I am here.

Can you briefly describe what you study?
I am a student in the master’s program in Environmental Science. And I am here for two semesters. Initially, I was supposed to be here for one semester (August to December). Currently, I am considering doing a master thesis and after speaking with my supervisor, I decided to stay for another semester. To be honest, I really like it here in Uganda. Living in a new country for a few months is a short period. To really settle down, to get to know people, and cultivate meaningful friendships, it takes a long time. That is why I am staying for another semester.

How is your program (Environmental Engineering in Germany) different from UCU’s Environmental Science?
The difference is that in Germany, the Environmental Engineering Program focuses more on renewable energy, high technical stuff and sanitation. Because in Uganda there is more need for environmental sanitation, in UCU’s program, there is more focus on sanitation, water treatment, and waste management. I noticed that one problem, which also is discussed in lectures here at UCU, is that Mukono as a city struggles with waste and water channel management. When it rains, water channels are filled with trash and plastics, which creates health problems. For example, when the rain water is not able to move, it becomes breeding grounds for mosquitos, and people get exposed to malaria-carrying mosquitos and so forth. The general similarity between Germany and Uganda is identifying, studying and solving environmental problems.

What about the difference in class sizes and the teaching methods?
Class Sizes: Here at UCU, I am having many classes on water and sanitation, and in class we are 10 students. In my university, within my class, we are 25. My university has around 6,100 students, and my faculty has 790 students (all engineering). One huge difference is that Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK Leipzig) offers a combination of practically oriented teaching and application-oriented research. Our regionally unique selling point is the wide range of engineering programmes. Together with the areas of economics and cultural studies, we offer a wide variety of degree programmes and research opportunities at seven faculties. In general, my university is relatively a small university within Germany.
Method
of Teaching:
My classes here are very dialogue-based compared to German
classes where the lecturer comes, summarizes his/her materials and then leaves
the class. I would say that there are challenges to each method. The main
challenge with dialogue-based classes are that they can be a little bit
distracting especially when everyone wants to discuss, (students) can get off
topic, and the lecturer has to collect everyone and bring them back to the
original topic. On the other hand, in my classes in Germany, the main point is
to make a class more efficient, the challenge being that lecturer may give you
a bunch of materials, in the shortest time possible,  but with little time to process and engage
with material.

What classes have stood out for you here at UCU?
Water, waste management and sanitation. It was really interesting to learn about basic things such constructing a pit latrine, or identifying and protecting water sources/tables. All of these are related to daily human needs we take for granted back home.

What do you think is the most positive aspect of studying at UCU?
UCU is an international university, attracting students across Africa, North America and Europe. It has good international community that supports international students. The university is used to the process of having international students. I find that special and rich in a way that I am not only building relationships with Ugandan students, but also with other international students. For example, everyday I meet students from the central African Republic, Burundi, Nigeria, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, etc. I find that really interesting. I don’t know where I could have had the opportunity to meet so many people in a formal context with different cultural backgrounds and experiences.

Other aspects?
The UCU campus, the way it is organized. It is really beautiful. Everywhere you look, it is really clean, and it looks like they put in a lot of work and care to make it look nice. I find it interesting  that the university has an actual campus. I say that because at my home university, there are just several buildings in the middle of town, no place to hangout, no campus. Just imagine a university in the middle of Kampala.

UCU is a Christian university and your university back home is not. How has that impacted your study abroad experience/process?
I have learned that undergraduate students study courses outside of their specializations including the New and Old Testaments, Worldviews, Health and Wholeness, and Understanding Christian Ethics. In Germany, our program is very scientific and when you are studying mechanical engineering, it is very rare to combine science and Christianity. Here, everything is linked to the Christian identity. Students have community worship, there are street preachers, and the main campus has a church. That has been biggest difference and observation for me. I can’t speak for all universities in Germany but my university is not related to any religion.

What observations have you made on socio-cultural differences between Uganda and Germany?
In Uganda people seem to be relaxed and you can have small talks with literally everyone on the street, in the supermarket, in the food line at the dining hall, etc. But in Germany, people seem to be busy all the time. You wouldn’t just talk to everyone you do not know, especially when you are in small town in a village people would look at like, “what are you doing?”

I grew up in small
village, and people there they know each other, but if someone came out of town
and started greeting everyone, people would strangely look at that person. In
Uganda, it is the opposite, people are always curious, asking questions and are
welcoming. I think that is the biggest difference. And the common thing we all
have is that people genuinely care about family and friends.

Would you recommend UCU to students from your home university?
I would definitely recommend it. I would tell them to think about studying at UCU. Since it is a Christian university, they need to be flexible to adhere to the rules such as the campus curfew, no alcohol, smoking in public, etc. But it is really a great university and that’s why I decided to stay for another semester.

***

For more of these stories and experiences, visit https://www.ugandapartners.org.  If you would like to assist a current UCU
student or otherwise support the university, contact Mark Bartels, Executive
Director, UCU Partners, at m.t.bartels@ugandapartners.org or
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