Looking Back on Uganda


With my internship behind me and two more years of law school in front of me, I am looking forward to applying what I learned with SAFE and in Uganda to my classes as well as to future employment. I am still in awe that ten weeks passed so quickly. When looking forward to my summer, ten weeks seemed like plenty of time to learn about and enjoy Uganda. Looking back on my summer, ten weeks was not sufficient. I would have remained in Uganda for much longer than that. 

It has been almost one month since I returned from Uganda. Leaving Uganda was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The time difference, busy schedules, sometimes spotty internet access and the Atlantic Oceanhave changed the ease with which I was able to communicate with both colleagues and friends in Uganda. I’ve already made use of Facebook, email, and my newly downloaded Whatsapp messaging application to ensure the relationships that developed over my summer continue, despite the obstacles mentioned before. 

Interning abroad during my 1L summer was a dream when I entered law school. Although I knew I would have both difficulties and successes while abroad, I didn’t expect to fall in love with the country as much as I did with Uganda. The combination of Uganda’s landscape, lifestyle, and people convince me that I will return one day. I will miss being asked every morning “Wasuze otya, nyabo?” which translates to “how was your night?” Even more, the person asking actually wants to hear the answer (a very different interaction than our typical morning greetings)! I will miss conversations with strangers that I will never see again, learning about their background and family on a quick boda boda ride to the supermarket. While abroad, I was often reminded that others find Americans’ solitary nature strange and I realize that I too became accustomed to treating everyone you came across as an old friend.

Deciding to pursue an internship outside of the United States taught me many things. Besides the legal skills, which you could also gain by working domestically, I learned how to live and work in a culture entirely different than the one I’m comfortable with. Emily (my roommate and fellow William & Mary student) and I talked often about the need for flexibility and a positive attitude when traveling and living abroad. I find that being inflexible or unable to adapt to changing circumstances precludes one from truly enjoying their travel experience. Things will change and there were always be wrinkles in the most well-laid plans; nothing will prevent this. 

Without William & Mary’s Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding program, I would not have found myself in Uganda, working with SAFE. I would not have experienced the reality of working as a legal intern, requiring me to adapt the skills I learned in school to a different legal system. I also would not have seen how multiple legal systems interact and supplement one another, particularly in terms of property law. I also may not have been exposed to the extractives industry, an area of law that I now hope to work in next summer. My summer provided so many tangible and intangible benefits. I have many newfound friends and memories to think of often. While leaving Uganda was difficult, I know that I will return one day. I also look forward to sharing the beauty of Uganda with my friends and family at home.