‘Amazing people, shared memories, and strong passions for the environment’

Reflections on a semester in Uganda

February 22nd, 2022   |   SIT Study Abroad, Uganda, wildlife conservation

By Joslyn Primicias

Two young people with an elephant in the background
Photos courtesy of Joslyn Primicias

In the fall semester of 2021, I traveled to Uganda, Africa, through SIT Study Abroad with a program titled Wildlife Conservation and Political Ecology. This program traditionally operates in Tanzania but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was moved to the geographically similar country of Uganda.

Through these amazing people, shared memories, and being constantly surrounded by such strong passions for the environment, my ambition for creating peace and making a difference in the world was deeply strengthened.

We were a nomadic group exploring the beautiful country’s national parks, remote villages, and capital cities. Traveling around Uganda and immersing myself in East African culture while learning about biodiversity conservation provided a plethora of experiences through excursions, lectures, and focus group discussions. In addition to learning about globalization, natural resource management, and climate change, I also learned more about my privilege as a white-passing North American student and the importance of societal acceptance and community support.

Five young people in an automobile on safari

Traveling around Uganda and immersing myself in East African culture while learning about biodiversity conservation provided a plethora of experiences through excursions, lectures, and focus group discussions.

After the first week of settling in, the group set off for our first safari. These excursions consisted of 10 consecutive days of camping in Mabira National Forest, Lake Mburo National Park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park. In the following months, we also spent a week each at Kibale National Forest and Murchison Falls National Park.

Our caravan consisted of 15 students, five van drivers, three core instructors, three assistants, and one personal chef. Over the course of 25 nights of camping, this collection of students and staff members transformed into family. In addition to these unbelievable journeys, we spent a collection of days in the cities of Kampala and Fort Portal along with three weeks in the village of Busia, where we learned Kiswahili. Through these amazing people, shared memories, and being constantly surrounded by such strong passions for the environment, my ambition for creating peace and making a difference in the world was deeply strengthened.

Seven people smile at the camera against a background of whitewater or a waterfall

Over the course of 25 nights of camping, this collection of students and staff members transformed into family.

I also spent a month total in Hoima, Uganda, conducting my Independent Study Project entitled, “Soil Not Oil: An Assessment of the Role of Earth Jurisprudence in Restoring Biodiversity Conservation in the Indigenous Bagungu Community in Uganda.” Through this equally educational and challenging research opportunity, I was exposed to the woes of local Ugandans, the evils of giant corporations, and the negative effects of western influence on indigenous cultures.

Seven people in the branches of a large tree

I was exposed to the woes of local Ugandans, the evils of giant corporations, and the negative effects of western influence on indigenous cultures.

Being constantly surrounded by reminders of my privilege, this brought a constant feeling of guilt and sadness for the current state of our world. This was the biggest challenge of living in Uganda, but also the most important part of my study abroad journey.

A common theme of this trip, and very evident in life, was the importance of finding comfort in the uncomfortable. The basis of yoga is to be able to breathe calmly through challenging positions. The basis of this study abroad experience was to learn lessons and gain a new understanding of discomfort.

A group of young people against a lush, green,,rural background

I am remembering to think twice before I complain. I am still living better than many people on this planet. I have abundant food, drinking water, electricity, a comfy bed, and hot water. I am continuing to learn about the world. I am learning how different people are. Nothing will ever be black and white.

A common theme of this trip, and very evident in life, was the importance of finding comfort in the uncomfortable.

I am learning that the world’s questions remain unanswered because there is no one right or wrong answer. I am learning that we all just need to love each other. The fire burns in me to better myself daily and spread love. The Earth is so powerful and I am so small but we both are magic. I am so grateful for this expansive experience and am interested to return to my old life with this broadened worldview and Ugandan perspective.


As an environmental science student at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Joslyn Primicias spent fall 2021 studying abroad in Uganda with SIT Study Abroad.

This article was originally published by University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Center for Global Education. It is reprinted here with permission.