Three years ago, if someone would have told me that you would be going to Uganda for the summer, I would have thought they were crazy.
The sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean.
This semester, I feel as if time has escaped me. And today, sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport waiting to start a series of flights that will eventually place me if Uganda, it's difficult for me to fathom that this day is finally here. While growing up in central Texas, my parents instilled in me a love for agriculture and an appreciation for the people who tend creation for the betterment of humanity. I came to Oklahoma State University to pursue these passions and have not been disappointed. My first semester, in the middle of a seminar class, I heard multiple people speak passionately about their time in Uganda. They were excited, hopeful, and had clearly experienced something that was impactful and meaningful. I left class that day knowing that I wanted to go. The next few months involved lots of planning and asking questions. Not only is this my first trip to Africa, but it's the first time I'm going anywhere outside of the U.S. The amount of times I asked Dr. Henneberry, Pam, Steve, and some friends who have been abroad questions is impossible to count. During this time, I also got a million shots, picked a date to travel (and changed it multiple times), bought a plane ticket, and made sure all of the logistics were in order to make this trip possible. To complete the planning process, I took a trip to the Noble Research Institute to get some valuable information on how to make this experience as valuable and meaningful as possible. And then to top everything off, I stuffed my belongings for the next two months into a backpack, a carry-on and a small purse, which for any girl, is a daunting task.
All of the necessities packed and ready to go.
After getting all of the details in place, it was time to say goodbye. For me, this has been the most difficult part of planning to leave. Never in my life have I felt so loved and valued by people. Many friends and family members have gone out of their way to see me and give encouragement before this process starts. But at the same time, this makes leaving more difficult. I wish that I could pack up all the people that I love so they could come with me.
The night before leaving, I got to watch my brother play baseball. He's definitely the first person I would bring along on another adventure like this.
However, I know that Uganda will soon become my home and the people of Watoto will make for great friends and family. I'm excited for this experience that will no doubt change my thoughts, perspective, and probably even my life. When I think about all of this, it does seem crazy. It seems crazy to send the 23-year-old female graduate student who has never traveled internationally to Africa for the entire summer. It seems crazy to leave the comfort of home to go to a place 8,000 miles away. And it seems crazy to think about what kind of impact I, out of all people, will have in this place and on these people. Maybe this all is crazy, but I'm confident this experience will reap benefits that will make all of my fears, doubts and insecurities seem insignificant. I'm so excited and thankful to be on this journey. I'm eager to learn a ton during this experience and am excited about the impact that Uganda and its people will have on my life. But most of all, I'm so thankful that this is even happening. My dream of exploring the world would not have its beginning without the help of the Noble Research Institute, the Oklahoma State Master's of International Agriculture Program, and the countless people who have loved and supported me. I'm grateful that over the next nine weeks, others will get to go on this journey with me. I still can't believe that this day has finally arrived, but I'm thankful for the journey that lies ahead.
I'm ready to experience Uganda!
Sarah Weiss is a 2017 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Weiss is from Brenham, Texas, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University. She focuses on education, extension and outreach.