Uganda Trip Proves Life Altering for Students, Professor

Return to Issue of March 10, 2008

This past May, what students thought would be a two-week trip to study the wildlife and culture of Uganda in southern Africa turned into a life-altering experience. Hiking through the jungle; searching for chimpanzees, elephants and other wildlife; bungee-jumping; and rafting down the Nile River were just a few of the highlights for seven Kent State students and Andrew Lepp, assistant professor for the School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport.

Students hiked through the jungle, searched for wildlife and rafted down the Nile River during two weeks in Uganda last May.
Photo courtesy of Lara Mikoleit

Students hiked through the jungle, searched for wildlife and rafted down the Nile River during two weeks in Uganda last May.

“The students thought the highlights of the trip would be found in the wildlife,” Lepp says. “And they were in many respects; however, some of their best memories were with the Ugandan people.” Lepp says the students became very close friends and still keep in contact with their driver, who also acted as an interpreter, and the park rangers.

Lara Mikoleit, senior recreation, park and tourism management major, said one of her favorite memories was bungee-jumping over the Nile River in Jinja.

“Three other students and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity, but when it was my turn to jump, I became hysterical and backed down,” Mikoleit says. “I thought about it all night and talked myself back into it with the help of a fellow student on the trip.” Adds Mikoleit: “Now that I’m back home, I always think back to that day, when I realized things sometimes seem scarier than they really are.”

The two weeks in Uganda were not only personally fulfilling, but also a realization of the positive impact tourism has around the world, Lepp says. “We visited a village in Uganda that was a tourism attraction, and all of the money generated through the attraction was used to build a school,” says Lepp. “In that case, tourism made a huge difference in the village; it doesn’t just benefit the traveler — it can benefit the community as well.”

Lepp, who lived in Uganda for two years and had visited the sites many times before, says it was like visiting them for the first time again with his students. “Seeing them experience the differences in the cultures and overcome the barriers was rewarding,” Lepp says. “The most satisfying experience as a teacher was to see the students’ reactions to the land for the first time.”

The two-week trip to study in the Ugandan parks and reserves is open to all students, not just recreation, park and tourism management majors. The next trip will be in May 2008, and the experiences can be valuable to almost any major, Lepp says.

“Hands down, I would recommend this trip to everyone,” Mikoleit says. “I tell everyone I can that it was a life-altering experience and the best two weeks of my life. What I learned there could not have possibly been learned here in the classroom. It was so hard to leave.”

For more information, please contact Andrew Lepp at

By Olivia Mihalic

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