Lepp Introduces Students to Uganda During Intersession


Return to Issue of Aug. 17, 2009

The student group in Uganda.

Dr. Andy Lepp, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management, and 17 Kent State University students studied abroad in Uganda, Africa, from May 26 to June 12. The trip is organized through the Center for International and Intercultural Education.

This was Lepp’s third time escorting the students across the ocean, although his ties with Uganda go much further back. In the 1990s, Lepp served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda.

“I have benefitted so much from international experiences; they have given me a more enlightened perspective on the world, and I wanted to share that with students,” Lepp says. “Since I have so many contacts and friends in Uganda from my Peace Corps days, it’s a logical destination for me to take students.”

Students visited and learned about three national parks, rural villages and the Nile River. During the trip important global issues, such as natural resource conservation and rural development were studied. Students also learned trip-planning skills and how to be ethical global citizens.

Danny Blair, senior recreation, park and tourism management major, says the parks are really trying to incorporate the conservation of the communities. Blair says they want to keep the forests abundant and the animals living there, but it’s important to keep the culture of the people there as well.

“They’re working to incorporate different villages into the parks so people can go along with their daily lives,” Blair says. “For example, the one park was working to revive the Ankole cow, which is very important to certain villages.”

By studying at the parks, students learned about the challenges of park management in Uganda, and they considered the need for parks to provide development opportunities for the people living nearby.

“People use the parks for obtaining food and building homes, so it’s important to keep good relationships with the community,” Blair says.

Students also participated in outdoor recreation, including hiking, bird watching, wildlife viewing and white water rafting on the Nile River, which Blair says was amazing.

“We went on safari walks and game drives, and the animals were right next to us,” Blair says. “I was taking a picture of a chimpanzee and I was extremely close to it.”

The students also interacted with Ugandans on a daily basis and learned about Uganda culture. Lepp says there are so many misperceptions and inaccurate stereotypes about sub-Saharan Africa in general that the trip serves as an opportunity to correct some of these misperceptions.

“Every time when students get there and meet Ugandans and see the country and make friends there, they really come back with quite a different perspective.”

Blair says it was interesting to meet with the Ugandans and learn about the culture of Uganda.

“Along the road we interacted with shop keepers and locals,” Blair says. “The one day we played a soccer game with some of the local kids the whole village showed up to watch; the (local) players were really good, and we ended up tying because we had some of them on our team.”

Lepp says his favorite part of the trip is observing student’s reactions and experiencing the places they go anew through the students.

“I’ve been to these locations many times as a Peace Corps volunteer, but when I take students there, they’re seeing it for the first time, and it’s as if I’m reliving these things for the first time with them,” Lepp says. “Everything stays fresh and new when I’m with the students.”

The trip is open to all majors at Kent State and students receive 6 credits for traveling to Uganda. Lepp will be conducting the trip again next May. Up to 17 students can be accommodated on the excursion. Lepp would like to have next year’s trip filled by December.

If interested in traveling to Uganda next May, contact Andy Lepp at 330-672-0218 or alepp1@kent.edu.

More information on the Uganda study abroad program can be found online.

By Mary Jo Spletzer

Return to Issue of Aug. 17, 2009


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