While in high school, St. Thomas University student Rae Jardine participated in a non-governmental organization started by her teacher called World Reality Education that supported an orphanage in Uganda.
“[My interest in Uganda] weirdly goes back to when I was in high school. We got to meet these kids via Skype and watch them grow up over the years. That was the first project that put Uganda on my map and ever since then I’ve wanted to go,” she said.
After applying to take courses at Makerere University in Uganda last June, Jardine didn’t expect she would finally get the chance to visit the country she’d been wanting to go to since high school
“I kind of applied on a whim. It was a lot of money and I was like, ‘I can’t do this, but I’m going to do it anyway, and we’ll see where I end up,’” she said.
The third-year student applied after being approached by Insight Global Education, an experiential learning program based in British Columbia.
“I basically threw myself in. I was like, ‘Let’s see if I get accepted first and then we’ll go from there.’”
On Canada Day, Jardine received a phone call from the organization asking if she could be interviewed the following Monday. However, she was in Ottawa at the time and was expecting to be travelling back to N.B. on Monday.
Despite the bad timing, Jardine didn’t want to lose the opportunity and the organization was willing to accommodate her schedule.
“There wasn’t a deadline but the spots were filling up [so] they really go after you.”
A month later in early August, she was accepted.
The Miramichi native will be flying out of Canada on May 20 and stopping for a few days in Europe, before heading to Uganda on May 29 alongside 29 other Canadian students.
Jardine is currently working on an interdisciplinary honours in human rights, economics and international relations with a minor in fine arts. Over the summer in Uganda, she’ll be taking two courses: Development and Conflict and African Perspectives.
“I’m really excited honestly for the courses,” she said. “Although STU prepares us really well in liberal arts, we don’t always get that African perspective.”
“I think it’s good to have a little bit diversity. Where STU is so small, we often take classes in a department from the same profs. It’s nice to have a new perspective and I’m going to be in the classroom with people from all over Canada and [from] all different programs so we’re all going to have different things to offer and we’re actually learning from Ugandan profs about Uganda and East Africa, so [we’re] going to be learning from the best.”
Jardine will also be working with a Ugandan non-governmental organization as an internship.
She has yet to be assigned an internship but her options have been narrowed to two possible groups.
“[Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS] deals with a lot of health in a human rights context [and] Uganda is struggling quite hard with a lot of opportunities to health access and the Centre for Women in Governance focuses very much on getting women empowered and leadership development and women’s rights advocacy,” she said.
“I like them both for different reasons … but I think they’re both really interesting and both really different so it’s an experience to get me out of my comfort zone [and] I’ll take whatever comes my way.”
Jardine is excited for more than just the courses and internship.
“I’m really excited just to see how people live because often there’s that stereotype that Africa’s like this desolate, sad place and I know that’s not true but I haven’t got to experience it firsthand,” she said.
“I hope to have a better idea about the developing world. Obviously, I’m not going to know everything there is to know in three months [but] I think it’s going to prepare me in looking forward to what I want to do after St. Thomas.”
Jardine will be returning from Uganda on Sept. 5 to complete her final year at STU and she hopes to use what she learns in Uganda when she returns to Canada.
“I expect to be able to consider African perspective more and to be able to understand why Africa is the way it is and why decisions are made and hopefully gather a little bit more of the history because obviously here in Canada we get the history from a western perspective,” she said.
“We don’t necessarily get it from an African perspective so I’m interested to see that and kind of carry that into my disciplines.”
Jardine is currently torn between international development studies and international affairs after she graduates from STU and moves onto graduate school. But she’d also like to continue her work with a non-governmental organization because of her interest in international human rights and law and social and economic development.
Her dream job is to work with the United Nations, but she has to get to Uganda first.
“I’m trying to become more familiar [with Uganda]. I’m trying to read more and finalize my travel details. And basically, [I’m] just getting super excited.”