Student Reflection

A Field School Experience Unlike Any Other

BHSc Field School in Uganda 

When I first heard about my acceptance into the Community Health Engagement Virtual Field Experience and Group Study Program in Uganda, I was ecstatic. My motivations for applying to this program were:

  • to narrow down my interests with regards to public health
  • to gain more public health experience in a different cultural atmosphere 
  • to deepen my understanding of the everyday tasks associated with public health work

As a Bioinformatics student in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program interested in public health, this was the perfect opportunity for me to gain field experience in public health, statistics, health systems, and the intersection of the three in a global context. 

In June 2021, it was announced that Uganda would be entering another COVID-19 related lockdown and all international virtual field schools were cancelled. Despite understanding that the measures were for the safety of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology students, I was deeply disappointed. I coped with my disappointment by immediately trying to find alternate opportunities that would achieve roughly the same goals. Luckily, I was not alone in my thought process. 

I am so thankful that the Indigenous, Local and Global Health (ILGH) Office at the University of Calgary acted swiftly to provide us with different but equally fulfilling opportunities. The disappointment I initially felt quickly shifted as I was introduced to the unique learning opportunity with the ILGH Office’s Healthy Adolescents & Young People! (HAY!) initiative. I was tasked with providing a literature review about the effect of COVID-19 on sexual and reproductive health in East African countries. This review notes trends on sexual and reproductive health such as teen marriage, teen pregnancy, gender-based violence, and contraceptive use.

Originally, I was daunted by the scale of the task because I had never completed a literature review of this magnitude before. Pivoting from my original ideas of the field experience was difficult but I rested easy knowing that the work I was doing would help inform the HAY! team in future initiatives. I learned how to be more effective with my time, sharpen my literature searching skills, and draw critical conclusions from a large body of work. I remained self-motivated, and largely self-directed. These skills will prove useful in my future career opportunities. I am proud of myself for completing the report to the HAY! team’s expectations, especially since it seemed insurmountable to me at the start of the experience. 

This global health summer experience was nothing like I expected, but nonetheless, I am very thankful for it. I found great value not only in the work I did, but in the connections I made along the way. I was able to engage with established members in the public health community, absorbing their advice, and using it to craft my future experiences. I learned a lot about health systems in East African countries, developed my skills as a researcher, and made some valuable connections along the way. This I plan to dutifully carry with me in the future.
 

- Anjola | Bioinformatics | Bachelor of Health Sciences 

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