Justine ventures the exchange


Hello, I’m Justine, 28 years old and come from Uganda. This is my #afterschoolstory.

My hometown is called Kasese and is a small town in Western Uganda (Uganda is a country in the east of Africa). I lived the first four years of my life in the Congo since my father worked there. Then we moved to Uganda, where my family actually comes from. I’m the third of four children and have two sisters and one brother.

Prospects after leaving school

After leaving school I began to study economics and administration. But soon I noticed that that wasn’t the right thing for me. As a result I decided to give up my studies and went to South Africa for two years, where I worked as an au pair. After those two years I returned to Uganda and volunteered in the organisation Uganda Pioneers Assosiation (UPA). There I met a woman from Germany who told me about IN VIA and possible work experience at a girls’ home.

IN VIA has stood for equal opportunities in and around Cologne for 120 years

IN VIA Köln e.V. is an innovative Catholic social association in Cologne which supports equal opportunities and the participation of young people irrespective of gender, origin, religion, ethnicity and need for assistance. New avenues are explored in areas such as education, training and work (source: IN VIA)


Voluntary services: Why go abroad?

Voluntary services abroad still enjoy great popularity. Perhaps some of you have already spent a considerable time abroad to collaborate on a social project.

Staying abroad helps you gain important experience and learn a lot about different cultures and systems. Moreover, it develops your own personality and even fosters independence.

I’m not the only one of my friends who wanted to go abroad. But the problem is that there aren’t many opportunities. There are hardly any organisations which offer a South-North exchange and for many people it isn’t affordable. I think it would be important to develop the South-North exchange programmes. Compared to the 40.000 volunteers from Germany, the 800 volunteers from countries of the so-called Global South who have participated in the exchange programme weltwärts since 2008 are still quite a small number.


Weltwärts – How about social commitment after leaving school?

  A lot of young people from Germany do a voluntary social year or work experience abroad after their Abitur (A levels) or their studies. A large number of young people from countries of the socalled Global South don’t get this opportunity, often for financial reasons. In order to change this, a “reverse programme” was established about three years ago with a view to promoting the SouthNorth exchange. Since 2013 800 volunteers from countries of the Global South have taken part in the programme. One of them is Justine. source: Weltwärts

My work experience: A typical working day

I was absolutely delighted with the work placement and the exchange programme of IN VIA. I love learning new languages and getting to know different cultures. Moreover, I find working with girl groups very interesting because in Uganda there are only a few specific services offered to girls. That’s how I eventually arrived here in Cologne. Since September 2018 I’ve been doing work experience at the Teresa-von-Avila-Haus.

I help the girls with their homework, sometimes we go for a walk or go to the cinema, cook or play together and, of course, we chat a lot.

The Teresa-von-Avila-Haus is an international youth home for girls and young women aged between 16 and 27. Here you can find more information.


I’ve got an eventful daily routine, which fills me with joy

In the mornings I attend a language course to further consolidate my knowledge of the German language. Lessons are quite demanding, but it’s also fun learning a new language. I begin working around five pm. On Mondays, for example, I go shopping with the girls and then we cook together. At seven pm we all eat together, chat about everything and anything or play something together afterwards


Challenge, joy and home sickness at the same time

So far the major challenge for me has been the language and that people here speak so rapidly.

My most beautiful experience yet has been the surprise party on my birthday. What I miss most is my family, especially my mother.


Culture shock!

The most shocking thing so far has been my first train ride. The people were all so solemn and quiet. They were all sitting with their mobiles in their hands, wearing headphones, and there was no conversation. In Uganda bus rides are always very chaotic and noisy and the people are a bit more open than here.


My plans for the future

After my work experience I’ like to go on exploring Germany and perhaps travel around other European countries. In February I’m flying back to my home country and I’d like to study social work either there or abroad.


My #girlsforgirls tip

Do what you want and stay true to your dreams! It’s not as difficult as you think.

Could you imagine doing work experience abroad, or possibly even on a different continent?

Yours, Justine


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