Uganda conjures up daydreams of misty jungles and sunsets over the savanna, but this country may not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking about internships abroad. But, if you want to get the most out of your internship experience, look no further than Uganda. Internship opportunities in Uganda will take you to the front lines to join projects that have the potential to make a massive impact, especially in the fields of medicine, public health, teaching, and women's empowerment. Interning in Uganda will be rewarding in many ways; not only will you get a chance to make a difference, but you will also gain essential real world experience that can take you far in your career.
Internships in Uganda are ideal if you want the kind of internship experience that doesn't keep you confined to the university classroom. An internship in Uganda will take place in the real world, wherever you are needed, giving you hands-on experience in a very off-the-beaten track destination for internships abroad.
In general, big cities tend to be popular hubs for international organizations in Uganda, such as the bustling capital city of Kampala. This modern city is an expat magnet, and is both quintessentially Ugandan and international all at once. Just be careful when crossing the busy streets in the city center, as throngs of honking taxis and boda bodas race by. Some parts of the city can seem a little chaotic, yet exciting! If you need a little peace and quiet during an internship in Kampala, many areas of the city surprisingly resemble a garden metropolis rather than a concrete jungle.
Kabale is a sleepier town, where you can expect a more immersive cultural experience than the slightly more westernized capital, which is well known for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Chilled-out Entebbe is a port city on the vast Lake Victoria, and home to Uganda's international airport. In Jinja, you will find the wellspring of the nile river, which is not just the source of life itself, but also really great for river rafting. However, this town also has a reputation for adventure sports, like mountain biking and bungee jumping. All three of the latter cities are great alternative locations for internship in Uganda that will make for a truly unique experience.
Internship Opportunities in Uganda
An internship in Uganda is sure to be a bit unconventional, with many programs placing interns smack-dab in the middle of the action, instead of seated at a desk. There is much work to be done in Uganda across various fields, especially considering that many schools and medical facilities lack critical resources, so community outreach can go a long way.
In Uganda, there is a great need for medical and health science interns specifically. People who live in rural areas far from hospitals are in great need of healthcare services, meaning interns will have the unique ability to directly provide medical care and learn by doing. Medical interns may work in public hospitals or support NGO-run local hospitals, where doctors are revolutionizing improvements in women's health and attempting to improve infant survival rates by tackling malnutrition and infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Due to limited resources and health care professionals, interns may be given the chance to perform major and minor surgeries, under supervision by local doctors, of course.
There is also a great need for teachers in Uganda, where teaching by repetition is the norm in most schools. Arts, crafts, team sports, and various other activities that have the power to inspire critical thinking play an important role in education, and interns may be given the freedom to develop and implement lessons that can integrate these types of subjects into their own curriculum.
The sad reality is, there is also a great need for volunteer assistance among victims of the past tumultuous decades of war and a seemingly endless succession of rising and falling dictatorial regimes. Uganda is recovering from a brutal and chaotic period, which has left it filled with scarred child soldiers and young girls dealing with AIDS or recovering from sex slavery. Therefore, grassroots community outreach, medical aid, and women's empowerment are all focal points for international nonprofits and those working to improve human rights in Uganda.
Rich in (untapped) natural resources as well as stunning natural beauty and wildlife that needs to be protected, Uganda is also an ideal place for those with an interest in environmental studies or the desire to invent sustainable development strategies and earth-friendly practices.
Lastly, there are internship opportunities in Uganda for budding filmmakers or those who want to make their way into the world of media. Film or media internships in Uganda often require interns to document ground-breaking innovations taking place in Uganda, which can help convince donors, volunteers, and ordinary people to support important causes.
While interning in Uganda, you will find people are very friendly with a laid-back attitude, but that doesn’t mean you should pack only flip flops and t-shirts! Personal appearance is a point of pride, especially in professional environments. In everyday chit-chat, and even during professional meetings, it is not considered prying to talk casually about your personal home and family life, even upon first making your acquaintance.
You may need to relax a bit, and expect that some formally arranged meetings may often start much later than the agreed upon time, or “African time.” Flexibility will be essential if you decide to intern in this laid-back country, and you will likely need to get used to getting by without all the comforts of home, which is sure to make you more easy going and self-reliant for years to come.
Salary & Costs
Since many organizations in Uganda are focused on addressing real humanitarian needs, you will often have the opportunity to play a direct role in the implementation of groundbreaking projects during your internship in Uganda; consider yourself lucky! Internship opportunities in Uganda may not only give you the chance to have an immediate benefit for Ugandans, but they could also present you with an immersive learning experience that is sure to impress future employers. The tradeoff of course is that many internships in Uganda are unpaid, unless you look for placements provided by government-run foreign aid programs, in most cases. However, most internship opportunities in Uganda will offer a stipend to cover basic costs of living, or at least provide accommodation.
Thankfully for interns, the cost of living in Uganda is low, so many interns will find their money can stretch far when converted to Ugandan shillings. Haggling is the norm in Uganda and it would be wise to learn a few words in Swahili to aid your bargaining skills at the market. You may be surprised at the high relative costs of "luxuries", like a cup of coffee, which could cost the same as breakfast, lunch, and dinner combined. A budget of $400 to $500 a month should cover all the basics of rent, food, and public transportation during your internship in Uganda, with enough left over for fun too. Some essentials might be cheaper and easier to find in the big cities, so it might be a good idea to stock up before heading to your internship destination if it's off the beaten path.
Accommodation & Visas
Unless your internship in Uganda is brief, lasting less than three months, you will need more than just a tourist visa to stay legal. However, you’ll be able to renew your tourist visa and upgrade to a "special pass," which will allow you to stay for two additional months. Alternatively, you could opt to obtain a multiple entry visa, which is valid for six months and will give you the freedom to leave and re-enter Uganda if your internship requires (or if you just want to do some adventuring around Africa).
If your internship in Uganda is paid, however, you will need a work permit, which you can often apply for upon arrival; just be prepared with the essential documentation for the application. You can also get an early start on getting cleared for the right visa through a Ugandan embassy in your home country. Check out GoAbroad’s Ugandan Embassy Directory for more specific, up-to-date visa information.
Another thing to know before you intern in Uganda is that you will need to be vaccinated for yellow fever and provide a certificate to prove it. Since you will likely be doing work in the field during your internship placement, accommodation will often be arranged in a homestay or a dormitory organized by your program provider. If you are stationed in a more urban setting, you may be expected to find your own housing. Typical homes in big cities will have running water and electricity, and even internet connection, but you might find slow or spotty connection compared to the creature comforts you're used to.
Benefits & Challenges
Roll-Up Your Sleeves and Make a Difference. The down-and-dirty work in the field required by most internships in Uganda will give you the chance to directly participate in or even help develop and implement projects that fulfill a real need. Not only will you be helping people in the most direct and immediate way, you will get a chance to demonstrate and cultivate your skills, knowledge, creativity, and flexibility.
40 Languages, but English is Just One. In the big cities like Kampala, you will have an easier time communicating in English, but in more rural areas, it would be helpful to learn some key phrases in the regional language. The local language will of course depend on the location of your internship in Uganda; but don't worry, no one is expecting you to speak all 40 languages of Uganda fluently.
Much More Than Safaris and Sunshine. In a country as beautiful and welcoming as Uganda, you will get to experience a side of Africa that many tourists, who come to catch a glimpse of the stunning scenery and some incredible wildlife, never see: the people, the culture, the potential for positive change, and the hope of a country rising from a tumultuous past.
You will certainly come away with more than you expected, because an internship in Uganda will provide you with a raw, immersive experience, where your direct participation is not only encouraged, but needed.