Week Seven: March 11th-17th

Namaste!! We arrived in India early Sunday morning! So much has happened this week, I don’t know where to start. This week has definitely been my favorite week of the program so far and I couldn’t be happier to be here! Like a typical day on this program, we were not given much time to rest before we were out and about on Sunday after we landed.

After leaving the airport we checked into our hotel and met our country team. Our country coordinator is Abid, our field assistant is Rajshree, and our homestay coordinator is Bhavna. I have a friend who was recently in India on a different IHP program who raved about how great this team is! We were told that to show respect in India you say ‘Ji’ at the end of someone’s name, so Abid is Abid Ji and so on and so forth.

We had some time to freshen up and then we headed to the SIT program office for our welcome and introductions. We had lunch at the office and it made me even more excited to be here for 5 weeks, it was delicious! We had a little bit of an orientation on some basic safety things and the India team gave their presentation on where we have been to our country team. We went to the Dilli Haat market for dinner. The Dilli Haat is an open bazaar and food plaza that has a ton of different vendors to buy clothes, jewelry, accessories, art and more along with a bunch of spots to enjoy some of India’s wonderful food. This place technically has street food, which we are not supposed to eat, but we were given the okay here. My favorite thing that I got was Kulfi, which is Indian ice cream. Sooo good!

Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at our hotel and then headed to a health clinic for a health orientation on how to stay healthy while were here. We headed to our classroom spot afterwards. The classroom space that we will be using in India is in the building of an NGO called Action for Autism (I will talk more about this later). We had a brief survival Hindi lesson and a homestay orientation. While English is spoken by many people in India, Hindi is also an official language of the country. Besides Hindi, each state of India has its own language as well. We found out who we will be living we and where we will be staying and then headed to Hauz Khas which is a neighborhood that is rather upscale. We walked around and grabbed dinner there.

A sweet shop in Hauz Khas

We checked out of our hotel on Tuesday morning and headed to our classroom for a guest lecture on an introduction to India focusing on its social, political, and economic history. Dr. Azim Khan is an academic director and has done some amazing work with social activism and human rights. He is also one of the homestay fathers! India is the 2nd largest country by population in the world and Dr. Khan mentioned that the United States population is only 27% of the size of India’s population. Crazy!

We had a culture and safety orientation after our tea break. Yes, we have a scheduled tea break everyday!! Some of the keys things we discussed in the cultural orientation were how the typical relations between men and women are and how women are still viewed as second class citizens in India. This will be interesting to observe over the next few weeks. We then split up for our neighborhood day activity. This was a little similar to how we did this day in Uganda. My group went to Khan market which had a bunch of beautiful clothing shops, places to eat, and this awesome stationary shop. Neighborhood day is similar to a scavenger hunt where we have to find out how much specific things cost and ask people different questions. I spotted this beautiful kurta (an upper garment similar to a dress and typically worn with pants/leggings that originated in India) in the first boutique we went in, but resisted the temptation to buy the first thing I looked at.

Tuesday night we headed to our homestays! My roommate is Betty, she is from Myanmar and goes to school in Pennsylvania, and we are staying with a family in Jasola. We live right next to the SIT office and a few minute walk away from our classroom. This means I get to sleep until 8 everyday, wooo! My families surname is Singh, which I thought was fun because although many Indians have this surname, one of my good friends from Lehigh has this surname as well. I live with my host parents, Manmeet and Niki, our younger siblings, Mansa (10) and Gobin (8), and their grandparents live in the apartment that is connected to the upstairs by a spiral staircase. My family is Punjabi, and they are Sikh, a less dominant form of religion in India. Most of the houses are apartment style here, and ours is beautiful. My family has also traveled to the US and has been to Buffalo before, both of my parents have cousins in Buffalo, so I feel like I was meant to be staying with this family!

If anyone reading this hasn’t tried India food, I recommend you stop reading this and go to the closest Indian restaurant. All of the food is AMAZING! While there is a ton of different kinds of food, and differences between southern (spicer) and northern Indian food some of the staples that we have been eating have been roti, dal, curried potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables, paneer, different deserts, and other curries. Because of all the spices, everything is so flavorful, and I love it!

Wednesday morning, we had our first technology class with our local professor, Ms. Saloni. Saloni is a social entrepreneur herself, and we spent this class discussing the business she founded, Desicrew. Desicrew is a socially motivated outsourcing company that connects global clients with low cost back office centers in rural India. Desicrew is largely women’s employment, however boys from the south of India have applied and they are working for places like Huffington Post. She talked about how the sales pitch in many social innovation business’ is wrong and that there is too much emphasis on the value system and customer wants are often forgotten about. She also mentioned that the fastest way out of poverty is consistent employment.

Afterwards, we had a session on Action for Autism, the space we have our classes in. The founder, Ms. Merry Barus, explained that AFA is non-profit, education, and training and advocacy organization that provides support and services to individuals with autism. AFA is the parent organization that had the goal to “put autism on the Indian map”. Ms. Barus explained that her motivation for starting the organization began with her experience of having and autistic child. The organization has helped make a large impact on the changing awareness of autism in India over the past decade.

In the afternoon, we headed to Goonj for a site visit. Goonj is an organization that takes used clothing and cloth and then sorts, mends, and distributes them to the needy in India. The cloth is also used to be remade into bags and sanitary napkins. They also accept paper that has one clean side and reuse is to make different products, brochures, etc for the organization. Goonj’s goal is to look forward to a parallel economy that is not cash based, but that is trash based. This organization is huge. We had a tour through all of their different sections and everything is very well organized. One of the cool things that they do is put together wedding packages for couples that can not afford the extravagant costs of an Indian wedding. Their sanitary pad movement is also very huge and has made a large impact on many communities in India. Goonj has become quite the established organization and has over 250 partner organizations in over 21 remote parts of India. We were able to have a question and answer session with the founder. He was quite resistant to answering questions about impact measurement, which was interesting because that’s something we have took a critical eye to when evaluating the different sites we go to. However, our social entrepreneurship professor, Manisha, knows the organization very well and explained that they have been answering these questions for a very long time so they tend to stray away from them now.

In the evening, I headed back to Kahn market and bought the Kurta that I spotted the previous day. We are going to the Taj this weekend, and I needed something to wear, so I couldn’t resist. This market also had a beautiful stationary shop, so I stocked up on handmade cards.

We had a lecture on the caste system in India on Thursday morning. Our lecturer, Dr. Arshad explained that the caste system is a 3,000 year old institution and that although it is an institution, it is a characteristic of Hindu society and has spread to major non-Hindu communities. A few things that stuck out to me we’re that castes we’re traditionally linked to occupations, and that marriage must take place inside the caste. Essentially, marriage sustains the caste system. In present day, there have been initiatives from both ends of the caste spectrum to organize the depressed classes. Our lecturer mentioned that a few forces of change are the speeding up and intensification of economic change, and modern educated Indians being attracted the liberal ideas of individualism and meritocracy. Many of the organizations that we visit in India try to challenge the caste system and it will be interesting to see the different approaches because how does one change a century old system that is still embedded in Indian society.

We had our first design thinking and development class afterwards and focuses on tradition and modernity in India. We talked about the two different visions for India that were held by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and the idea of McDonaldization. McDonaldization is the process by which the characteristics and principles of the fast food industry start to dominate other areas of social life. The main principles of this are predictability, calculability, efficiency, and control. To be honest, I was a little confused about this. Lastly, we discussed traditional craft in India and how it may be becoming a crisis for livelihoods because modern industrial design is the opposite of traditional craft practice.

We had cohort time at Lodi Gardens in the afternoon. Our rickshaw driver definitely did not know where he was going since he asked other people while we were driving which way to go multiple times. The traffic here is still pretty intense. However the main difference with the traffic in Uganda, is that it moves in India!! So, we get places a lot quicker. Rickshaws are a popular mode of transport here and there are a few different types. Delhi also has a metro which is SO nice. It is very clean, air conditioned, and has outlets. It’s much nicer than the metro in New York. They also have a women’s only cart, which is interesting. Lodi Gardens was very beautiful and peaceful.

Lodi Gardens!

We headed to another market afterwards, called Central Market. This one was a bit different from Kahn, because it was much more open and most of the places did not have fixed prices. It was quite chaotic, but there was so much to look at and I really enjoyed it.

Central Market!

Friday morning, we had a social entrepreneurship class and discussed the key traits of social entrepreneurs. Our professor, Manisha, said that the ultimate goal of social entrepreneurs is to create a world where everybody is a change maker and to create equal systems. She explained that social change sustains on trust, not technical or intellectual finesse. I had never thought about it that way before. We debriefed the week and then had the rest of the day to ourselves.

Of course, we went to another market. This one was called Janpath and had a different vibe than the other two. I bought a beautiful pair of shoes and a few other things. After we graded dinner, we went to the Akshardham Temple and saw the light show it has. This temple was absolutely stunning! Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take phones or cameras in, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures. The light show was also amazing! I’m loving this place more every day.

A few of us in front of the Taj!

We got up early Saturday morning to head to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. It was about a 3 hour drive. The Taj was just as beautiful as it’s said to be. The outside was spectacular. Of course, it was pretty crowded. The inside of the Taj felt a bit underwhelming compared to the outside, but it also felt like we were being pushed through an assembly line because there were so many people trying to get through. Nevertheless, it was really great to be able to go!
I couldn’t have asked for a better first week in India and I can’t wait for what the next month has to offer!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more!!




Week 6: March 5th-March 10th

Our final week in Uganda has arrived! This program is set up in a way that we are always doing so much, so it feels like we have been here forever, yet it feels so strange that we’re already preparing to leave. This week was all about assignments. Of course, most of us procrastinated all of our assignments, so I spent the majority of the week in different cafes doing my work after class.

            We had our final social entrepreneurship, technology, and design thinking classes in the beginning of the week. We only have three of each class in each country, but it’s been incredible how much we have learned in that short amount of time.

We had our final site visit in Uganda with Anuel Energy on Tuesday afternoon. Anuel Energy is an enterprise that works towards spreading solar systems to people in need of electricity. The products were actually really cool, and looked extremely durable. The man who ran our visit was really great and was super open about answering all of our questions. He wasn’t afraid to talk about the challenges they had when they started up or to be proud of the success they’ve had since. I’d say this was one of my favorite site visits in Uganda.

Our beautiful classroom view!

As far as assignments go, I wrote an essay critiquing the Millennium Development Project that we visited during our excursion in Mbarara for our anthropology class. I wrote an essay about Boda Boda’s and the impact they’ve had on Uganda for our technology class. Finally, we had to do a presentation for our case study on what we discovered about Girl Up. I felt pretty good about my assignments overall, especially our case study. Our presentation went really well!

After all of our assignments were due on Thursday, we had a Uganda synthesis session and did a comparative summary of learning. Basically, we just connected the dots between everything we did in Uganda and then connected those dots with what we previously did in California. Our days are jam packed, so this process took quite a while. I can’t imagine what it will be like when we add India and Brazil into the mix.

Friday morning, we had our here we come India session and spent this time at a nearby Indian restaurant to help prepare us for the next leg in our journey. We then had time to do whatever we wanted until we had a farewell dinner with our homestays in the evening. I used a portion of this time to film a dance video. Dancing is probably the thing that I miss most about being away, and African dance is something that I’ve been able to learn about at Lehigh and have really loved and appreciated. I filmed one the choreo’s that my dance team at school performed last semester. As always, it felt great to be dancing. In the evening we had a departure dinner with everyone’s homestays and all of the staff apart of the Uganda country team. As cliché as it may sound, I can’t believe this portion of the program is over and we are moving on to a new country.

My host family at our farewell dinner!

Saturday morning, we headed out early for the airport to catch our flight that left in mid-afternoon. We had a touchdown in Kigali, Rwanda for about an hour during the flight (we stayed on the plane, and a bunch of new people got on). The flight from Uganda to Rwanda was only a half an hour, and a ton of people actually got off the flight when we landed in Rwanda. I was very surprised. This blog would’ve been written a lot sooner; however, we did not have any outlets for our 8-hour flight, so I was left phoneless and laptopless. I started reading the book Dear World which is about the story of a young Syrian war refugee’s call for peace. So far, it is beautifully written, but I can tell that it is going to be heart wrenching. We had a short layover in Qatar (this airport was very bougie) and then another 4-hour flight to Delhi.

I cannot express how excited I am for the next 5 weeks to be filled with amazing food and chai tea!!! Stayed tuned for more!!!



Week Five: February 26th-March 4th

This week was our excursion week for Uganda. We headed to Western Uganda early Monday morning. We spent the first half of the week in Mbarara and the second half on Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale. On our way, we stopped at the Equator, which is basically just a spot that has signs that say you’re on the equator. Uganda is one of the 13 countries that the equator runs through. We stopped for lunch and then drove through Lake Mburo National Park to see some Zebras. I didn’t see any Zebras when I was on safari last year, so this was really cool! We arrived at our hotel around 530pm.

We spent all of Tuesday on a site visit at the Millennium Village Project in Ruhiira. The Millennium Village Project is a project of the Earth Institute that was started by Jeffrey Sachs with the main goal of ending extreme poverty. This project tries to do so through taking a community-led approach to sustainable development by uniting government, science, business, and civil society. Millennium is a part of the name because it was a direct initiative towards trying to tackle the Millennium Development goal of ending poverty that was started by the UN. The project ended 2 years ago, after its 2-year extension, and is now in the process of being handed over to the government. This same model was used to establish the same project in other villages in different countries in Africa.

A cute shot of some zebra love!


I have a lot of thoughts about this project. Overall, I think the idea and the initiative was great, but I don’t think it was executed very well. It seems as though the project was put into place with little consideration, or research for what the people living in the village would like to have had put into place. It didn’t seem like the emphasis on community and relationship building (things that would increase sustainability, in my opinion) was a top priority in this project. I’m not saying that I think the project was bad, it did bring good changes to the community. We were given a sheet that described all 6 different components of the projects and each one’s impact. They have done a really great job of providing clean water to the village. However, each section basically just had a bunch of bullet points for their achievements and numbers for how many things were implemented. Again, this is not bad, but it is not sustainable. This was especially clear because the project is currently not active and being put into the power of the government, which has had a habit of being known for being corrupt. I’m still processing what I think about all of it, but I can say with confidence that my opinions about international development are changing and being challenged.

We were supposed to go on a site visit to a place called Tugende Wednesday morning, however we were not able to go. Tugende is a social enterprise that helps boda boda drivers own their own motorcycle after a year and a half, as opposed to always renting. We were not able to go because you need to have government permission, and we were not given it. We were told that some organizations can be very skeptical of American groups and what their motives are. It would’ve been really cool to go, but it is also interesting why we weren’t able to.

We had our second design thinking class and talked in-depth about human-centered design and inclusive innovation. We talked about the difference between human wants and human needs and how the concept of what it means to be human gets reflected in design. Inclusive innovation is defined as innovation that benefits the disenfranchised and it points to inequalities that may arise in development. In other words, design is the process of creating value, and inclusivity is about where the value goes.

Thursday, we had a really interesting anthropology class talking about modernity and development. We talked about the idea of development and globalization as historically produced discourses and that the discourse and strategy of development produces the opposite of what it thought it was going to. We had a site visit with one of ENVenture’s partner CBO’s (community-based organization). We were able to speak with the founder of Enventure while we were in San Francisco. The partner CBO that we went to worked with water filtration systems, cook stoves, and fire starters.  The fire starters were made from saw dust, millet dust, and wax. We were able to see the process of how the fire starters were, super cool.

The fire starters!

After our site visit, we headed to the second part of our excursion. We drove for about 5 hours to Kabale and then took a boat ride on Lake Buyongyi to Entusi, the resort we would be staying at for the next 3 days. This place was absolutely beautiful, and we were the only ones staying there so we had the whole place to ourselves. Water surrounded us, so it felt like we were on our own little island.

On our way to Entusi!

Friday morning, we had a self-care cohort time session. I taught some yoga and spent a lot of time journaling, it was quite nice. We had an introduction to Entusi as a Social Enterprise. Entusi is a destination for travelers, but with the mission of being able to impact the health and vitality of communities in East Africa through community outreach and investment, research, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Entusi was started by a white man, but the community has as much greater say and the goal is for Entusi to be completely self-sustaining. They have a huge music festival each year that attracts about 15,000 people and they have had Ted talks before.

In the afternoon, we went on a boat tour to learn about all of the 29 surrounding islands. We stopped at one that had a farm and there was a school up at the top with a basketball court that has the greatest view. We had a debriefing session about our visit to the Millennium Village Project which made my head hurt. After dinner, we all watched The Breakfast Club together (world’s best movie). Each cohort has to name themselves and we named ourselves the breakfast club, so we thought it was fitting to watch the movie.


We had the whole day to ourselves on Saturday, so we took advantage of the activities that Entusi offers. We started out the day with a nice hike. They told us that it wasn’t difficult and didn’t go up hill that much. Of course, the majority of the hike was all up hill, this brought back lots of memories from last summer. We went to a local witchdoctor after. For some reason, we all thought we were going to get our futures told. I have no idea why we thought that. The witchdoctor is basically just a natural and herbal medicine specialist. It was pretty cool. After lunch, we went canoeing. This was an interesting experience, I have been canoeing before, so I thought it would be easy. This canoe was a big carved out tree trunk, and my friend Sanne and I, could not get the canoe to go straight if our lives depended on it. So, we didn’t get very far, but it was still fun!

We left early Sunday morning to head back to Kampala. We were in the car all day. I am not kidding, I really do mean all day. We left Entusi around 8am and didn’t get back to our homestay until after 730pm.

Only one more week in Uganda!

Sending my love,


P.S. Finally a post that’s not almost 5 pages long!!

Week 4: February 19th-February 25th

Now that were fully acquainted in Uganda, this week was mainly all classes and site visits. We had our first anthropology and social change class Monday morning followed by our first technology, change, and innovations class for the country. We talked a lot about ethics and research methods in our anthro class. All of this information is not new to me because of classes I have taken at Lehigh, but review never hurts. We talked about agricultural development in Africa in our technology class and discussed why Africa is so “poor”. This was an interesting conversation. Something we have talked about quite a bit/joked about is the common misperception that Africa is a country or talking about a place in Africa on behalf of the whole country. Talking about this has made me realize that I have been guilty of doing this before, and I have heard comments around me that fall into those categories several times.

We went to AGT (Agro Genetic Technologies) Laboratories for a site visit Monday afternoon. AGT is an enterprise that provides disease free planting materials for different crops (lots and lots of bananas) to farmers all over Uganda. Tissue culture, not GMO’s, is used to do so. Interestingly, Uganda does not have GMO’s, and thus is the biggest producer of organic food in the world. I don’t really know much about GMO’s, tissue culture, or anything to do with biotechnology, so it was really cool to actually learn what the difference between tissue culture and GMO’s is and check out a laboratory that does this sort of work.

Bananas in their first stage of growth at AGT

Monday night I was able to see my beloved host brother from over the summer, Dezz. Our visit was brief, but it was so so great to see him! Hopefully, I will have time to see him once more before we leave.

We had our second social entrepreneurship class Tuesday morning and talked about the social business investment landscape in East Africa. We discussed the different sources of funding, what makes a business sustainable and scalable, and the difference between risk and return for social enterprises. As expected, social enterprises have higher risk with a lower return potential. We had a homestay check-in and a briefing on our site visit for the afternoon.

Dezz and I!

We went to YARID which stands for Young African Refugees for Integral Development. This NGO was founded by Congolese urban youth refugees living in Kampala to give hope to refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also from Rwanda, Sudan, and Burundi. They have a technology program for men, and a tailoring/sewing program for women. While we were there, we talked about the history of what is happening in the DRC, and what programs they offer. We then broke up into groups with people that are currently utilizing YARID’s services to speak with them more. I’m not to sure how I felt about this visit. First, there was a major language barrier, most of the people we were with spoke only French which made communicating difficult. This led to the conversation being run by only a few people in the group. Second, we didn’t really know what we should have been asking. Mainly, asking refugees about their experience felt a bit intrusive to me. I don’t know if I feel like I had the right to be asking questions that may have triggered negative experiences. We didn’t have this in our group, but other groups ended up in conversations that involved some of the refugees reflecting on devastating things that happened to them while they were still in the DRC. After thinking about it, I didn’t really feel like we did too much good being there, but I’m not sure if we did any harm either.

This is one of the tough parts of this program. We are in a lot of different spaces in cultures that are not our own that involve sensitive topics. Thinking about questions like should we be here, are we being intrusive, is it my right to be in these spaces, am I doing more harm than good or anything at all, and more is quite difficult. I think a lot of it is situationally dependent, but essentially, I have no idea. I’m hoping I’ll have a better idea by the end of this trip, but as things usually go, I’ll probably leave with more questions. That’s life, right?

An idea that has come up periodically throughout our time so far, including in San Francisco, is the idea of experts being the ones who are best fit to solve problems. Being an expert is about how you relate to something, not necessarily the degree you have. Going back to the places we visited that work with homelessness in San Francisco, the women at the Coalition on Homelessness mentioned that in order to be an expert on homelessness you have had to experience homelessness yourself.  This is really interesting to think about, especially around foreign aid and international development. This relates to storytelling and individuals coming into an environment that they are not from and thinking they know how to solve any problems the people of that place are facing and convincing them that they are lucky that this person has come to help them. Because without them, they wouldn’t be aware of what type of people they are or how to solve their “problems”. That was a lot of words, so my apologies if that made no sense at all, but all of this has been on my mind lately.

We had our case study day on Wednesday. As I mentioned in past blogs, our assignment for our social entrepreneurship class is completing a case study by visiting an organization that pertains to a specific topic. I’d like to think of this as a mini case study, because we are only there for one day. My topic is education and we went to an organization called Girl Up. The overall goal of Girl Up is to provide young girls and women with opportunities to survive and thrive in their communities. We spent time with the co-founder, Monica, and her team learning about the different programs they offer, interviewing them, and then going to one of their programs later in the afternoon.

Our case study group and some of the staff of Girl Up

I was extremely impressed by all of the work they are doing. They have so many programs addressing many different crucial issues (this could also be a critique for spreading themselves to thin, but it seemed like they are working very hard at everything they’re doing). Get ready, this list is going to be very long. They have an adolescent girls program, a big sister mentorship program, a young women’s empowerment program, a tailoring program, service health camps, a drama program (plays are put on to educate youth on crucial issues), a program called Champions of Change, a Kampala youth advocacy network, a program called Ni’ Yetu (which means “its ours” in Swahili) that educates women on sexual reproduction, health issues, and social change, a program called men-to-men, and finally, a toll-free number for people to call about sexual reproduction issues and post-abortion issues. All of the programs last for different times and are usually targeting different age groups.

Before I talk about the one program that stuck out the most to me, I want to mention how this program started. One of the co-founders for Girl Up is an American woman, Kim, who was able to connect the organization with funders from the states, the largest being Plan International. Kim was on her way to do work in South Africa when she met Monica on a plane. They happened to be in the same car when leaving the airport and got to talking. Girl Up was established in 2012 and is still thriving today. I couldn’t believe what a crazy story this was, such a small world.

The one program that I really liked was the Champions of Change program. This program works with both girls and boys to teach them about body changes, gender equality, gender-based violence, responsibility and more. They are taught these skills through modules. Boys and girls are taught different modules separately, but after every 2 they have a joined session called “Dialogue and Gender” where they share testimonies and stories about what they have learned so they can learn to work with each other. The leader of this program said, “If we are trying to teach the girls it can’t work without teaching the boys to respect them”. When he said this, I was like, “YESSSSS!!”. In my head, of course. I think this program stuck out to me because I felt like it was the most important. While I do respect women’s work, and am involved in some of it myself, I believe that men are such a huge part of work aiming to move towards gender equality. I felt like Girl Up was addressing a lot of the issues that I saw from the time I spent in the village over the summer. It made me really happy to see people working towards alleviating these issues.

Thursday morning, we had our second anthropology and social change class. We talked about the intersection between colonialism and anthropology, the idea of ownership being manipulated, and how the impact of colonialism has not just been economic. We went to a pool at a nearby hotel for cohort time in the afternoon and then spent the rest of the day doing work at the mall.

Friday morning, we had our second technology, change, and innovations class. We discussed mobile telephony in Uganda and how this innovation has really helped many populations gain access to banking services. After, we had a briefing session about our site visit to YARID and our case study days.

We had Friday afternoon to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. A couple of us went to an Indian restaurant that we were told was the place to go, and it was. This place was beautiful inside and delicious. It made us all a little more excited for India. I went to a dance class in the evening, and I am sure you can all guess that this made me very happy. It was called Koona (a combo of African, hip-hop, and latin) and was kind of a fitness class, but incorporated a lot of African moves, and of course, the best music. My endurance has decreased tremendously, but it felt great to be in the studio. After, we finally saw Black Panther!! This movie has been all the rage, and it was really cool to be able to see it while in Uganda. Interestingly, all movies in Uganda are in 3D. The movie was really great, I recommend everyone to go see it, and also listen to the soundtrack. I have been listening to it for well over a week now!

Reached the Source of the Nile!

This weekend was the weekend that we were allowed to travel in Uganda. There was already an optional excursion to the source of the Nile in a place called Jinga on Saturday. We decided to extend the excursion and stay the night in Jinga and then go horseback riding the next morning. We left quite early for Jinga on Saturday morning and went on a boat tour on the Nile when we got there. I did something super similar when I was in Jinga over the summer, so this was my second time on the Nile. Boat tours are always nice, and it felt good to be on the water. We all went for lunch after and then were dropped off at the place we were staying the night at. This place was very nice and peaceful, and had a beautiful pool.

Sunset at our hotel

Sunday morning, about half of us went on a horseback riding safari. I haven’t been horseback riding since Middle School, so this was a lot of fun. My horses name was Southern Comfort and we went riding for about an hour and a half. The family that runs the safari’s have been living in Uganda for 14 years and are from Australia. Fun fact, there are only 100 horses in the entire country, so it was really cool to have the opportunity to ride. We headed back to Kampala in the afternoon and had our first assignment due that evening. The assignment was for our design thinking course and required us to do a deep interview with one person or brief interviews with multiple people and then represent it through written or visual form. I interviewed my host father and wrote a feature story on his time in politics serving his local community.

Horseback Riding!

Stay tuned for more!

All the best,


Week Three: February 12th-February 17th

We have landed in Uganda and the true adventuring has begun! I have no idea where the last two days disappeared to, but here I am in this country for the second time this year. It really does feel surreal (ignore the clicheness). For anyone that doesn’t know, I spent my summer interning for the NGO (nongovernmental organization) Pathways Development Initiative in Uganda through the Iacocca International Internship Program that my university offers. When we landed, I felt a sense of familiarity because I have gone through the same exact process of getting my visa, finding my luggage, and leaving the airport before. I knew that I would be coming back to Uganda before I even left for my first trip. I didn’t really know how to process being back felt and I am still trying to figure it out. I have also been trying my best not to be overly excited or annoying about being here before. Everybody in my group has been asking me tons of questions about my experience and different things about the country. I am by no means an expert, yet it is nice that everyone is so interested in hearing about my previous time.

A very important aspect to note is that over the summer I was living in a village in the Eastern side of the country. I will now be in Kampala, a city, in Central Uganda. I must say that the urban experience I am having is already drastically different than my rural experience. This has really taken me by surprise. For some reason I feel a bit guilty for thinking they were going to be more similar. I am extremely fortune that I can be back in Uganda to learn more. The experience I had over the summer has really influenced my adaptability and I could not be more grateful because it is absolutely crucial for this journey.

The first two days that we arrive in a new country are spent at a hotel. After we left the airport is took us about 2-2 ½ hours to reach our hotel. Driving on these streets again gave me a sense of nostalgia and familiarity, yet also a weird feeling that I can’t really put my finger on. It’s really interesting to be back here with a completely different group of people and in a very different context. We were met by our country coordinator, Martha, when we arrived at our hotel. Martha has been working with IHP for a long time and her energy is contagious. We had our welcome dinner at a nearby Lebanese restaurant where we received our beloved country books. I love this because the entire schedule for our time in Uganda is included. I’m a big fan of schedules and knowing when I’m doing what.

A view from our hotel

Tuesday was all about orientation. We had a session on health and safety, an introduction to Ugandan food for lunch, a cultural orientation, and a survival Luganda session. Luganda is the predominant language in Uganda, however I did not learn any of this over the summer because the village I was living in had its own local language called Ligisu. R’s sound like L’s in Luganda. For example, goodbye is Weeraba pronounced way-la-ba. English is also very widely spoken here and all of the street signs and menus that I have seen are in English. We had most of our orientation sessions in our classroom spot which is located in a big building that a bunch of other offices in it. After all of this we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant near a very popular mall here called Acacia. I guess a lot of past students spent a lot of there time in cafes in this mall (I have adopted this trend, I am currently writing this in one of the cafes). I was so exhausted during this dinner that all I remember is wanting to go back to the hotel and sleep.

We had our first guest lecture Wednesday morning! We had a session on colonialism and political development in Uganda. There is a lot of great content on this topic that I would love to include, but for the sake of length I will just say that something that stuck out to me was that Uganda was under Colonial rule for 68 years until 1962. This means that Uganda gained its independence only 56 years ago.

We had a neighborhood day for the rest of the afternoon. Students from Makerere University came to do the activity with us. Makerere University is the best school in the country and in the top 5 best schools in all of Africa. We were split up into 6 different groups and 1 university student. We were all given different tasks that we had to complete. My students name was Godwin and he is currently a law student at the university. He is interested in human rights and international relations, so it was a great match. We had to go to the taxi park and ask people about the transportation system. The taxi park is a huge lot full of taxis (15-person vans that I called Matatu’s over the summer). Boda Boda’s are a huge part of the transportation system here. Boda’s are basically motorbikes/motorcycles, however we are not allowed to ride them because they are very dangerous. This past year over 7,000 people lost their lives due to Boda accidents. The traffic is CRAZY here, so it is understandable. This is interesting for me though, because Boda’s were my main mode of transportation over the summer (those roads were much less crowded).

IMG_2647 (1)
Makerere University

We had to go to a shop where we could purchase phone minutes and ask questions about how calling and texting works here. Thanks to my wonderful amazing mother for letting me switch my phone carrier to T-Mobile for this trip, my phone shockingly works really great here, and hopefully will in the other countries. I have unlimited texting and data which is really great for me because whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or homesick calling home is always my go to.

We had lunch at a place that had the local cuisine. Anyone who read my blog over the summer knows this, but the staple foods here are Matoke (basically mashed up green bananas), rice, g-nut sauce (sauce made from ground nuts), chapatti, and Irish potatoes. Surprisingly, I have had no posho yet. Posho is a dish made from maize flour, and I ate this everyday over the summer. I have also had a lot of pumpkin, which was something I never had over the summer. Of course, the fruit is amazing and so sweet. Mangoes, pineapple, passionfruit, bananas, and watermelon are incredible here. My favorite part of this neighborhood day was that we got to check out Makerere University and talk with a bunch of students there. Our guide showed us his dorm room and it was pretty similar to how the single rooms at Lehigh are set up.

Wednesday night was the first night that we spent in our homestays. A member from our homestay family came to pick us up after we received a homestay orientation by the homestay coordinator, Hetti, who is a homestay mom herself. We all are split up into pairs of 2 for the homestays and these pairs will change for every country. I will be living with Arthur (the only boy) in Uganda. This means that I’ll have my own room (yay!). Our host father, Joseph came to pick us up and we are lucky enough to be the closest to our classroom location. It is about a 20-40-minute ride depending on traffic. Some of the girls have a minimum of an hour to a maximum of a 2-hour commute.

My host mother’s name is Kelen and we have a bunch of siblings. Joseph and Kelen have 6 children, 2 of whom currently live in the house. Michael and Reenah are both in their 20’s and we have a 3-year-old sister, Asabe, who is Kelen’s brother’s daughter. They live in a small cute house that reminds me a little bit of where I was staying over the summer. After we got home, we had dinner and went to sleep shortly after.

We are responsible for navigating the transportation system to get to class every day. Our sister, Reenah, went with us on Thursday morning to make sure we knew the right direction. We will be taking the taxi’s that I talked about earlier. They are hot, and jam packed, but manageable and also very cheap. It is usually 1,000 shillings per trip. The currency here is Ugandan Shillings which translates to one dollar being about 3,500 shillings. Things are usually pretty cheap here.

Our home

We had a debriefing session on our adjustment to the first night in our homestays and another guest lecture on the structure of Uganda’s economy and its implications for Entrepreneurship Development. Agriculture is the largest structure of the economy and there are more men employed outside of the home than women. When talking about entrepreneurship I found it interesting the our lecturer told us that greediness drives entrepreneurs, but it also makes them creative. We had our first Design Thinking and Development class for Uganda

We had our first design thinking and development class for this country after our guest lecture. We talked about personas and storytelling and the difference between stereotypes and archetypes. Something interesting that my Professor said was that a stereotype is one story of a bunch of stories. We’ve talked a lot about single stories and how people base their assumptions of another country based on one story they hear. A question we thought about are if stories can create social movements and then the question of if you can create a social movement without a story came up. Interesting things to think about.

We had time to do whatever we wanted after class and some of us went to a crafts market near our classroom. I’ve already bought a bunch of stuff from Uganda, so I tried to limit myself. I bought a very nice necklace, earrings, a scarf, and a gift for a friend. As a group, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was super nice and very tasty!

After, we went to this event that takes place every Thursday night called the Milege Acoustic Project. Makerere University puts on this event every week and it is basically an open mic night where anyone can do whatever type of performance they would like. This was super cool and I’m really glad we went. I highly encourage you all to go on SoundCloud and look up Wake256 and this to the piece 256. 256 is Uganda’s country code. This spoken word was amazing and powerful.

Friday morning, we had our first social entrepreneurship class for this country and learned about the journey of social entrepreneurship in East Africa. Because of the presence of different challenges, such as nutrition, lack of access to clean water, diarrheal diseases and more there is great opportunity and justification for social business. Our assignment for this class will be case studies and as I mentioned before I am going to be researching education. We planned our case studies and where we will be going after class. My group will be going to an organization called Girl Up which I will talk more about next week!

We had our first site visit in Uganda in the afternoon! We went to a place called Innovation Village which was extremely similar to Impact Hub in San Francisco. I thought it was weird how similar the places looked. Innovation Village provides a space for start-ups can work, learn from each other, and create partnerships. I liked this visit more than the one in San Francisco because it was much more interactive. We were able to hear from multiple different startups that are at different levels and then sat down with someone who related to our case study. I felt like I was actually able to ask questions and get honest feedback. The man we talked to was involved with a startup that was putting lectures online that were easily accessible to children in vulnerable areas. They have launched programs in Tanzania and Rwanda as well. We asked a ton of questions and it seem like he really had everything figured out. There were a few things I was a bit skeptical about and of course I left with a bunch more questions, but it seemed like a very great, and needed, initiative.

We spent the night hanging out with our host siblings and playing cards. Arthur brought the game Set with him which is super funny, you should try it out. Our youngest host sister, Asabe, finally warmed up to me. We spent the majority of Saturday morning playing cards and then met up with some of our friends at a country club. It was only a 10-minute walk from our house, so very convenient. We spent the day swimming and laying out. It was our host sister’s, Reenah, birthday on Saturday and the family made her a cake, so we had a small celebration. We were able to meet a few more of the siblings that no longer live in the house.

Ndere Cultural Troupe

After breakfast Sunday morning, we headed to the mall to get some work done at one of the cafes. We stayed there almost the entire day until we met up with everybody and went to this place called the Ndere Cultural Troupe. This was the coolest thing I have ever been to in this country. They put on performances of all of the different traditional dances of the different areas and cultures within Uganda. This included singing and music as well. The drums were my favorite, but everything was absolutely incredible. It was such a cool opportunity and I’m so happy we were able to go. We were able to go dance with the performers at the end and this was by far my favorite 30 minutes that I have spent in this country.

Thanks for reading!!

All the best,


Week Two: February 5th-February 11th


Since I didn’t get the chance to write week one’s blog until the end of week two, I originally planned to combine the two weeks into one post. Once I started writing, I realized I had way too much to say and that was not going to happen, so here is week two! Something I didn’t mention in my last post was how impressive the murals are in San Francisco. They are all over the place, but one particular spot I loved was Clarion Alley. This alley was right by our classroom and many of the murals have some sort of political or social significance. Our classroom is also something I didn’t mention in the last post. We are using a space in San Francisco’s Mission District called the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics. The center is a space that is open for artists and activists to come together to share stories or performances that involve their journeys to flight for economic and social justice. Pretty cool.


We started the week off with our first Anthropology and Social Change class taught by our beloved professor Ella. We are lucky enough to have her with us for our entire journey. She is used to teaching graduate level courses in Cape Town, South Africa. Her teaching is extremely captivating and keeps me interested the entire time. She spent time studying human rights law which is right up my alley, so I look forward to what I will be able to learn from her over the next couple of months. After class, we had a guest lecture with Aneri Pradhan. She talked to us about her nonprofit Enventure. Enventure has the goal to improve access to electricity and power in rural areas of Uganda through equipping communities with the business tools needed to sell clean energy technologies. She has also developed an app that can be used for bookkeeping; something that is not a common practice with businesses in Uganda. When Aneri was explaining her business model and how she implements these technologies into the rural communities (there’s an application process and a 12-month test run), the time I spent in Uganda last summer immediately popped into my head. I talked to her after her lecture and found out that they do have programs running in Bududa, the village I was working in, however I did not hear anything about this while I was there, so I am going to connect her with my host father to see if they can get working on something!


Our first site visit for this week was with a for-profit business called Imperfect Produce. This place takes all of the unwanted fruit and veggies from farms that don’t meet retail standards and sells them to people in the community at a lower price. How cool, right? Produce that does not look “pretty” enough will often be thrown away, so Imperfect Produce has the goal to eliminate some of this waste. We received a tour of their packaging building and learned that just a few scratches on the skin of an item will deem it ineligible to be sold at retail. Oranges that are too big, squash and avocados that are too small, onions will one less layer of skin, and funky shaped potatoes, lemons, and more filled this place. Imperfect Produce has only been around since 2015 and has done extremely well. They have 6 locations and will be expanding to 3 more cities this year. #eatugly


We had Tuesday morning to ourselves until 12:30pm. Some of us went to a thrift shop which was very groovy, however I resisted the temptation to buy anything, so I can bring home more goodies from abroad. In the afternoon, we traveled to Fair Trade in Oakland. Many of us were very excited for this visit. Personally, I didn’t really know anything about Fair Trade before the visit other than its label on numerous items in the grocery store. If I’m being honest, this was all I knew after the visit as well. I still don’t have a good idea of what Fair Trade is other than that it is a sustainable movement and label. The head of philanthropy spoke with us along with two other men. Many of us felt frustrated after leaving because they often bounced around our questions and didn’t answer what we were asking. The purpose of Fair Trade is to ensure that Fair Trade products have gone through a process that meets their social, environmental, and economic standards. However, I left not really knowing what these standards were. For a company that builds its model on transparency, there was a huge lack of transparency during our visit. We were the first group that ever did this type of visit with Fair Trade, so maybe they didn’t know what to do with us. I don’t think this site visit was a waste of time though, because it emphasized that not all companies and organizations are exactly what they say they are.

After Fair Trade, we went to Ace Monster Toys Maker Space. This visit gave us such a contrast from Fair Trade because transparency is a huge part of their model and this was very clear throughout our entire tour.  AMT is similar to a hackerspace where they have a bunch of different rooms with different tools, such as a laser cutter, really cool sewing machines, and 3D printers, for people in the community to use in exchange for their membership. These machines are often extremely expensive for people to buy themselves which makes this space a great place for people to work on their projects while becoming a part of a community. There was a man working on a couch while we were passing through. AMT relies on accountability, transparency, and community. I felt a very family like vibe from this place and the woman who gave us our tour, Rachel, was very spunky and great.

I found a dance studio in the city that had drop-in dance classes, and as some of you know I am used to dancing at least 10 hours a week while I am at Lehigh. Needless to say, I was very excited when I came across this place. I went to a hip-hop class Tuesday night and it was soo great! I was even able to convince two of the girls to come with me and they had a blast! We went for Indian food after which is also one of my favorites, so clearly, it was a great day.

Wednesday was another day full of site visits. I really love this part of the program because it allows us to actually make the connections between what we learn in the classroom with what people do with their lives. It is also really cool to see the different spaces and environments that people work in. I feel like I already have a better idea of what kind of place I would like to work in and the program is still just beginning. Our first visit was to IDEO.org. IDEO.org is a nonprofit from the design and innovation firm IDEO. IDEO.org practices human-centered design with the goal of improving the lives of those living in vulnerable communities. They design products and services to work towards their goal and work globally and domestically. Human-centered design is a problem-solving approach that starts with the people and then works at making solutions according to what they need, rather than what is assumed they need.

Our group had some mixed feelings about the work that IDEO does because it involves foreigners going into communities that are not their own to try to implement products and services to improve their lives. Most global projects involve a team going to the location for a few weeks to do research, coming back the US to work on prototypes, and then going back the community for testing. However, I think that the work that IDEO does is okay and valuable because USAID asks them to work on specific projects, so they are not just imposing themselves on these communities without being asked. Additionally, through their human-centered design approach, they do change their prototypes according to the research they find ensuring they are designing products and services that are specifically tailored to that communities needs.

I was so inspired by our next site visit that I could dedicate an entire post to it. I will try my best to be brief. The Delancey Street Foundation is a development that works with individuals who have hit rock bottom to rebuild their lives. More specifically, Delancey Street is an alternative for individuals who are facing long prison sentences. You have to apply and go through an interview process in order to be accepted. If  you are accepted it is far from easy, yet can be completely transformative. Delancey Street was founded by a woman named Mimi who was working in the prisons as a psychiatrist. She felt that the prison system was the worst way for these individuals to receive help, and so she had a vision and didn’t stop until it came alive.

Individuals that are accepted will begin the program by being on “maintenance” which means they do all of the cleaning for all the Delancey Street businesses. The Foundation is able to run because it is 100% self-sustaining through its 12 businesses. These are businesses that are open to the public and consist of a restaurant, café, a moving company, construction, textiles, a car shop, a Christmas tree business and more. Once you graduate from maintenance you will be transferred to one of their businesses and start at the lowest level and then work your way up. Maintenance does not have a set amount of time; you are at that level until you have proved you are ready to move on. All of the residents live on the property and have many accountable duties besides their jobs each day that include chores, planning events for everyone on the weekends and more. The Foundation emphasizes positive peer pressure and accountability. This place was also quite fancy. There were foundations by the entrance and everyone was wearing a suit. This is done on purpose to make the residents look more “human” according to societies standards and to allow them to be treated with respect rather than judgement for all of their tattoos.


Our tour was given by two residents who shared their stories with us and then showed us around. Bruce has been there for 6 years, and Josh has been there for 4 years. Bruce has been able to get his GED and a criminal justice degree within his time there and now runs the restaurant. He is looking to go through the process to leave Delancey Street within the year. Delancey Street does have women residents, it is about 20% just like the prison system. About 50% of residents will make it through the program. It was very clear that this place does not mess around. You will be kicked out if you break the rules, no questions asked. Delancey Street began in 1972, has 7 locations, and has had over 50,000 (I think that’s what they said) graduates. We had lunch at their restaurant and it was one of the best meals I had in San Francisco. This place truly was incredible, and I encourage you all to go google it!

On the plane ride to San Francisco, I started reading the book On the Run written by Alice Goffman which is about fugitive life in an American city. Alice Goffman spent a long time in a Philadelphia neighborhood documenting the effects of mass incarceration. I only got through the introduction and first chapter, but a few statistics stuck out to me. “Black people make up 13 percent of the US population, but account for 37 percent of the prison population” and “One in four Black children born in 1990 had an imprisoned father by the time he or she turned fourteen” (Goffman xiii-3). Personally, I do not agree with the prison system in America and want to learn more about it which is why I purchased this book. I mention all of this because it created an unintentional connection to the Delancey Street visit which I thought was a cool coincidence. Just some food for thought.

We ended the day with Cohort Time on travel and privilege. We have cohort time throughout the trip which is dedicated to time with just our cohort and fellow to discusses things and do different activities. This session was all about recognizing and being aware of our privilege as we are about to immerse ourselves in different countries. We took a look at past situations from previous IHP groups and to be honest, they were a little ridiculous. So far everyone is super great, and I am hoping we don’t run into any of that nonsense. Most of the other IHP’s have cohorts of about 30 people. I am really happy that we have a much smaller group because we are able to do everything together and really get to know each other.

Thursday morning, we took a train to Palo Alto for a site visit at Stanford. We were going to check out the Stanford Center for Innovation and I was super excited to see what this was all about. If you ask me what the Center for Innovation is today, I couldn’t really tell you. We met with a woman who talked about how the center approaches design and then did an activity where we thought about our personal passions and then wrote down timelines for the next 5 years to achieve those passions. While I do understand the importance of activities like these, it felt a bit like high school to me and I didn’t think it was worth the hour train ride plus 15-minute uber ride back and forth. Being able to go to Stanford was a great opportunity and I was a little bit disappointed with the outcome.

Throughout the week we split off into groups of 4 to have lunch with our program director, Katy. Thursday was my day. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant and I had pho for the first time. 10/10, I would recommend. I’m so sad that Katy is not traveling with us the entire time. She is one the coolest and kindest people I have ever met. She instantly makes me feel at home, and I’m sure everybody else in my group would agree. Thankfully, she’ll be with us when we first get to India and during our last week in Brazil.

We had our first Design Thinking and Development course with our traveling professor, Ella. We talked about what design thinking is, what a few popular design methods are, how design can influence development, and what some development myths are. I have never taken a design course and I am very unfamiliar with it, so I am looking forward to learning more.

We had our last cohort time in San Francisco after class and then went to dinner together. We went to the same Indian place that I went to earlier in the week. It was just as good the second time.

Friday was our last full day in SF! These two weeks flew by, but also felt like a month at the same time. In the morning we did a synthesis of everything we did over the past 2 weeks to try to connect everything and figure out why we are doing the things we are doing. After we had a “Here We Come Uganda” presentation from the people that signed up to be on the Uganda country team. The country teams are responsible for prepping us before we move to a new country and presenting everything we done so far to the new staff when we arrive. I’m on the Brazil team. Naturally, I felt like I should have been on the Uganda team, since I have been there, but I wanted to take the time to research a new country.

We had free time for the whole afternoon on Friday to get our lives together. I did my laundry and prepped some things for my summer internship. Before our departure dinner, my friend Reyhan and I went down to Fisherman’s Warf for a little bit to see the seals. They all lay on top of each other on a deck and it’s the coolest thing. I tried In and Out for the first time. It was quite good, no complaints. After our departure dinner, I met up with my friend Kris from Lehigh again and explored the nightlife in SF. It was a great way to end my time in the city.



Saturday and Sunday were full travel days. Our flight left San Francisco after 3pm, but we left got the airport shortly after 10am. We had a 15-and-a-half-hour flight to Dubai. We spent the night in a hotel in Dubai once we landed because our next flight wasn’t until the morning. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to leave our hotel, but there were a few cool spots connected to our hotel that we checked out. The next morning our flight left for Uganda around 8am. Very excited and a little bit nervous to be going back!

Stay tuned,


Week One: January 28th-February 4th

This is the post excerpt.

Helllloooo everyone!

Ah! What a week it has been. I can’t believe that its already been a week, and that at the same time it has only been a week. Also, how is it already February?! I am so excited to be able to write about my experiences again and share them with all of you. To remind everyone, I am on a 4-month study abroad journey with an International Honors Program (IHP) that has begun in San Francisco, California for our 2-week launch. We will be headed to Kampala, Uganda next week for a month, and then to New Delhi, India for 5 weeks, and Sao Paulo, Brazil for 5 weeks. The program is a social innovation program studying entrepreneurship, design, and technology. Our program is an experiential learning-based program which means we will be doing a lot of our learning by doing, rather than just spending time in a classroom.

I landed in San Francisco last Sunday and met some of the people on my program right away in the airport. We traveled to our “classroom” spot and met the rest of the people on our program after getting some lunch. In total, there are 12 students on the program. We are mainly from different places along the east coast, however we have a student from Myanmar and a student from the Netherlands. Also, fun fact, there is only one male in our group. God bless him. We also have 2 faculty members that will be traveling with us the entire time. We have our trustee’s fellow, Kasey, who is basically a trip leader/mentor, and Ella, our professor that will teach two of our classes. We will be taking 4 classes during our travels. They are Social Entrepreneurship in a Global Comparative Context, Design Thinking and Development, Technology, Change, and Innovation, and Anthropology and Social Change. Here in San Francisco we also have our launch coordinator, Ansley, and our program director, Katy. We will only be with Ansley in San Francisco, but we will see Katy again in India and near the end of our time in Brazil.

We spent the majority of Sunday afternoon becoming familiar with all of our materials for the San Francisco portion of the program and learning more about what IHP is. IHP programs have been around for quite a long time and just recently joined in a partnership with the School for International Training (SIT) and World Learning. Each program looks at a different topic, some of the others are Climate Change, Food Security, and Health and Community, and travels to 4 continents. Prior to this day I did not realize what a legacy IHP has and how important its alumni network is. We learned that a lot of the experiential learning portion of our program involves going on site visits to learn about different organizations and how the work they are doing relates to social innovation. Unlike Lehigh, we do not have class every day or always at the same day. Some days we may have two site visits and a guest lecturer and another day a site visit and a class. In case your wondering how meals work while were in San Francisco, we were given a stipend to cover all meal expenses enabling us to explore different restaurants or go to the grocery store and cook in our hostel.

Early Sunday evening we traveled to Point Montara, about an hour drive outside of SF, for a 2-day orientation/retreat. We stayed in a nice hostel that was right on the water. It was absolutely beautiful. These two days consisted of us all getting to know each other, learning about expectations of the program, what the program is and going through the syllabi for our courses. All of the people are actually very great. We are all surprised by how normal everyone is.

The view at Point Montara!

Tuesday afternoon we traveled back to San Francisco and checked into our hostel. We stayed at the HI International Hosteling Center in an area of SF called the Tenderloin. We then went to Thumbtack for our first site visit. Thumbtack is a for-profit organization that connects professionals with people who are looking for their services. Whether you are looking for music lessons, dog training, personal trainers, or just about anything else Thumbtack is the place to go to. Thumbtack was actually founded by an IHP Alum. While we were there we met Joan Tiffany, who is the Senior Director for all of the IHP programs. After the site visit we had an IHP Alumni Dinner at Thumbtack where a bunch of alumnus from the area came to talk to us and offer an advice for any questions we had. It was really cool to see that people who have been on IHP programs years and years ago still came to this dinner.

Successful Group Selfie

Wednesday morning, we started out with a site visit to the Coalition on Homelessness, a non-profit that works towards advocating for policy change and education around the homeless population in San Francisco. A big portion of the homeless population in SF is actually where we are staying in the Tenderloin and it is not a secret that this is the case when walking around. The COH gave us a presentation about what they do and homelessness myths. Homelessness really began around the 1980s when there was a housing crisis and prices started to increase tremendously leading to the removal of a lot of people from their homes. I was stunned to find out that 40% of the homeless population is working. I learned that people can be fined by the police for sleeping, laying down, sitting and just hanging out. We were told that the conditions of shelters is far from halfway decent. People are often encouraged to sleep on the streets for at least one night to push them up on the priority list to get access to a bed in a shelter. Pregnant women are not guaranteed a spot in a shelter until their third trimester. I could continue on, but needless to say, this visit opened my eyes to homelessness and the systems efforts to alleviate this problem.

We then went on a neighborhood walking tour of the Tenderloin with a man named Del Seymour.  A big part of the tour involved him showing us around a place called St. Anthonys, which offers free services that are integral to the livelihood of people experiencing homelessness in the area. They have a technology lab that allows people to come in and use the computers and WIFI. They also offer classes on smartphones. Across the street is a dining hall, intentionally not called a soup kitchen, for the community to use every day. They have a place where families can come and they will dress everyone from head to toe, a drug and alcohol center for people struggling with addiction and more. Right down the street is the Gubbio Project which is church that opens its doors for people to come in and sleep during the day.

Walking around with Del was quite an experience. He knows pretty much everyone. Every block that we turned onto people would stop and say hi, a car even pulled over to say hello. At the end of the tour Del revealed that he was homeless for 18 years and was the areas biggest drug dealer and that is why everyone knows him. He is now the mayor of the Tenderloin, running education programs, and spending his days working towards helping those around him in need out of rock bottom. Talk about an inspiration.

After debriefing the morning, we had our first Social Entrepreneurship class which was taught by our wonderful program director, Katy. Normally this class will be taught by the local faculty in each country. This class was basically an introduction to what social entrepreneurship and social innovation is. Social innovation does have one clear definition and can take on may forms, however at its core, social innovation is trying to address unmet social needs through ideas, actions, processes, systems and more that cuts across the public, private, and civil society sectors. Social entrepreneurship is a form of social innovation that works towards unmet social needs through organization and business. This work is not always positive and there are always losers involved which we will learn more about as the course continues.

IHP has this tradition called POD which stands for Person of the Day. POD will run us through the days schedule, check in with the faculty for any announcements, and have some activity for us to begin the day with. At any site visits, the POD for that day will introduce us and make sure our classroom space is clean after we use it. POD rotates through everyone in our group, so we all get a chance to do this job many, many times.

Thursday morning began with a guest lecturer with Jack Beck. Jack was previously the San Francisco launch coordinator for an IHP program and has his own non-profit that works with connecting LBTQIA+ volunteers with local events. His lecture was on the Social Entrepreneurship landscape which basically ran us through what social entrepreneurship looks like for profits and nonprofits and where they are able to get their funding from. He taught us about incubators and accelerators, foundations, B Corps, and more. We then had another guest lecturer, Dr. Morgan Ames, teach our first Technology, Change and Innovation class. Dr. Morgan Ames has done a lot of work with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and analyzing its success. The OLPC project had the goal of providing every child with one laptop and was focused on countries in Latin America and Africa. This project ended up doing more harm than good due to a lack of attention to the effects of putting a technology into a classroom with no instruction and the assumption that the technology will enable learning. In class we learned about different technologies, aside from computers and the internet, and what was thought about their intended social impact.

After class we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted! We all went to lunch at a Mexican Restaurant and then spent the afternoon at Delores Park. We went to an ice cream shop on our walk balk and I got earl grey and honey lavender ice cream. I’m sure you can imagine how delicious it was. That evening one of the girls, Becca, made squash soup and I went to a yoga class. It was a lovely day.

Delores Park!

I was feeling a bit under the weather on Friday, so the day dragged on. We visited Impact Hub which is a B-Corporation that is a big space that allows organizations and businesses with a social focus to use their space for a spot to work and to collaborate with others. Using their space requires membership and they host events for their members and the community. We had lunch there which was brought in by Farming Hope. Farming Hope originally started as a funded project through two students that went to Stanford. They hire people experiencing homelessness to help them with farming, gardening, and catering. We then went to Mission Asset Fund for another site visit. Mission Asset Fund is a non-profit that offers financial stability to low-income families in the community through lending circles and credit building. They also offer services to assist with Visa applications and work with the DACA programs.

After the site visits we headed back to the classroom to work on our case study questions. For our social entrepreneurship class we will be researching organizations that aim to address one specific topic in Uganda and India. We found out what topic we have and who we will be working with, and then started brainstorming broad questions we are interested in focusing on. I will be studying education. We ended the day with a debrief of everything we did throughout the week and then had the rest of the night to ourselves.

We have the weekends to ourselves to explore and do whatever we’d like. We took full advantage of this and had a great day on Saturday. A bunch of us took a bus across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. We got lunch, explored, went kayaking, had ice cream and then walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sausalito and the bridge were just as beautiful as they are talked up to be. We took a bus back to the marina area and went out for dinner at a nice pizza place. We had to wait over an hour for a table, but I promise it was worth it. We ended the day with going to the movies to see Call Me By Your Name. If anyone is looking for a good movie to watch in theaters, I highly recommend it. It was a beautiful film that left me crying like a baby at the end.

Kayaking in Sausalito

Sunday was just as nice as Saturday. We got acai bowls for breakfast. There is an Asian museum that is very close to our hostel that has free admission the first Saturday of every month. They had a Korean fashion exhibit, so we made sure we checked that out. I then met up with a friend, Kris, who graduated from Lehigh and is now studying at Berkeley. We grabbed lunch and went to Lands End, which is a beautiful park that has a beach and Golden Gate views. It was very nice to see a familiar face. I really love how the city, the ocean, hiking, and beaches are all so close to each other in San Francisco. I of course had to watch the superbowl. Luckily, the bar in our hostel was playing it, so a few of us hung out there and watched it. It was a great game in my opinion, especially the halftime show. We grabbed dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant and caught up on reading.

Golden Gate Views

This post was a little wordy and I still feel like I left so much out. We are doing and taking so much in, so I found it quite difficult to break it down. I am feeling appreciative, blessed, curious, and excited for the weeks to come. I have been talking about this trip for so long that it doesn’t feel real that it’s actually happening. Thank you all for reading!!!

Sending my love,