Tag Archives: Featured

Public Health Spotlight Featuring Shanna Challenger

Hey guys! It’s that time for another feature. As you know In this new series I will be featuring individuals who are in the Public Health field in some capacity. Before we get into today’s feature, here’s something you should know. Social and economic environment, as well as physical environment, plays a role in the determinants of our health.


Environmental health is a branch of Public Health that deals with the likes of climate change and so much more. What I’ve recently learned is that there is an intersection between Public Health and Conservation. Which brings us to today’s feature where we’re going to learn a bit about how we all have a role to play when it comes to this planet that we all live on by way of conservation. As a fellow Caribbean gyal, I am very proud of the work that today’s feature has done and is continuing to do. Let’s get into it!

Introducing Shanna,

Shanna Challenger

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Shanna Challenger, and I’m a 24-year-old Caribbean gyal freezing while getting my Masters in Conservation Biology at the University of Kent here in the UK. I enjoy birdwatching, and binge-watching Netflix and I’m on a journey trying to protect the beautiful biodiversity on our planet

What made you choose to study conservation biology?

A combination of making influential presentations to policymakers on environmental issues and negotiating maritime boundaries has shown me conservation challenges faced by Caribbean leaders. With all this practical experience, I was determined to achieve the academic qualifications to match, to further my ability to conserve biodiversity and the ecological processes that support ecosystems and people. 

For those who don’t know what conservation biology is, briefly explain.

Conservation biology is a science that focuses on protecting and restoring the Earth’s biodiversity. To preserve biodiversity, conservation biologists are concerned with understanding how life is distributed on the planet, the associated threats, and what can be done to eliminate them and restore the health and diversity of an ecosystem

What experience do you have as a conservation biologist?

From flying goats in a helicopter to dissecting rats near a campfire, my work as the Redonda Restoration Programme Coordinator threw me into the world of fieldwork. From my other work with the Environmental Awareness Group, I also have experience in wildlife monitoring of local reptiles, birds, insects, plants and spend time taking students and teachers alike to witness the wealth of biodiversity on our very own offshore islands.

Wildlife Monitoring in Barbuda

Where did you start your career, are there any particular specialty in this field?

Yes, so my conservation biology career focused primarily on two aspects: island restorations through invasive species removal; and endangered species population recovery.

What are two interesting facts you would like us to know about conservation biology?

Conservation Biology is known as a ‘discipline with a deadline’ due to the rapid decline of biological systems and the race to save species from extinctions and reduce our impacts on the planet before it’s too late.

Conservation biologists don’t spend all their time in the field, as the scientific research we provide makes important contributions to the design of protected areas and informs government policy and environmental legislation.

Shanna in the field

Tell us about your journey to becoming a conservation biologist.

I am a firm believer that your passion should be your priority.

Shanna Challenger

At the age of 21, I threw myself into my position as my priority was working on one of the world’s truly irreplaceable areas for biodiversity. Being in a career where you can visually see the impact you’re making in the world is unforgettable, extremely rewarding, and has fueled my passion further. Now more than ever, I believe that my work illustrates that nature truly does respond with a bit of help.

What are your plans/ Hope for the future as far as conservation biology goes?

Modern conservation science transcends the traditional boundaries of biology, ecology, and environmental management. Today’s conservationists need to be versed in a broad range from wildlife monitoring to working along with communities to achieve our conservation goals. For the future, I do think a focus on complementing our fieldwork with science communication is paramount to restoring humanity’s connection with nature and fostering empathy for the environment. My goal is for my work to inspire others to live a more harmonious life with nature. 

What is the #1 thing you wish you had been told as a student while pursuing your degree?

Well, I’m still pursuing it, but I wish I had been told more about how different the British marking scheme is. And that I would eventually become addicted to coffee! ☹

What was your biggest obstacle while in school?

Adjusting to the cold!

Tell us a little about the requirements needed for entrance into a program like this.

An upper second-class honours degree, or better, in a relevant subject; like Wildlife Conservation/ Animal Behaviour or Ecology or a good honours degree in other subjects with relevant practical experience.

What are some suggestions/advice you would give to someone interested in this field? 

Conservation science deals with issues where quick action is critical and the consequences of failure are significant. This field can be very tough and seemingly doomed, considering all of the threats that our species face, and how few of us are trying to help them. But, with the future of the planet in limbo, our profession is needed now more than ever.

I would definitely recommend volunteering with an environmental NGO to see what it would be like, and then researching schools that offer practical field components. Don’t ever feel that you won’t find work here in the Caribbean – we are a hotspot for biodiversity and have species found nowhere else in the world. I truly believe that there is hope for the future and the more people that are inspired to get involved with conservation, the better!

What does a typical day look like for you as a conservation biologist?

A typical day would start off with an early morning at a meeting, discussing with my colleagues about our next venture to promote environmental sustainability in Antigua & Barbuda (check out EAG GreenLeaf Certification), followed by an afternoon of birdwatching/counts in one of our mangroves. To end, I would probably be writing up a report based on my last wildlife monitoring activity (e.g. , how many lizards observed, checks for rats, etc). But the exciting thing about my job is that it changes daily!

What can we, as citizens of this society, do to ensure that conservation is effective? 

Each one of us can help conserve biodiversity in their own way by learning about local threats and learning the most effective ways to counteract them. Five easy ways you can help are:

  1. Personal Behaviour – Turn your garden into a haven for biodiversity by planting flowering plants and fruit trees; Reduce consumption of unnecessary waste; Prevent the spread of invasive species when visiting the offshore islands
  2. Education – Increasing your knowledge on environmental issues, impacts of biodiversity loss and tell others about what you know
  3. Volunteerism – Take part in environmentally friendly activities like litter picking, beach cleanups, bird watching, tree-planting
  4. Donation – Support conservation efforts through monetary contributions to local environmental NGOs or community groups doing environmental activities
  5. Political Activism – Increasing support for government policies and actions that conserve our valuable ecosystems and habitats

We all have a role to play to preserve nature for the benefit of generations to come – why not start today?

Shanna Challenger
Masked booby and chick on Redonda

Thank you for sharing your story, looking forward to following your journey, and seeing all that you do.

Featured Below is a Carib Grackle, and Shanna with the Antigua Racer Snake.

Keep up with Shanna on Instagram where she shares her knowledge on so many topics conservation related. My favorite is her series called “Wild Life Wednesdays.” Check it out!

Be sure to like, share, and comment on this post. 

Did you learn anything about conservation biology, did anything spark your interest? Let me know in the comments below.

Public Health Spotlight of The Month With Regina Apparicio

Hey Guys! I’m back with another blog post and a new series on the blog. Back in 2018, I had series where I featured Nurses of the month which was a hit thanks to you guys. Now that I’m about to graduate with my degree in Public Health, I have learned a lot about this field. It is important to know that Public Health promotes and protects the health of people from different communities. There are many fields in public health and I want to showcase that with this series. I hope you guys like it. Today’s feature is someone I’m proud to know and is from my home country, Antigua. The first feature is Ms. Regina Apparicio.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Wow. A little, you say. In a nutshell, I am a Caribbean woman of mixed cultural heritage with a very bold personality. I am also An Associate Clinical Psychologist (at the moment) who has an interest in the power of the mind and is passionate about unearthing one’s potential.

What made you choose to study Psychology?

To be honest, I don’t think I chose Psychology. It was more a case of Psychology choosing me. As a child, I always knew that I had a desire to help others, and I initially wanted to become a Nurse. Let’s just say after being told about the rigors of the nursing profession; I came to the realization that route was not for me. Then, I wanted to become a neurosurgeon because of my natural curiosity about the inner workings of the brain/mind. Particularly as it relates to our behaviour/abilities until I realized how much I did not like most of the natural science subjects. This field did not provide the answers I was seeking. Anyways, I recalled during my adolescent years; someone told me that I would make a good therapist/psychologist because I had this natural gift of listening and giving good advice. At the time, I did not even know what that meant for me, but I was always curious by nature. I conducted some research on the profession, and it immediately resonated within me. I felt like not only did I find the answers I was searching for but my true professional calling, and I have opted never to look back since.

For those who don’t know what a clinical psychologist is, briefly explain.

First of all, a clinical psychologist is NOT a doctor for “crazy people,” which is often inaccurately stated by some persons in our society. This view of our profession is misleading and has discouraged an open conversation about mental health in our society. A clinical psychologist is a trained mental health professional who is skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of mental, behavioural, and emotional conditions which often impact an individual’s quality of life. We utilize our knowledge of theory grounded in research for the purpose of identifying, understanding, preventing, and relieving psychological distress while promoting self-care and personal development.

What experience do you have as a clinical psychologist?

I officially became an Associate Clinical Psychologist after graduating with a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology last year from the University of the West Indies. Currently, I run my own private practice, which allows me to offer therapeutic services.

Where did you start your career? 

I started my career in the field of Child Protection. I have worked extensively with children who have been abused, in conflict with the law and their families. Most recently, I have also acquired experience in the field of drug rehabilitation.

Is there any particular specialty in this field?

There exists an array of subspecialties or branches in the field of psychology on a whole. However, what makes the clinical psychologist uniquely skilled is in our ability to carry out extensive psychological assessments. Which often covers aspects of behaviour, emotion, personality, cognition, and even memory.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a clinical psychologist.

I started my journey in the field of Psychology in 2010 after enrolling in the Bachelors’s Degree program at the University of the West Indies (UWI). For this program, I opted to choose what is termed a Special designation as opposed to pursuing Majors/ Minors because I have a love and passion for Psychology. I just wanted to do everything related to the subject matter. This approach made me well versed in the field and allowed me to touch on various aspects to determine which subspeciality I wanted to gain further knowledge on as I continued on my journey towards becoming a Clinical Psychologist. There were some persons who felt that it was a poor decision on my part especially if I wanted to branch out into another field or choose another career path. However, I am a bit headstrong when it comes to doing things that I am really passionate about, so I was not discouraged by my decision. In fact, if I could do it all over again, I would not have done it any other way.

Anyways, after obtaining my first degree, I gained employment in the field of child protection, but after a few years, I began to feel limited in my ability to truly offer services that could create meaningful change in an individual’s life. This desire led me to pursue a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology in 2017.

What is the #1 thing you wish you had been told as a student while pursuing your degree?

I wished that someone told me about the “imposter syndrome” before I experienced it.

What was your biggest obstacle while in school?

In response to this question, I would love to say a lack of resources, administrative hiccups, and that dreadful research paper. However, on reflection, I do not think that any of those issues trumped having to manage limited personal finances and keeping my business afloat. To provide some background, I left home to pursue graduate studies due to feelings of frustration and without having accumulated significant savings towards this goal as initially planned. I mean, life happened, and one of the challenges with pursuing graduate studies in this field is limited availability of scholarships (this I did not know until going through the process of applying for school). In addition to having limited access to finance options, my health declined in the final year of my studies, which forced me into a situation where my personal finances became depleted. Thankfully, I recognized the need to ask for help (another thing I wish I was told), and my higher power came all the way through for me via my support system.

 Tell me a little about the requirements needed for entrance into a program like this.

Entrance requirements for graduate programs in Clinical Psychology differ depending on the region. For instance, to pursue studies in the United States, one would need to complete the GRE, and some schools require degrees from regionally accredited institutions. In the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, first degrees acquired regionally are recognized and accepted for enrollment. Prospective students are expected to provide an academic CV, which highlights their educational achievements in addition to completing online applications. Shortlisted applicants are then interviewed before a final decision is made regarding acceptance into the program.

What are some suggestions/advice you would give to someone interested in this field? 

  • Remain open-minded as your curiosity will fuel your passion even in the tough times.
  • Supervision is key to honing your professional development. Therefore, ensuring that you maintain a positive working relationship with your supervisor is necessary.
  • Do not view the role of the psychologist as one which requires fixing other people. I truly believe that people have the capacity to heal themselves, and we are just simply facilitators of that process.
  • Studying psychology is not a suitable replacement for therapy, which is a misconception that many people have. However, the knowledge gained does offer considerable insight into human behaviour.
  • To be an effective psychologist, you must be willing and open to pursuing your journey of self-care, awareness, and growth, which, you may find yourself encouraging clients to do. It is definitely not a do as I say and not as I do type of profession.
  • The human mind is dynamic. Always be willing to shift approaches.

What does a typical day look like for you as a clinical psychologist?

Currently, I mainly see therapy clients for my private practice on Saturdays. However, before every session, I allocate time during the week to engage in the necessary preparation, including research on issues that my clients would like to have addressed. Each face to face session lasts for approximately 45-50 minutes, depending on the unique needs of my clients.

I want to talk about mental health. As a public health student, the topic of mental health comes up a lot. What do you want us as a society to know about mental health?

We need to know that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and both are interconnected. For instance, when an individual experiences stress of any kind, there are both physical and mental symptoms that are present. While addressing the physical symptoms may subside with treatment/medication, if individuals are unable to cope with their experience of stress, then symptoms are likely to return and gravely hamper their ability to carry out daily activities.

Many countries and even people don’t like to address mental health; what can we do to destigmatize the topic of mental health?

We need to normalize individuals’ experiences of psychological distress or unpleasant feelings that are likely to hamper one’s functioning. This approach is necessary since our society views any impairment in functioning, whether temporary or permanent, as a sign of mental weakness, which is grossly inaccurate and has negative effects on the individual’s well being.

What can be done to start a conversation/bring awareness surrounding Mental health?

We can definitely get started via public awareness with the use of social media and through various media-led campaigns and community discussions. I also believe that mental health professionals in Antigua & Barbuda need to form professional bodies or associations so that we can collectively inspire change and address several misconceptions that exist publicly regarding our profession and mental health as a whole.

I’ve recently learned that there is a shortage of mental health professionals here in the US; I’m not sure if this is the same in Antigua. Can you tell me about the resources available to those dealing with mental health issues?

Like many islands throughout the region, we currently have a shortage of trained and qualified mental health professionals, particularly in the public health care system. However, over the years, I have seen some efforts being made by recognizing the need to expand our social services with the provision of free counseling services and community outreach programs. There has also been an expansion of available private mental health services, including individual and couple/ family therapists on the island, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

What are five interesting facts you would like us to know about the role of a clinical psychologist?

  1. We are NOT psychics. However, we are skilled in our ability to obtain a snapshot of one’s mental functioning via our assessments, which is often considered to be an X-ray of the mind.
  2. We are EXPERTS in our ability to conduct psychological assessments from an approach that takes into consideration the uniqueness of an individual; that is their weaknesses and strengths.
  3.  In the healthcare setting, we play a major role in promoting healthy behaviour and disease prevention, which could ultimately lead to improved quality of life. We help to strengthen a multidisciplinary health care team by our knowledge of human development and behaviour, which is essential for understanding and applying best practices or approaches to address client’s needs.
  4. We are able to diagnose and treat psychological issues and behavioural dysfunction resulting from or related to one’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
  5. Unlike the psychiatrist, we focus on how the individual processes their thoughts and emotions.

What are your plans/ Hope for the future as a clinical psychologist?

My plan is to become a licensed doctoral-level clinical psychologist before the age of 35 (lol).

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10 Things To Do During Your Break Between Classes

Hey, guys! I hope your semester is going well. I’ve been struggling with balance this semester but I’m getting there. I’m in my last year of undergrad so things just seem more hectic than usual than in my previous semesters. I know it’s every college student’s dream to have the perfect schedule. I know for me, I prefer to have classes in the morning so that I can be home and have the rest of the day to do whatever I want. Unfortunately, not everyone can get their desired schedule and often, we end up with a gap in between classes. It doesn’t matter if you live on campus or commute each day like me, we all struggle with figuring out what to do between classes. I’ve been getting better at using my time wisely between classes so I’m sharing some ideas with you. This list is a pretty accurate representation of what I do when I have a long gap! I hope it helps you guys in some way.

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EAT LUNCH/ SNACK 

We all know nutrition is important when it comes to our health, and eating right will definitely “Feed your brain.” This is also a good way to keep your energy up. I know sometimes throughout the day my energy decreases and I always wonder what’s wrong with me. But I realize when I eat or snack on something, my energy level gets a spike. Be sure to keep snacks in your backpack and to take lunch if possible even if it’s a sandwich. This is also another way to save money. Make the time to fit eating into your schedule.

DO HOMEWORK

This should be a no brainer. Whether you have 30 mins or 2 hours in between classes, be sure to get some work done! I’ve realized the more I do during my break at school, the less work I’ll have to do when I get home. Let me tell you, my commute to and from school takes about an hour and ten minutes but with Atlanta’s traffic it sometimes takes me longer and I tend to be exhausted by the time I get home. So, realizing I did most of the work is a lifesaver and allows me to focus on another class or to just relax or review material from the day. The pro in doing this is that you won’t have to stay up late at night working on an assignment because you would’ve already started it! The key is just to start.

STUDY/ REVIEW CLASS NOTES

This is another way to use your time wisely. There’s always some quiz or exam that will be coming up. Find a comfortable area and study, there’s no greater feeling than being prepared. Rewriting notes is an effective way to improve memorization skills. I’ve been having so much fun rewriting my notes and it also helps me to retain information.

MEET UP WITH FRIENDS/ CLASSMATES 

This is a good way to reconnect and improve relationships. As I’m writing this blog post, I just met up with one of my classmates who I now call my friend and we’re catching up on life and getting some work done while also taking pics for the gram lol.

GET A PART-TIME JOB 

One of the beauties of college is that there is the opportunity to work on campus by way of work-study. Most on-campus jobs are very flexible and they work well with your class schedule. If you happen to have a couple of hours in between classes be sure to jump at this opportunity and make some extra cash. Tutoring is another option to make some extra money while on campus.

GO TO OFFICE HOURS 

I’m sure on each syllabus you’ve received this semester your instructor’s office hours are listed. If there’s something you need help understanding and you’re too embarrassed to ask in class or if you need clarification on an upcoming assignment, this is the time to stop by and visit your professor. This will give you the clarity you need and it will form a connection with your professor and to show them that you’re interested in the class and to be successful in the class. I did this one semester and I was able to form a bond with one of my professors which allowed me to be part of a research team headed by him. You just never know what can happen from this. Plus if you need a recommendation this will be a great person to have.

READ A BOOK 

I’ve been working on getting back into the habit of reading at least a book a month. I like to take my book with me everywhere in case I get free time or feel bored, I can just read while I wait for my next class.

WATCH NETFLIX OR YOUTUBE 

I’m not going to even lie, I do this ALL the time. I try to give myself some “me time” during my classes depending on which time of the day it is and catch up on some shows on Netflix. I also usually catch up on my sports show on YouTube to see what’s going on in the sporting world, I’ll watch interviews from some of my favorite celebrities, or watch videos from the channels I’m subscribed to.

TAKE A NAP 

Nothing feels better than a power nap. Some of us are going to school full time and work. I work mostly night shifts and sometimes I am simply just exhausted. A break in between classes is a great time to take a power nap and to re-up on your energy. You’d be surprised how effective it can be.

JOIN A CLUB

You may have more downtime on campus between classes joining a club may be a good idea. Step out of your comfort and join a club. Almost every major has its club. At my school, I’m a member of the Public Health students club. This is a good way to get involved and to meet new people.

CHECK YOUR SCHOOL EMAIL

This is the medium your professor will use to get in contact about anything class-related. Most college students tend to neglect their school email but it is very important. You can find out if the class is canceled if an assignment is due or delayed or anything for that matter. You get information about registration dates and financial aid. Check them as often as possible. I linked my school email to my phone so I don’t miss any emails.

 

What do you do in between classes? Let me know!

 

Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

Hey Guys!
So in my last blog post My First Study Abroad: Why I Chose Uganda, I mentioned that it was impossible for me to talk about my whole Uganda experience in one post, so here I am with another! Just a heads up this post might be a bit long, but it will be worth reading. Here goes…

The Journey To Uganda

You know that saying, “get to the airport 2 hours before your flight?” Well, I’ve been one to not really follow the rules. This trip, however, I tried to make sure to get to Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta at least 3 hours before my scheduled flight because I was flying international, I was super excited, and I did not want any mishaps on this trip. Despite my good intentions, I almost did not make it to Uganda. The traffic driving into the airport was out of control! The line for the check in was so long and was moving slower than turtles. I finally checked my luggage and headed towards TSA; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line that long (remind me to sign up for TSA precheck). Now, my flight was departing at 12:17 pm, and at 11:45, I was still in the line waiting to go through security. I was so stressed out I had to call my parents just to calm my nerves and hear them tell me that I would not miss my flight (I needed the reassurance).
Once I got through security, I ran as fast or maybe faster than Usain Bolt to my gate where the agent knew I was the only person left to board. I told her yes and kept apologizing for my delay. By the grace of God, I boarded my plane at 12:09 pm. After the chaos in Atlanta, I was on my way to Uganda, stopping first in Montreal, Canada. While in Montreal, I was told that my flight to Amsterdam was full and that I needed to check my carry-on luggage. Now, this made me very upset because I was not sure if all my bags would reach on time, I mean, you know crazy things happen when traveling that far and making multiple stops. After going back and forth with the agents, I had no choice but to check my carry-on, and of course, that I forgot that I packed all of my medications in that bag! Amsterdam, my next stop, was where I met up with my other classmates and professor who had a direct flight to Amsterdam from Atlanta. Amsterdam was where the good times began, and from there, we stopped in Rwanda before finally making it to our final destination, Entebbe, Uganda. It took approximately 28 hours to get there and let me tell you, I’m already planning my next trip back even though the flight is long!

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Once we arrived at the airport in Entebbe, we had to go through immigration. There were a few rules that we had to follow, and having your yellow fever vaccination documentation was a requirement to enter the country. After showing our yellow fever vaccination cards, we went through immigration with no hassle. After we got our luggage some 20 plus pieces, the immigration officer decided that he was a mind reader and assumed that one of my classmates was carrying a drone. Even after expressing to them that he did not, they were not convinced so we had to unload all the bags and put them through a scanner. How inconvenient! After all of that, we met our program consultant, Charles, who was accompanied by some family and friends. They welcomed us to their country and gave us a hand with our luggage.

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Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

Although it was a dream of mine to visit the continent of Africa, I never thought it would actually happen. My first day in Uganda, I quickly realized that there’s beauty all around.
Uganda is a country of rolling hills and no matter where you are, you will have a beautiful view of lush green slopes covered with bright clay houses and so many other beautiful structures. The dirt roads are lined with lush vegetation, flowers, and trees that are indeed a sight to see. There’s no surprise that I ended up with over 1,000 pictures in my phone and camera. Being here gave me a deeper appreciation for photography.

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Beyond its natural beauty and the kind spirited people, many Ugandans live in poor conditions. The area where people below the poverty line live is referred to as the slums. Part of my time was spent in the slums around the city of Kampala observing the alcohol ads and the use of alcohol (more on this later). When you think about the slums based on the books you’ve read or from what you’ve seen on TV, it is known to have buildings that are broken down or made from various materials to provide some sort of shelter. I got the chance to speak with some of the locals, and they don’t classify their neighborhood as “the slum.” One local told my classmates and I that he doesn’t like the word “slum” because of its negative connotation, despite the government defining his neighborhood as such.
Although the areas are not in the best conditions, there’s still so much beauty, the beauty especially comes from within. There’s beauty in seeing how the locals sell to make a living and how they look out for each other, there’s just a sense of contentment.
As we walked through the slums, we had children following us and were talking to us. You could see their excitement to see us walking through the place they called home. It was amazing to see that even with so little, these people were still working hard to survive and were happy. Despite the poverty that Ugandan’s often experience, it is a country that has beautiful souls, the people are so rich in love and appreciation.

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Walking through a slum in Kampala- Namuwongo

Side note: Did you know there are 43 different languages spoken in Uganda? Luganda is the most widely spoken local language.

The Culture

During our first day in Uganda, my professor mentioned that Uganda is known as the most entrepreneurial country in the world. If I’m honest, at the time, I didn’t put much thought into what she said. However, it wasn’t long before I noticed that everyone on the street was selling something, from samosas, water, rolex, and a variety of other things.. I’m sure you’re probably thinking rolex, were they all selling watches?! Lol no that’s not the case. Rolex is a popular street food in Uganda. Some key ingredients of the rolex are chapati, which is made from wheat flour, it is similar to naan. The other unique ingredients are eggs which are cooked with cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, which is then wrapped/rolled in the chapati.
Uganda passes through the equator, so the weather is consistently warm with a little bit of humidity, so it’s only right that you’ll see people selling bottled water and other refreshments on the streets. If you happen to be stuck in traffic, there’s someone who’s there selling bottled waters to help cool you down. The traffic in Kampala is just as bad as the traffic here in Atlanta, so it is convenient to have someone selling water and who’s able to bring it right to your window. My favorite thing to see whenever we would be on the bus driving is the many rolex stations, if you’re feeling peckish or low on funds or want to be adventurous, the Uganda rolex will satisfy your craving.

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rolex

Let me say, one of the most lucrative businesses in Uganda, well from what I observed is the Boda-Boda guys. A Boda is a motorcycle taxi which is very common in Uganda. You can catch a Boda-Boda anywhere in the city. I’ve seen Boda-Boda drivers carrying men, women, children. I’ve even seen them deliver food, Mattresses and some large items that I didn’t even know would be possible. It’s a site to see! Boda-Bodas seems to be one of the primary methods of transportation in Uganda.

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A group of Boda-Boda guys at the traffic light

Another thing I observed is that there is a culture of international aid. Although this might sound good, I have wondered, “if all these people are actually “helping,” why can’t we see any “real” change?” Donations are much appreciated, I’ve seen it first hand when we brought donations to the NGO’s we visited. However, in addition to an appreciation for our contributions, there were always women and children on the streets begging for money and food.

One thing that made me happy in a heartbreaking situation was we would always pack up our leftovers from restaurants to give to those women and children we would see asking for food. They would approach our bus windows with sad eyes, asking for money or food. This broke my heart, but they were so grateful for what we gave them.

Strange enough, while we were there, a law was passed banning people from giving money or food to children who are living on the streets. This was an effort to avoid the sexual exploitation of children.

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These 2 beautiful girls selling bananas

Religion

Religion is significant in Uganda. While there, we visited the Gaddafi National Mosque, which is the biggest Mosque in Uganda. The dress code to enter the Mosque must be respectful. If you were wearing pants, a sarong was used wrapped around you. We got a brief history of the Mosque and then later climbed to the top of the minaret where we had a breathtaking view of the city of Kampala.

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We also visited the Baha’i House of Worship. The Baha’i Faith is a combination of multiple religions, but they all believe in one God. The message of the Baha’ I faith is oneness with mankind, the coming together of all people no matter their race, class, and religion.
The Baha’ I temple in Uganda is currently the only one in all of Africa. Walking on the property gave me a sense of peace. When entering the temple, we were instructed to take our shoes off and to be silent as that was customary. Religion can be a touchy topic for most, but I found it interesting to know that there was a faith that embraced all other beliefs.

Baha’I Temple

Ndere Cultural Center

We had the pleasure of visiting the Ndere Cultural Center, where the Ndere Troupe take visitors on an artistic journey through music and dance while incorporating the history from all regions across Uganda.
“The word ENDERE means FLUTE, NDERE TROUPE, therefore means FLUTE TROUPE.”
The flute was chosen as a symbol of beauty and universal unity. The Ndere Troupe is known as Africa’s dancing encyclopedia. This is because, in Africa, written words didn’t exist; therefore, the culture of Africa was passed on through the performing arts, music, dance. The performances were engaging and allowed us to learn more about Ugandan history through dance.

Ndere performers

The local language in Central Uganda: Luganda

Luganda
What’s up= ogamba kyi ( pronounced o- gam-ba- chi)
I’m fine = ndi bulungi
Thank you = weebale pronounced way-ba- lee
How are you doing = oli otya (formal)
Sir=ssebo pronounced See-boo
Ma’am=nnyabo pronounced nee-yah-boo
How are you doing = gyebale (jaybaley)
Goodnight = Sula bulungi
Slow down = empola empola

Jinja

We were staying in the city of Kampala, which is the capital of Uganda and the largest city. Once we left Kampala, I witnessed the true beauty of Uganda when we took a trip to a small but well-known town called Jinja, just two-hours outside of Kampala.

The journey to Jinja was just breathtaking with the many scenic views. Jinja is a popular tourist attraction that is nestled next to Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world and is also the source of the river Nile. After seeing the never-ending rolling green hills, the Nile, and the other-worldly wildlife, there’s no doubt in my mind why Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa.

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view of the Nile

The Explorers River camp was our home for the 2 days that we spent in Jinja. And by camp I mean CAMP- we slept in tents and it brought me back to my Girl Guides days when we would travel to different countries for camping. Girl Guides is similar to Girl Scouts here in the U.S.


Inside our tents, there were mattresses that were on short bed frames. They were so comfortable I slept like a baby lol. Having the monkeys and other wildlife walking amongst us at this camp was indeed an experience and sleeping on the Nile with a view that I can tell was genuinely created by God was a life-changing experience.

Good Eatin’

As I prepared for my trip, I wondered what the food in Uganda would be like. I have a friend who’s from Ghana, and I know ground provisions, as we call it in Antigua, was a staple in her house. By ground provisions, I mean the likes of cassava, yams, sweet potatoes, to name a few. I was familiar with these types of foods, but I was curious. My professor did give us a little insight about what to expect, but still you just never know lol. I’d have to say that I never thought I’d see the day where I would ever utter the words “I’m tired of food right now, let’s have a late dinner” lol.

I must say the food was fresher and more natural, what I ate was food that was mostly locally grown. I ate to my heart’s content, and the food was GOOD! I must say, what was most shocking to me, and I don’t know why it was surprising to me, was the variety of restaurants we ate at that offered food from different regions of the world. We ate food cooked with a Caribbean twist, there was Indian, Asian, and a mixture of cultures from other African countries. As many of you my readers know, I’ve been trying to gain 10lbs since forever but being in Uganda brought me so much joy that my appetite that seemed to be nonexistent found its way back. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and tried various meats that I would never in a million years think to try.

When dining at a local restaurant, you will most likely find some of the following foods:
Matooke- this is cooked green bananas
Sweet potatoes
Cassava
rice – I don’t think I know of a culture that ‘didn’t have rice as a staple lol
Chapati- which is something close to Naan

African Spice Tea- it’s so good that I had it with EVERY meal!

African Spice Tea

We visited several restaurants but some I loved more than the others.
Some of the other restaurants I visited were:
Cafe Javas
Kampala forest
Il Paradiso (Ethiopian)
Mythos Greek restaurant
The lawns- this was where we tried Crocodile meat, antelope, etc.
Khazana on the Verandah
Fuego

All in all, Uganda is Rich in culture. The people live a simple life, they are resilient, grateful, and they most definitely find joy in simple things.

Here are some highlights in photographs.

Views from the top of The Mosque

Nile Camp River Explorer

The Motos

What I Ate

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Stay tuned for more blog posts about my study abroad experience!

Xoxo, Tanya

My First Study Abroad: Why I Chose Uganda

Hey Guys! I know it’s been a while since my last blog post and although I felt pressured to be consistent sometimes you just have to let things come naturally and also I was really caught up with life, school, and work. You know I struggle with finding the balance. Nevertheless, a new blog post is here. I recently traveled for my first study abroad and had a life-changing experience. I was there for almost a month, so it’s not quite possible for me to sum it up in one blog post. So I’ll be doing separate posts detailing my experience.  As you can tell by the title of this post, I’ll be talking about why I chose the country I did for my first blog post.

In a perfect world, I would be a registered nurse involved in direct patient care, but, as we all know, there’s no such thing as an ideal world.  Public Health was something I’ve always wanted to do after nursing school, but with the many stumbling blocks I’ve faced, I thought, “why not pursue this and see what happens?” I do have a keen interest in prevention and keeping people healthy. My public health training has helped me realize the importance of practicing a healthier lifestyle, and I also want to teach other people about health and prevention. Having a degree in Public Health means finding solutions to healthcare issues as well as improving the health of the human race around the globe, which is something I’m passionate about.

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So back to my most recent adventure… Whenever I’m somewhere other than Antigua, the place I call home, I often get the question “where are you from?” Most people rarely guess my accent correctly, they usually think I’m from Jamaica. I understand that Jamaica is well-known, but I tend to get offended when people assume rather than ask. My answer to the question whenever I’m asked is, “Haha, I’m from all over!” then I’ll proceed to say, “I was born in England, but I grew up on this beautiful small island in the Caribbean called Antigua, so I consider myself to be an Antiguan. Some say they know of Antigua, others have never heard of it. I’m incredibly proud of where I’m from, and I don’t miss an opportunity to let others know that I’m an Island gal.

When I first moved to the US and learned about the opportunity to go on a study abroad, I always said I would like to do one, but for some reason, it didn’t happen when I wanted it to. I’ve faced some stumbling blocks on my educational journey, and when I decided to start over, I made a promise to do everything I said I would do but never prioritized earlier on in my studies. I started fresh in the fall of 2018 as a Public Health major. My school offers many opportunities for students to study abroad and achieve their academic goals, and I took advantage of these resources.

I was determined to chase after the goals that I had set for myself, so I decided to attend the study abroad fair that same fall.  When I got to the booth promoting a course on alcohol and alcohol-related harm in Uganda, I was immediately sold on the experience and put it at the top of my list for study abroad programs. I had a feeling this was just the experience I had been looking for. One of my selling points for this study abroad in Uganda was that it was in Africa; it has been a life-long goal of mine to visit the continent of Africa. The program director and program consultant were really enthusiastic about getting to know me and helping me see that my interests aligned with this trip; I was eager to learn about alcohol and HIV issues in a different cultural context. Lastly, being from the Caribbean, I wanted to see what the similarities and differences were between African culture and my Caribbean culture. I made sure to put it in the atmosphere, I manifested and prayed about it and knew I needed to get to the Motherland to experience what it is like to be an island gal in Africa. Most importantly, though, I felt called to make a public health impact in an area of the world that desperately needs it. After visiting this beautiful country, I realized that I didn’t choose Uganda, Uganda chose me.

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Stay tuned for more posts about my study abroad to Uganda.

xoxo, Tanya

Let me know in the comments what made you choose your study abroad program or if you plan on doing one!

Guest Post + Collab// Blogging While Balancing A Full Time Job

Hey guys!

I strongly believe that in life nothing happens before it’s time. That is how I feel about this post. When I first started blogging I came across this blogger who just so happens to be from the Islands, shortly after I found out she was from the same Island as me and we immediately hit off. Today, she’s someone I called my Island blogging sister. I’ve always wanted to do a collaboration with her but for some reason whenever I would try it just didn’t seem like the right time and now here we are many months later with a post that is right for both of us to do. This topic came about from Aaliyah after I saw that she was looking for possible questions to answer for a Q& A and I asked her how she balanced work and blogging. Now here we are. My responses will be featured on her site As Told By Ali so be sure to check it out.

Here goes!

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Not Every Friendship Will Last

Is there such a thing as friends for life? I’ve realized that in life, every friendship has its purpose and not every friendship will last. Most times, friends come into your life for a season and once that season is over, there is really no need for that friendship to continue.
Do you remember growing up saying to your bestfriend something a long the lines of “we’re gonna be friends forever”, funny enough every time I hear or say that line I start randomly singing ‘friends forever’ by Zack attack ( Saved By The Bell fans will know what I’m talking about). I believed that I was going to still be friends with some of the people from my childhood days and those that I met in high school and part of college, but little did I know not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime.

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I always found myself putting my friends on this pedestal, they were the best thing since slice bread, today I can’t really say the same. In my 28 & Winging It post I mentioned something to the effect of me buying friends, not monetary (well there was a time but another time for that) but by doing everything they would ask even it was against what I stood for. Let me tell you whenever you have to compromise yourself to show someone you’re a good person it says a lot about you as an individual. I’ve found myself in recent times fighting for friendships that didn’t serve any purpose. It was in this moment when I realized that not everyone deserves a seat at the table to my life. Now, even though I said I realized, I still tried everything in my power to cling on to certain friendships simply because in my mind I’ve known this person for x amount of years, starting over is no option etc. I went through some situations over the last few months where my friendship with a few of the people I considered my friends basically started to dwindle. Let me tell you, whenever you feel like you must go against what you stand for just to be able to keep a friendship then it’s time go. Now I am not saying I’m the greatest friend on the planet because I’ve had my fair share of doing a lot crap to hurt and disappoint some of my friends but the beauty about that is I recognized my wrong doing and I ALWAYS try to fix it and do better.
I’ve been constantly asking myself in recent times “why do I attract certain people in my life” and what I mean by that is, why do I attract users. I’ve been trying to find the answer for months but I can’t seem to find it. I know I’m a good person so why does it seem that I always attract people who pretend to care about me and only care about themselves? I am giver, when I say I am a giver, I AM A GIVER; I would do anything so that the people around me can be happy but in recent times it’s been taking a toll on me physically, mentally and spiritually. One time I was unable to show up a for friend when they needed me and that has caused a change in the friendship ever since. The ONE time I couldn’t  be there when they needed me, changed a whole friendship ignoring all of the other times I was there for them. To me, some people only want you around them for what they can get from you and these are the people you need to be aware of.
Another thing I want to say and this is a bit of a confession to myself, I feel like if I share it, it would make me feel better to some extent. I’ve put myself in some compromising positions just so that I can please these said so called friends. I was talking to a friend of mine and when I say friend, this is someone who when you look up the definition of a friend you’re guaranteed to see their picture at the top. Anyway, my father was coming to visit me and I was telling this friend that I hope my dad is able to get Wi-Fi in the airport because that’s our only means of communicating because I forgot to pay the monthly $3 fee to keep his US number active, THREE DOLLARS just to keep his line active and I failed to do that. My friend’s response to me “I don’t get you, the man who does everything in his power to make sure you want for nothing and you can’t remember to pay $3 a month for him” my friend proceeded to say “I can guarantee you if it was one of your so called friends who don’t give a damn about you, you would go to the moon just to please them” When I tell you that hit me, I felt like a knife pierced my heart. The statement though simple could not have been more accurate. Here I am doing the world for these “friends”who don’t care about me and the ones who do, I’m not being the friend I should be to them, how ironic.
After a while in life you realize that it’s ok if you’re not as close to some of the people you once were close with; it really isn’t a bad thing. Some friendships last, some you become distant with and you just resort to a phone call twice a month just to check in and others just come to an end. As certain things change you’ll experience a change with the friendship.
When I share certain situations with the people closest to me, they often say ” you need to cut them off” but for me I like to give second, third, hundreds of chances before I realize a particular relationship is really not for me, I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Not all friendships/ relationships end on bad terms, it’s just time to move on so you can be a better person. You outgrow people.

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My younger sister, although young she is very wise always told me that I don’t need to be everyone’s friend and that was a sermon I needed to hear. We grow a part from some friends for whatever reason but we never know what the future holds. I’ve been taken advantage by friends who I thought had my best interest at heart. In life it is important to know that it’s ok to make new friends but also set boundaries for yourself as well. While we know some friends are really toxic and need to go, we must find joy in meeting new people and building new relationships. I’m confident in knowing that you can meet someone this very moment and they’ll have a much bigger impact on your life than the ones you’ve known all your life.
“Relationships are an important part of life but be mindful of the other person being in control while you struggle for approval. Get rid of the bottom feeders and stick to the friends that speak life into those around them.” A quote that stuck out to me one morning while I was reading my daily devotional was ” You can buy friends by letting them control you, but you will have to keep them the same way you obtained them.” That was a WORD.

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Should You Get The Flu Shot: Yay or Nay?

A few days ago, I uploaded a video of me getting the flu shot to my social media, I also tweeted about it and to my surprise, I got a lot of feedback that I wasn’t expecting, which prompted this post. Ever since I have uploaded the video, People have been sending me messages ranging from “You take that mess?” to “Thanks for reminding me” to “There’s no such thing as a mandatory flu shot” and many more. 

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All About The Scrub Life Turns 1// What I’ve learned So Far

Do you know what time it is? It’s celebration time! Can you believe it’s been a year since I’ve occupied space on the internet and can now call myself a blogger? ( I know right who can believe it). A lot has happened over the last year, some good and some not so good but I can say I have learned a lot being a part of the blogosphere.
As some of you know when I published my first blog post The Beginning… a year ago, I told you I had this idea for 2 years before I started. I had no clue what I was doing or getting myself into but I was prepared, now here I am a year later.
I had this plan of what I wanted to talk to about in this post, but a conversation I had recently with someone who wants to start blogging changed that idea.
Instead I’m going to talk about what I learned over the past year and give some tips on what you should consider if you plan on starting a blog, vlog, etc.

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28 & Winging It

As you know I celebrated my twenty-eighth birthday about 2 weeks ago and I feel like I’ve been winging my last couple years in my 20’s. Like I mentioned in my birthday post Year Ventiocho , my goal is to be fully at peace and to be more in tuned with myself. I had plans of sharing things I learnt over the last year, but then my blogger sista over at Passionate Woman started a challenge where you write about fun facts, lessons and confessions about yourself so I thought why not kill two birds with one stone. So here goes.

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