From the USA to Uganda: ChelseaToSea
My name is Chelsea, I am from the US and I now live in Kampala, Uganda.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I work in international public health (epidemiology) and have been following the cool diseases around the world for 5 years. I am now living in Uganda and working on malaria prevention and to increase access to vaccines.
2. How do you make a living?
I work with NGOs who focus on disease prevention. Right now my research project is in Northern Uganda. I make the bumpy and dusty 10 hour journey from Kampala to the North about once a month.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My phone is quiet in the morning until the US wakes up around 2pm, and then I’m in constant text conversations with friends and family back home. I have to turn my phone on silent when I go to bed. It’s pretty amazing to be riding in a rickshaw and talking to my mom who is shopping at Century 21 in Brooklyn. The other day I had to quickly Facetime her because I didn’t know how to use my newly purchased pressure cooker and I was afraid I would blow my apartment up. She calmed me down as she was brushing her teeth for work. I facetimed my friend as she drank her morning coffee to show her the outfits I had picked out for a date. My sister has met all of my coworkers from just bringing her on Facetime around the office. This sounds like a Facetime advertisement and I apologize but whatever it is an amazing tool. Definitely look into an unlimited international data plan. It has been very worth it for me.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Uganda?
My best friend lives in Tanzania and with just a $100 round trip ticket I can quickly jump over and spend a weekend in Zanzibar. Or she can come to Uganda and we could go kayaking on the Nile or camp next to Hippos. These spur of the moment adventures are so unique and are what I am going to miss most about Uganda.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Uganda?
Definitely the dating scene. It’s horrible.
6. What do you miss most?
When I first started to live overseas, I had a very difficult time dealing with the lack of autonomy. That I had to ask someone to help me every time I wanted to go to the grocery store or mail a letter. My time here in Uganda is different. I have my own apartment, my own car, I brought my damn cat from the states. Now I think what I miss most is having a group of friends that aren’t so transient. Making friends just to see them leave the country in 6 months after their internship is over is exhausting.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I hung out a lot with workmates when I first arrived. Then I joined the rock climbing club which introduced me to a whole new set of people. I tried to hit as many restaurants as soon as possible and kept a running bucket list of places I wanted to check out. This helped me assimilate quickly.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I’m from New York City and am a fast moving, loud talking, Italian from Brooklyn. The languid, courteous Ugandan culture takes a while to get used to. I rolled down my window to ask a woman for directions, “Where is the UNICEF office?” she responded with, “I am fine thank you, how are you?” I learned my lesson.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
No ma, I’m not going to get Ebola in Uganda. TOTALLY different side of the continent.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is much lower but I’m also traveling more and going on more adventures. So it’s a bit of a savings wash. Woops.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Give yourself a few months before deciding you hate it, go on adventures, write about your experiences, make friends and open yourself up but try not to be stupid, and if you’re a solo female traveler.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog when I was 19 and lived/worked in Calcutta for 3 months. It was a way for me to process and to update my friends and family. Since then I have traveled to 14 other countries and have been writing about my adventures in every one.
Chelsea's blog, ChelseaToSea
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