global AND EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
Katie Heidengren ’16 comes from a family with deep Wheaton connections. Her parents and two older brothers attended Wheaton, and after a campus visit as a high school senior, Katie knew this was the place for her, too.
While these activities carried their own lessons, Katie’s semester in the Uganda Studies Program brought her face to face with members of her global family and with a quieter way of seeing the world. Like other students in the program, she took cultural studies and language classes at Uganda Christian University in Mukono and went on a 10-day excursion into neighboring Rwanda.
But what affected Katie the most was living with a family that consisted of her “host mama,” her “host papa,” and six siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 18.
“From day one I was their daughter,” Katie says. “I was their sister. That was a gift that was given and not something that had to be earned. I had to learn what it meant to be a daughter in their house. They let me be a part of the chores each day. I would wake up in the morning before class and feed the chickens and change their water.”
In the evenings Katie shared the outdoor cooking duties, using a small, cylindrical coal stove. As the rice or beans simmered, the women would sit quietly as the sun set.
“I think in Ugandan culture there’s such an emphasis on presence in relationships,” Katie says. “Sometimes we would tell stories, or sing together, or be silent, just [sharing] each other’s presence.”
After graduating in August with a degree in Christian education and ministry and a minor in biblical and theological studies, Katie is considering next steps. But the semester in Uganda has deepened her thinking about church unity, presence, and relationships. She says the experience was “marked by deep relationships, transformation, and learning to sit with questions and tensions in a healthy way.”
Wheaton’s strengthened emphasis on Global and Experiential Learning aims to encourage even more students and faculty to experience God’s presence in new ways in an increasingly globalized world.
Katie is grateful for how she saw God at work in the relationships she made in Uganda, saying, “It was powerful for me.”