My Summer at Wharton: How Jojo Walugembe’s First USA Trip Solidified His African Connection

August 31st, 2018

Jojo Walugembe returns to campus soon as a Year 2 student and new ALA blogger with a wealth of stories to tell, including a trip to the USA as a participant in the Leadership in the Business World summer programme at Wharton Business School...

This past summer, I had the privilege of attending the Leadership in the Business World summer programme at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. A friend of mine-who also introduced me to ALA-told me about it.

At this programme, 160 rising high school seniors are handpicked and taken through 4 weeks of intense business training and leadership development: where they have the opportunity to interact with venture capitalists from all over the US, learn about business idea development from actual business owners world-over, and ultimately work together to design and actuate their own brilliant business ideas.

That’s what the website said.

It was true. At the programme, we did all of these things and more. What this website didn’t tell you however, was how this experience would shape you as an individual. That was the beautiful part. As someone who had never travelled to the United States, I was eager to not only learn from my fellow American peers but use that exposure to better my understanding of the world. I did, but more importantly, I found myself understanding my home even more.

An Inclusive Welcome

When I arrived at the Hill House (where we were staying), I was met by the Director of the programme, Marea and my team leader, Melissa. They had stayed up past midnight to welcome me and catch me up on on what I had missed - since I arrived 2 days late. I felt this compassion even in my room, where my roommate was waiting for me eagerly as well. He too had stayed up to help me unpack and make sure I had a comfortable welcome. This transcended through out the programme. Everyone was friendly and more often than not people would ask you how your day was, invite you to a game of Fortnite after a long day of lectures and some would go out of their way to get you a bite to eat. The environment was so cool – amidst the blazing summer sun – and it made my experience unique.

In all of this however, one thing stood out.

Wherever I’d go, people would ask me tonnes of things about Africa. I’d receive questions about the status of our economy, the infrastructure, the food, the schools and plenty more. I had to dissect some frustrating opinions that I knew came from an uninformed point of view, while at the same time dealing with the fact that these opinions were as a result of the adoption of a single story about Africa.

At one point, I felt more like an ambassador of Africa to the US rather than a student who had come to attend the summer programme. With each interaction I had, I ended up speaking on behalf of 55 different countries –telling people how each one represents a unique piece of my beautiful motherland-my home. The interactions would become more passionate as I noticed people have that ‘awe’ moment when I described what it was like to live in Africa. As I did this, I found myself falling in love with my home even more. This for me was a surreal highlight of the summer programme.

During my stay in the US, I had the opportunity to travel to monumental places in New York, Washington and Philadelphia, deepen my knowledge about business and make connections that I know will last a lifetime. My summer experience would have never been the same without attending this programme.

LBW allowed me to experience life in the US, and that experience made my connection to Africa even stronger.

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Jojo is from Uganda, and his interests range from Education and Entrepreneurship to music. An active member of ALA's student body, he plays basketball and participates in various campus clubs and societies, including the International Relations Council, Debate Club and Blockchain, as well as interning for ALA's  Student Life and Strategic Relations departments.

He is not the only student who has had an inspiring school break; click here to see what others have been up to...



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This is an article from the ALA Journey Journal – the blog that tracks our 50 year journey to develop 6000 leaders. Visit the Journal here.


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