Alumni blog: Chris grows at EARTH
|Photo: Chris poses with one of the tractors at EARTH. (Photo by David Santiago from Colombia.)
|Photo: Chris and his classmates checking a rice crop. (Photo by Monica Montero from Costa Rica.)
|Photo: Chris learning to use an ox for ploughing. (Photo by Jonathan Guerra from Ecuador.)
|Photo: Chris and his fellow volunteers at Las Baulas. (Photo by Gerson Bringuez Chapini from Guatemala.)
Chris Mujjabi, our first ever Ugandan student, graduated from Pestalozzi in 2013. He won a scholarship from The MasterCard Foundation to EARTH University, where he’s been studying ever since. We recently caught up with Chris to learn more about his life in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is really nice, and I am enjoying my time at EARTH. EARTH covers the three concepts of Pestalozzi (head, heart and hands) in a very intensive manner.
We always have classes during the week, but most of them have two parts: first in the classroom, then the campo, or field section. One course is called cultivos tropicales (tropical crops). We are given pieces of land from the first week, where we plant different crops and take care of them until the end of the trimester. So, for example, we have lessons about a certain vegetable, then we go to our own farms to look at it, touch it, look at the pests and diseases it has and think about ways of reducing those pests and diseases in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way (i.e. by reducing the use of chemicals).
Another course, called IGA, is basically about the equipment and tools used for cultivation. Here we learn about driving tractors, connecting implements like slashers, disco ploughs and carts, but also about using animals like bulls and buffaloes on the farm. Each one of these has a practical exam, and I have passed all of them!
On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6:30am, we have experiencia de trabajo (work experience). We rotate around six different systems, spending six weeks in each – waste management, forestry, hydroponics, organic farming, dairy farming and medicinal plants. In second year, students do their work experience outside the campus, in the community with local farmers. In third year, we do a three month practical internship in our homelands or another country of our choice, then in fourth year we act as the supervisor of a first year student (so right now we have fourth year students supervising us in each rotation of the work experience).
I am doing great with the Spanish after EARTH’s three-month Spanish immersion programme before the start of the course (I did this from September up to December and the academic year started in January) and I understand about 95% of it. I don’t speak a lot, but am contented that I still have enough time to work upon the speaking, as long as I can understand all the lessons in class (they are all in Spanish).
Last week I had a vacation, and volunteered at Las Baulas, a conservation reserve of marine turtles. These turtles are in danger of extinction because they have very few chances of survival when they are young (only one turtle out of 1,000 survives) and they take so long to reach the reproductive age (10-15 years). People also steal their eggs from the beaches, so that totally reduces their population. We walked at night along the beach to find turtles laying eggs, put tags on them, helped them to camouflage their nests, and also checked records of how many times they had come back to this place to lay eggs.
I still play my guitar and I bought a new one from a student who graduated last year. I’m playing with my compañera (class friend) from Ecuador and she sings very well, so maybe we shall develop something. I still love playing old music, John Lennon’s "Imagine", Van Morrison’s "Brown Eyed Girl" and a few Spanish songs... Unfortunately there are no drums here, as the set was destroyed and is not repaired yet, but I would love to continue with the drums too.
Good luck to all the Pestalozzi students in their exams, especially the second years. Be strong and you will make it! There are so many opportunities out there, not just university. Be positive about the outcome: it can be a ladder to the next step of your life, so just embrace it with open arms.
Read more about Chris’ story here.