How I spent last summer: PhD Student Virna Vidal Menezes in Uganda

Author: Michele Davies

Virna Vidal Menezes

This past summer, I went to Uganda to work as a survey field coordinator on a project with Professor Molly Lipscomb (University of Virginia) and Professor Joe Kaboski. On the job, I had my first experience with fieldwork, working closely with Ugandan enumerators to ensure everything went smoothly with data collection, from survey reviewing and updating to daily data quality checks. We traveled across Western Uganda to perform data collection. I had the unique opportunity to witness the local culture and community. I learned so much about Uganda by talking to the local team I was working with and with Ugandans I met in my day-to-day life. I have always been interested in development economics. However, coming from Brazil, most of my interest lay in Latin America, and working in a different region and observing their differences and similarities was very enriching for my growth as an economist and a person. On top of all the new knowledge I was gaining from working on the project itself, being able to experience the day-to-day lives of Ugandans and have conversations about their experiences was invaluable. Above all, this experience taught me that there is so much to learn from people. The main professional lesson I will take away from this opportunity is to always immerse myself in the context I am studying beforehand - talking to locals can save you time and enrich your research.

Aside from this project's professional gains, Uganda was a unique personal experience. I had been away from Brazil for two years, and every person I encountered in Uganda who gave me a warm welcome reminded me of home. I lost count of how many times I was amazed by the welcoming nature of Ugandans and the number of beautiful smiles I came across. I visited national parks, went on game drives in my free time, and saw elephants, tree-climbing lions, and zebras! Uganda is truly a beautiful country with amazing people and rich culture.