I instead took a ride to town
The year 2010 came as one of the most exciting for me because of the crazy moments as a freshman at campus. I, like many, had a unique way of easily identifying the route to campus. Mine was the roundabout after Mulago hospital and the Ministry of Public Service building to know that I had to alight from the taxi from Ntinda. I would then find my way to campus through the small gate near University Hall. This would come in handy as the main gate wouldn’t be found easily.
My tricks to find campus failed when I forgot that the taxi was closing in to Wandegeya. We went past Wandegeya and before I knew it, we were in the middle of town. I had to alight because it was getting empty and I had missed the roundabout. I now had to start looking for Wandegeya from a completely different angle.
After about two hours of confusion and panic, I was only lucky that I had Joel’s contact, an old friend who operated a boutique in Kikuubo. You can imagine the relief when he told me he was in the vicinity. He came but I spent a few minutes before I could reveal my problem.
I lied to him that I had come to do some shopping and thereafter go back to campus. At the back of my mind, I had just come to him so he could rescue me from losing my way. I was not only a freshman but also in Kampala. From then, I learnt that asking which I had avoided, isn’t being stupid but actually wise otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten lost.
From Fresher to fixer
The weeks that led up to the start of my campus experience were laden with sleepless nights, endless anticipation and great expectation. From the stories I had read and heard about life at Makerere University, I envisaged that being a fresher would be all about chasing girls, drinking myself silly with friends and lots of free time to sleep all day and do nothing most of the time.
However, that was never my story. My first 14 days were an outright baptism of fire.
I reported to the hall I was attached to, Mitchell, on a bright Saturday morning with my mattress, suitcase and, father following closely behind. We were greeted by the architectural wonder that is the Mitchell building; an intricate application of triangulated symmetry.
I was excited but also scared of what awaited me in this new environment. At the entrance was the warden, a stout, smartly dressed gentleman. “Welcome to Mitchell, you are now under the care of the best,” he uttered, reassuringly, as if noticing the nerves that were beginning to get the better of me. After clearing the luggage, he allocated me room A2, and proceeded to the next entrant. My father called one of the residents to direct me to what was to be my new home for the next three years. He gave me Shs70,000 and bade me farewell.
Little did I know that this pocket money that was meant to take me through the month would be halved by day’s end. Upon reaching my room, I was stunned and appalled by the deplorable state of the walls, bed, windows and door. The paint had peeled off ages ago and the cement and bricks were gaping in certain parts. The window glass was broken, one half missing and the bed was shaky and unstable.
To crown it all, the door had no lock, so my property was just a sitting duck waiting to be vandalised. My appeals to change room fell on deaf ears; the warden telling me that all the other rooms had been booked – though they were not. Requests to have the issues fixed were half- heartedly taken on with only the bed being replaced by one which was not any different from its predecessor.
Frustrated and defeated, I decided to fix it all myself.
The cost; my entire pocket money and a little extra from my father and the duration was the entirety of my orientation week at campus. What was supposed to be a fantasy fulfillment period as a fresher at campus, ended up a daunting course unit in Introduction to Construction Management.
I failed to find the entrance to the main hall
During orientation week in 2008, my guardian drove me around campus (Makerere University) showing the major places such as my faculty, Main Building, and the bazaar area so that I don’t get lost like most freshmen. He also warned against asking people for advice as some may lead you into a wrong place and either harm or rob me from there.
The booming bazaar was soon over and lectures started. Of course most of us were still struggling to learn calling them lectures not classes.
My unlucky day was on a Wednesday morning. We had a Political Science lecture between 9-10pm in the main building or call it main hall. I was 10 minutes late, so I didn’t find any course mate to walk with to the venue. In any case we hadn’t acquainted with each other so as to begin moving in cliques but after that was okay. I knew the main building anyway. So off I went.
On reaching the venue, I just couldn’t find the door to the main hall entrance. I entered the main building, checked a few rooms but on going downstairs, I saw a big hall with many students; some familiar from my previous classes so I knew that was the place where I was to be. To my surprise, the entrance to the lecture room seemed closed. Deep within me, I thought that the lecturer is like one of those secondary teachers who locked late comers out. My pride could not allow me to ask. So, I accepted to miss the lecture and walked back to my room . The next time we had the same lecture, I tagged along my course mate only to realise that the door was just a turn off from the place where I had stood stranded for 30 minutes.
I didn’t know how to use a mobile phone
“My name is Bosco Senoga. I’m 31 years old. I’m a development consultant in Kampala. I have a smart phone, a laptop computer and can do some of the basic IT work. But back then in 2003 when I joined Makerere University, I did not know how to use a mobile phone, a Siemens A35.
In the first days at campus, with no course work and everything, we were most of the time idle. I remember going to friend’s room and found his Siemens A35 mobile phone on his bed. He was in one corner doing something else. I held it in my hands and saw buttons on it. On every button there were three letters while other buttons had dots. One button for instance had letters ABC. I wondered how, on a button with three letters, I would be able to type letter C and not end up typing ABC.
I did not want to show my ignorance or I would be embarrassed before my friend who might have regarded me highly. Yet I wanted to learn. So I asked him, “What has happened to your phone, I have been trying to press some button but... ?” The truth is I had not pressed a single button. He came. I think he understood that I did not know how to use a phone for he found nothing typed on the screen but never wanted to embarrass me. He showed me how to use the buttons. I look back at that experience and feel embarrassed but that is life. A freshman at Makerere University.”