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Zambia: Learning every step of the way

by Lindsay Boyle

Their first experience in Africa was transiting through the modernized O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, which quickly dispelled any misconceptions they may have had about African development as a whole.

Their arrival to the four-star Cresta Golfview Hotel in the considerably Westernized Zambian capital city of Lusaka only furthered that reality. Traffic on the road was constant and intense. Tall buildings equipped with electricity and Internet access lined the city streets. On the surface, Lusaka looked like it could be a city in the U.S.

And that is the capital city.

Hundreds of Zambians sprawled their goods out at congested marketplaces, crammed in muddy, low-lying areas lined with trash and infested with flies. They did this every day; their only source of income came from the products they sold.

Children who, in most cases, had lost their parents to HIV and AIDS resided at places such as Kasisi Children’s Home. When students visited Kasisi, they realized that the children there, who had often been through more in ten years than many people experience in a lifetime, were still grateful and full of excitement for life.

In fact, many of the Zambians were grateful and quite content with the little they had, regardless of their socioeconomic statuses or life situations.

Students experienced that excitement not only in the people they met, but also when they were learning an upbeat traditional Zambian dance and while playing football (soccer) with University of Zambia students.

In addition to local cultural encounters, students also traveled across the country, both to the Copperbelt Province and Livingstone.

The students also surprised themselves in other ways, taking Zambia by storm via their internships. Students with media internships traveled around Lusaka, meeting important officials and seeing first hand how stories come together in Zambia. Others volunteered at nonprofit organizations, developing programs for and working with orphans and widows. One of the students interned at the University Teaching Hospital.

Senior Lauren Nolan interned for Goman Advertising Limited. Her challenge was to market a product specifically to some of the most impoverished people in Zambia—without the use of new media.

Through their internships, students observed places in Zambia they would not have otherwise seen and received cultural advice they would not have otherwise obtained. The internships proved to play an imperative role in the study abroad program.

A final component of the study abroad program, as expected, was the classes. Students commuted to the nearby University of Zambia twice a week to take two journalism courses, learning about different aspects of Zambian media and culture from UNZA communications lecturer Kenny Makungu as well as multiple guest speakers.

OU students went abroad to Zambia fully expecting to learn from their courses. When they returned, however, they realized they had learned from every single moment they spent in Zambia.

January 26, 2012

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