Zambia 2007Celena Lue
This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to embark on a trip to Africa, specifically, the beautiful and peaceful country of Zambia. Dr. Lewis Aptekar led our group of 23 SJSU graduate students for our service learning project: Zambia 2007. Our focus was on counseling from a cultural and international perspective.
My name is Celena Lue and I am 23 years old, entering my second year as a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at San Jose State University. I am Chinese-American, raised in Florida and born in Jamaica. I moved to California one year ago, never imagining what incredible journey lay ahead. I have always considered myself to be a fairly culturally diverse and culturally competent individual. However, my experience in Africa opened my eyes to an exciting culture where cultural flexibility and sensitivity were essential. I quickly discovered I still had much to learn.
Our challenging task was to provide counseling services to the schoolchildren living in the compounds of Lusaka, Zambia. The urban population of children we worked with included street children and community school children. Many of these children were orphaned, as their parents died from AIDS and/or other diseases. We worked with organizations such as Action for Children, Flying Angels Community School, Yasheni, Youthvision, and the University of Zambia (UNZA). Each SJSU graduate student was paired with an UNZA student, which enabled all of us to learn from each other and help each other in a unique cross-cultural setting.
Everyday brought a new adventure and a new challenge. Working with the young children, I encountered a language barrier. Although English is the main language in Zambia, there are many other languages and dialects, like Cinyanja, that the children were more fluent in. However, with the help of the UNZA students, crayons, creativity, and patience, I was able to improve my communication with the children. Regarding the high school students, I found various cultural similarities and differences. For instance, we engaged them in open discussions regarding the same issues we deal with in the U.S. HIV/AIDS, sex, religion, relationships, and rape were all popular topics the students voiced concern about. It was a surprise, yet a relief, to find that many of the students were already knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves. I am not sure who learned more—me or the students!
Initially, adjusting to the way of life in Zambia seemed daunting. The people, physical environment, political and social issues, and local customs, were just some of the issues I needed to be aware of.
Basic modern conveniences for me, like electricity and clean running water, were luxuries many Zambians could not afford. Yet, I also realized that not all Zambians were the same. They varied on numerous factors such as socioeconomic status, personality, religion, and political views, just like Americans.
It is impossible to adequately capture everything I experienced and learned in Zambia. Therefore, I encourage anyone who is curious about another culture or who simply wants to learn more about oneself, to research and gain hands-on experience with a different culture. My experience in Zambia was richly rewarding and I feel incredibly fortunate to have connected with a culture that I am only beginning to understand. However, I do know that with the support of my fellow SJSU classmates and the kindness of the Zambians, I felt more of a part of the beautiful Zambian culture and yet more at home than I could have ever imagined. Zikomo (Thank you), Zambia!
For more information on the Zambia Service Learning Project, you may contact Professor Lewis Aptekar, Ph.D. at: email@example.com.
Like to help SCCR, by joining a new SCCR student advisory committee? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.