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Student Voice - Zambia - 2016

Zhun Che
Zhun Che

In the weeks leading up to my two months in Zambia, I could not imagine how amazing and transformative my experience in Africa would be. The continent of Africa had always intrigued me. Rich in culture and history, diverse in people and landscape, Africa was a place that wasn’t real to me. Yes, it existed but not in my immediate reality. Before, what happened in Africa did not affect my life. I was completely unaware and oblivious to the intricate lives and complex problems that surround the countries in Africa. As a result of my internship in Africa, my global awareness was greatly enhanced and I understood my status as global citizen as a reality. Leaving Zambia, I truly developed unimaginably, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, I can honestly say that I have been able to contribute in a very real way to the Zambia Institute of Policy Analysis and Research. What I loved about my work was the large impact. The China – Africa relationship is extremely important to economic development of Africa, international trade and finance and the sphere of international relations and I believe that to be able to write policy recommendations regarding the China – Africa relationship is truly amazing. The material that I was writing about is so interesting, especially because it is a conglomeration of some of my diverse interests. Moreover, looking back, I can honestly say that I am truly proud of the work that I have done. This research project has tested my research and analytical skills, allowed me to practice my writing skills, and have overall transformed me into a more professionally capable individual. I’m truly proud of the professional transformation that I’ve undergone this summer.

In my personal development, the most profound realization that occurred was one regarding my identity. My interactions with local Zambians allowed me to realize the many facets of identity, both self-prescribed identity and given identity and as a result, I have become much aware of who I am, and who I present myself to be to others. In class, I our definition of identity was presented more one-dimensionally, with the definition being more self-prescribed. What do you identify with? However, I've realized that that's not necessarily the case. While I identify with being culturally and nationally American and just ethnically Chinese, for example, when people asked me where I was from, I've always answered America. That's not the way Zambians identify me however. Because I look Chinese, they always identify me as culturally, nationally, ethnically, socially, and even economically as Chinese. For example, some people have asked if I am a doctor because a lot of the Chinese people living in Zambia are doctors, or I've even had two women on the bus verbally harass me based upon my race. China has a very controversial position in Zambia and it's this position that largely shapes my interactions with strangers here. Though I self-prescribe my identity as more American and just ethnically and a bit culturally Chinese, I'm Chinese everything to the Zambian people. Identity is not just something you can give to yourself, but something other individuals can give to you. And if that's the case, this can be expanded to things like what society identifies you as, or how another group of people identifies you as, or how an institution identifies you as. In class, not only does everyone have multiple slices to a pie, but everyone has multiple pies depending on what entity is giving you an identity. And is any pie more valid or important to your identity? I would argue after a month in Zambia that no pie is more valid or important, even in regards to your own self-prescribed pie.

Lastly, I had so much fun. My weekend in Livingstone revealed to me even more so the beauty of Africa and Zambia. The land is beautiful, the wildlife truly amazing and time spent with friends memorable. I will forever remember my experience bungee jumping off of the Victoria’s Fall Bridge. The feel was both exhilarating and frightful, and I had never felt more freeing. In that moment, for those thirty seconds I was truly living.