This year, a Provost’s Grant from the Office of Global Affairs will further enrich an exciting UW study abroad program to Zambia. Developed and led by Dr. Leslie Ashbaugh, Director of UW Bothell’s Center for University Studies and Programs, the month-long interdisciplinary program began in 2010 and introduces students to the socio-economic, political, and health challenges faced by Zambians 45 years after the end of British colonial rule.
While in Zambia, undergraduates from all three UW campuses retrace the steps of Dr. Ashbaugh’s own previous research on urban-to-rural migration pathways and outcomes. Along the way, they gain exposure to the complex problems facing individuals and institutions in a country where the government and the international donor community struggle to meet citizens’ basic needs.
Program activities include collaborating with University of Zambia students promoting healthy practices on their campus, observing at health clinics and children’s centers, conducting a health education workshop, and spending 10 days in Luangwa National Park, working in local clinics by day and viewing game by dusk. “We’re on the go from 7am to 7pm every day”, says Dr. Ashbaugh, and the program’s packed schedule is designed to provide many opportunities for cultural exchange with Zambian students, professionals, and local residents.
The Provost’s Grant has allowed Dr. Ashbaugh to add a completely new field experience to this summer’s program. With grant support, the group will embark on a five-hour journey, by bus and then on foot, to visit a rural village and volunteer-based goat farm where HIV positive individuals raise goats for milk and pasteurize goat milk for consumption by babies. Goat’s milk is a better substitute for breast milk than cow’s milk, so the enterprise provides community members with a livelihood, a safe and healthy infant feeding solution for HIV positive mothers, and a chance to overcome the stigma of HIV infection. Dr. Ashbaugh sees the visit to this village as a chance to witness best practices in development work, but also as an opportunity for students to experience and learn from the strength of Zambian communities and the generosity, kindness, and family-orientation of the local people.
With the support of the Office of Global Affairs, Dr. Ashbaugh’s study abroad program allows students to engage in meaningful international field work, learn first-hand about the challenges faced by members of another culture in an increasingly globalized world, and test career interests in global health and development. Just as importantly, she says, students gain humility and “recognition that [Americans] have much to learn from Zambians. I’ve done my job if students leave for Zambia thinking they have some answers, and then return home humbled and able to recognize the complexity of issues related to development.”