Hello from Zambia: Lessons Learned

In June and July, a group of Douglas College students are working with communities in
Zambia through our Zambia Global Leadership Program. Each student will be
sharing their experiences in a couple of posts. Today’s post is from Maria.

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Traveling has always been a learning experience. By experiencing firsthand the way of life and communicating with other strangers, locals and tourists alike, I learn more about the culture an traditions of the place. In addition, by having different interactions, I also learn a lot more about me as a person- my strengths, my weaknesses, my passions and even some life lessons. During my two and a half months in Zambia, I have learnt many things and I feel that my perspectives have been broadened. In this blog, I will highlight three of the things that I have learnt- 1) work hard in everything, 2) actively seek out my weaknesses and proactively work towards turning them into my strengths and 3) never give up.

Steve Pavlina said, ” when you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.” In Zambia, some locals I have met astounding me with how hard they work. They work hard not only at their jobs but also at home. Sometimes when I talk to some of the locals they tell me they wake up at four in the morning because they clean their entire house before they come to work at eight in the morning. Similarly, at my home stay, I have woken up at three in the morning to the sound of someone sweeping the walkway outside my room. Also, the house is cleaned every single day. Everything is loved and cleaned and the floors are waxed almost every single day. The way the locals work at home has greatly inspired me and I am going to do my best to apply this work ethic back when I am home in Canada.

While in Zambia, I have learnt a lot about the amazing students who were also chosen to be a part of the Zambia Global Leadership Program. In the group, there is this one student who, after I got to know her more, has been of inspiration to me. When she had first started college, she was extremely shy and introverted but she had a dream/ life goal. For her life goal she needed skills like public speaking and project management, so even though she could barely speak to people she decided to work in sales- selling books. Being a shy and introverted person, I understand how hard it is to make such a decision and how difficult it is to go through with it, but she did it anyway. By the end of the summer, she had gained the necessary skills that she needed and was able to sell books easily. She then proceeded with her next goal- project management. She started again at the bottom- working in a movie theatre and worked her way up to assistant manager. From there, she got a job organizing events all over Canada and the U.S. She is extremely determined person and has accomplished and achieved a lot as a result. Meeting such a goal-oriented and motivated person who goes out of her way to work on her weaknesses has influenced me and encouraged me to do the same.

“Do it! Trembling if you must, but do it.” – Emmet Fox

Another thing that I have learnt that I think is an important lesson to have experienced firsthand- Never give up! At the start of my experience I had wanted to work on a project that turns plastic bags into mosquito nets. While trying to make this possible, I ran into roadblock after roadblock and subsequently I began getting discouraged. However, the team I have supporting me encouraged me constantly. One day, it finally clicked! I should not be discouraged because things are not working out, because if I think about the situation a little bit more, I can figure out another way. Granted, the project now is proceeding not as I had first envisioned it, but the most important thing is that my end goal is still visible and possible. I still experience constant barriers but now I am able to easily work around them. They key is summed up very beautifully in this quote by Michael Jordan, “obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”

Being in Zambia has been a very significant experience and I am extremely grateful and blessed to have been a part of this wonderful experience. It has certainly been life changing!

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