March 25, 2015 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Lisa Michienzi, Intern, Communications & Media Relations

Typically during reading week students enjoy time off to relax, spend time with friends and family, and travel.

For eight King’s student’s, the 2015 reading week was all about travel, culture and learning.

King’s students from the departments of Political Science and Social Justice and Peace studies traveled to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and experienced its vibrant culture, customs and cuisine while learning about the role that Non-Governmental Organization’s (NGO’s) play in aiding poverty and development in Africa.

The trip was organized by Political Science professor Dr. Thomas Tieku, who partnered with Social Justice and Peace studies professor Dr. Allyson Larkin to travel with the King’s students to Addis Ababa for their week long trip.

Professor Tieku and Professor Larkin’s intention by offering courses with experiential learning opportunities for students was to enable them to see first hand what they are studying put into practice in a global sense. By travelling to Addis, these undergraduate academics were able to experience the work that the Ethiopian government has done in advancing its countries standing as a developing nation.

The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa is an amalgamation of historic landmarks and sites with modern sleek structures that are overlooked and surrounded by beautiful mountains and natural landscapes.

The students proved to be an adventurous group, eager to experience all Addis Ababa has to offer. On the first day the group arrived, they decided to forgo rest and chose to jump into the lively culture of the city. Upon their arrival in Addis, the students visited the National Museum, the zoo, and hiked to the top of a nearby mountain where the group sampled traditionally brewed and served Ethiopian coffee.

Over the course of the week, the students visited beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Canadian and American Embassies, the United Nations (UN), rural villages experiencing local cuisine and lifestyle, and the African Union where the group had the opportunity to hear about the organizations 2063 Agenda and plans of action.

“It was so surreal to enter into the planetarium room where all of Africa's Heads of State meet and debate their continents development and make critical choices. It was interesting to be able to hear first hand about their agenda 2063 and what the future Africa looks like to them and how they plan to get there,” says King’s Political Science student Melissa Lyons.

Lyons and her peers had an equally positive experience while visiting both the United Nations and the Canadian and American embassies.

As Lyons classmate Tyler Hammond found the trip to Ethiopia and meet the and greet with NGO’s was “a once in a lifetime experience. As the week progressed, I got more and more confident speaking with diplomats,” he says.

At the United Nations the students were able to speak with UN members about health care infrastructure and Ebola. Lyons and her classmates appreciated the honesty and forthcoming nature of their conversation about what needed to be done to help Africa overcome its obstacles regarding healthcare.

“This trip helped enlighten me to the true complexity done by these organizations,” says Kayla Leblanc, a student in both Political Science and Social Justice and Peace Studies.

The King’s students had a similar experience speaking with delegates at the Canadian and American embassies. “I personally felt very respected and valued at both institutions and I liked that the diplomats were really listening to what we all had to say and cared enough to give in depth responses to our questions. It was reassuring and encouraging that we were able to have not just political conversations but open and critical conversations,” says Lyons.

Looking back on her visit to Ethiopia, Lyons was impressed by the rich culture and diversity of the African nation.

“The Ethiopian culture was very diverse and inclusive. I loved the sense of community that was felt over there. No matter what they were doing, they showed pride in their beliefs and together would join hands whether at the dinner table or in public and pray and give thanks to their higher power.”

As Lyon’s experienced upon arrival, the Ethiopian capital is a juxtaposition, with old and new architecture, scenery and traditions existing cohesively.

“Addis Ababa was a whole new world! I mean, they don't really have traffic lights... or road lines! It is such organized chaos, its amazing how they all work together, navigating the roads and making it work,” says Lyons.

For Lyons and her classmates “everyday in Addis was a new adventure with new obstacles and experiences to go through. Each day there was a moment when I thought to myself, "wow, am I ever lucky."

The experiences the students had in Ethiopia proved to be very positive, outlining and making concrete what these students learn in the classroom.

“I came back having a new outlook on what I am studying. I went there thinking that I would feel guilty for what I had as a person from the Western world, but I did not come back feeling that way. Instead I learned such a valuable lesson. I learned that you cannot feel guilty for what you are born into, but rather, you must learn to recognize and try to limit the differences between you and others. This trip really helped me mature academically and mentally. I have gained such a new outlook on what I am studying and being able to personalize all of the theories I spend studying here in Canada and being able to apply them in real life. It was so beautiful,“ says Lyons.

Her classmates and professors all agree. This trip really helped students develop their confidence, and reinforced their research and study interests.

“I am now teaching a different type of student, their attention to detail in class is different. That’s what I find refreshing and wonderful,” say Dr. Tieku.

If you would like to see and hear more about Melissa Lyons and her classmates adventures in Addis Ababa, follow her blog: