Thursday, July 31, 2014

Viva America and Ohio

By Dr. Awad Ibrahim Awad (SUSI 2014 scholar)

Before I come to America I was putting a lot of scenarios in my mind about this great country. All through the way in the plane I asked myself about what form of life I may see in America? After a long journey of twenty-four hours from Khartoum via Cairo via Frankfurt the Lufthansa plane landed at the airport of Chicago. It was 8 pm , despite the fact that sunlight was still emitting from all directions. I could not believe my eyes while I was looking and wandering all over the giant airport. The atmosphere was nice, and the place was so sophisticated and elegant. I found before my eyes an American family consisting of a husband and his wife who also wanted to go to Columbus on the same trip of mine. The accident put us in one place for long hours before the plane took off in the next morning. That was the 20th June 2014. We spent all the night talking about America. They told me about life, and how young generations are handling their own way in all activities they do. On the other hand I explained to them how people survive in Africa, and how they struggle for survival in some parts of the third world.

It was a great surprise to me when I found those two people, deal with me as if I were a close friend to them. They talked to me about their family which consists of a son and two daughters. They also explained how the nature of human life is unique in the U.S. They told me how the new Americans deal with the current inventions of technology, how they behave, how they eat, how they learn, and how they build their future. We talked about the freedom which the American constitution gave to the people through the first amendment in the late eighteenth century. This freedom had contributed so much to the development of this great nation. Suddenly we discovered that our dialogue has involved other passengers who were sitting around on benches waiting for the departure of their planes to take them to their different places. The common denominator among all those people around me was their beauty, simplicity, and their good conduct. In short, they were most beautiful and much better than what was in my mind about the American people.

One of the reasons for that marveling was the distorted picture portrayed in our  minds in many countries of the Third World about America. They told us over the years that America is the ghoul who kills people, creates problems, persecutes religions, and colonizes all the innocent countries of the world. And we lived most of our lives fearing and hating America. Whenever we try to love America our media makes us turn away more and more from that love, so that we ignored any positive talk about it when we met with any Americans in the different parts of the world.
I am now in the heart of America, and even in one of its largest airports, the beautiful Chicago airport. This airport witnesses an aircraft landing and take-off at every minute throughout the morning and evening hours. I saw people of all the human races, colors, and languages going and coming in this international airport. Thousands of people walking around in this great airport as if they were in the greatest day of Hajj. All of us paid tribute to the role of America in the entire world, and to the role played by the University of Ohio which is inviting me and other scholars since its inception. After the expiration of the specified period of waiting I came to the conclusion that the U.S government had really created a prosperous and modern lifestyles for her people and others around the world.

At 8:15 AM an elegant van of Ohio University came and took me with the other colleagues from Adams Hall were we live to the Scripps 211. This is the usual time of our daily departure to resume our activities. The timetable was very rich, and the day was full of lectures like the rest of the days. Through this program we met with many university professors from different American universities. They all came to lecture us in media and communication aspects. They gave lectures about the press, radio and television, news agencies, communication systems, advertising, marketing, management of media outlets, conduct of communication research, techniques of modern media, community media, as well as media coverage during the times of war and peace. 

Prof. Awad (right) with his friend Prof. Ellard Spencer Manjawira

We had many visits to the university libraries which are very rich of references in all aspects of knowledge. We learned how to use the modern networks to save and retrieve information through computers that have been developed all over the place. 

As a part of the program all scholars were supposed to fill a weekly sheet of assessment for the activities of the week. This assessment is always confidential and not shown to any person except the leaders of the program for the sake of development. That is because they want to enhance their performance year by year.

After that nice conversation we entered the plane heading to the airport of Columbus the capital of Ohio state. Beyond the exit of immigration and passports procedures I came to the departure lounge to find a lovely two girls waiting for me at the main gate. They were from University of Ohio. One of them was American, and the second was Jamaican. They both do their post graduate studies at the University of Ohio. Therefore they work as assistances for the SUSI program of communication.

We spent an hour and a half traveling on board the vehicle to the headquarters of Ohio University in the town of Athens. I met Prof. Mary T. Rogus the SUSI Academic Director who took me by her car to Prof. Yusuf Kalyango the director of the Institute of International journalism. Kalyango told one of his assistance to take me to the headquarters of the housing allocated to the professors involved in the program inside the campus. When I arrived at the campus of Ohio University I found the residence was most prestigious like luxury hotels in some countries. My room number is 163, and it is very clean and comfortable. There is a shared toilet between me and my neighbor in the room 161. There is also a small refrigerator which is quite adequate for one person, and a microwave for heating or cooking the food. There are two beds covered with nice sheets and a blanket to face the cold of winter, although we have come in summer. There is also a small table and chair for the writing and reading. Another similar table was found to put the bags and widgets on it. I entered my room and slept for long time after that long travel from home to America.

The program is called the SUSI Program, and it is developed by the University of Ohio. It invited scholars from 18 countries around the world to participate in the round of 2014.

The program lasted for six consecutive weeks. During these weeks we learned a lot from the lectures and the visits which were also very comprehensive and useful for getting knowledge. We became very aware of the American media, how it began, how it evolved, how it works, and how it reaps huge profits from the market. We also met with a number of editors of newspapers and magazines and different authors of  books in America.

During the program we learned a lot about the international media systems. Each and every participant has talked about the media in his or her own country. We knew about the media in Sudan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Zambia, Myanmar, India, Russia, Costa Rica, Chile, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Hong Kong, Finland, Romania, Lebanon, Australia, and Kazakhstan. Through these lectures we knew how the media works in the different parts of the world. The SUSI put all the presentations of the scholars on line to be accessed by whoever enters the websites of the University of Ohio. It is now easy for everybody to get the information accompanied by pictures and graphics at any time and any place.

The program involved many visits to a number of U.S. cities and states in order to identify some of the important media institutions. It involved beside Ohio the states of California, Georgia, Maryland, and the federal capital of America Washington, D C. During these tours the scholars visited a number of media organizations such as: CNN, Voice of America, the National Radio of the United States, the U.S. Congress, the headquarters of the Department of Google, many American theaters, newspapers publishing houses, the house of African-Americans newspaper, museum of journalism, and the country of Amish in northern Ohio state.

Indeed, I began to think for the first time how this great America is inviting all this big number of scholars year by year to get a lot of experience and benefits from this country! For the sake of what do the officials in the Department of State pay for the travel of these scholars, their accommodation, their transportation, their entertainment, as well as their education. At the same time they offer them free visas from the American embassies located in their countries! Then they deport them to the most expensive international airlines. And in the end they give them certificates signed by the heads of departments of the University of Ohio. That is great, and nobody can do it except America. It was indeed a great experience which made ​​me one of the biggest fans and lovers of America. So thanks SUSI, thanks Ohio University, thanks America for all what you have one for us.

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