Friday, September 30, 2016

You Know What They Say About First Impressions

Gasarenda. My home until November
Produced and edited by: Austin Greene

I'll make my introduction quick. My name is Austin Greene and I was sent to Rwanda by the E.W. Scripps Institute for International Journalism at Ohio University. I grew up in Smithfield, Ohio, a small town of around 800 people. Life was simple in those days (i.e. a month ago), and I lived it just like any other average guy. You can seriously just imagine your version of "Average Joe" and it'll get you
close enough. What's worth mentioning is that before August, I had never traveled outside of the United States aside from a short little trip into Canada with my grandfather.

Most people who travel take vacations to Europe, Australia or tourist traps in Mexico or South America. Once their feet are wet, they move on to harder places like Asia. The seasoned vets go on to what we call the developing world.

OK, I'm making all of that up, but it's how I imagined it. My first real international experience is taking place in Eastern Africa.

Most people in America only really know Rwanda for the violent genocide in 1994. The genocide was depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda. If that's all you know of the country, your first impression would utterly surprise you.

Rwanda as a whole has to be one of the safest places I've ever visited. The people are very cordial, quiet and reserved. Aside from that, there are soldiers armed with AK-47s on the streets of most populated areas. For going through one of the bloodiest events in history (over 800,000 people were killed in only 100 days), the country seems to have stabilized and is moving forward steadily.

When I was interviewed for this internship, I was asked why I wanted to come to Africa. Race issues and immigration are huge topics in American journalism. It would be very difficult for me to cover those issues fairly if I've never been a racial minority or a foreigner. I hoped that by coming here, I would be able to better relate to those in that position in America.

I'm probably going to be able to relate better to the Kardashians after this.

Check out those fake, 2-dollar Ray-Bans
Gasarenda is a small town in Nyamagabe District. There's not much there aside from a few shops and a market, but there a ton of people there. I can't find any official statistics for the population, but if you find them you can add one more to that number.

Very few white people, muzungus as they say around these parts, ever come to Gasarenda. It is on the way to one of the most popular tourist destinations, Nyungwe National Forest, so I'd imagine that a lot of foreigners pass through at least. However, they wouldn't have much of a reason to stop.

"Good morning!" excited little voices say to me every time I leave my house. These kids have seen me every day for a month by now, and they're still fascinated just at the sight of me. Plus, it's usually 9 o'clock at night when they wish me a good morning.

The kids follow me everywhere I go. When I get on the bus, they stand next to my window and stare. When I'm working in the office in town, they stand in the doorway and stare. Sometimes they ask for spare change.
"I think he's a ghost."

"Give me my money," they'll say.

 It was very surreal and flattering at first. Then it started to creep me out. Now I'm just used to it.

The older folks smile and wave. I feel like I get preferential treatment on the bus, at restaurants and in the market. That should be expected though, Nyamagabe District and the Southern Province are the poorest areas in all of Rwanda. I obviously come from a more privileged background.

It's hard for me to think that way sometimes. I lived in a trailer when I was young and we received government assistance. 86 percent of Rwandans live off of local agriculture. Most of them rely on about 500 dollars per year.

I knew before I came here that I was going to see some things that were hard to see. Children walk around the street in tattered clothes and no shoes. Some of them look like they haven't eaten in a week. There are two beggars at the bus station in Nyamagabe that don't have eyes. I've spent a lot of time at the hospital in Huye, and some of the conditions that I've seen children in are very heartbreaking.

Luckily, there are plenty of things going on in Rwanda to cheer me and everyone else up. I've seen two different species of monkeys in the wild. The black-and-white colobus monkeys in Nyungwe National Forest moved in a group so large that I couldn't even count them. Vervet monkeys are all over the place in Huye, and you can even get up close and feed them out of your hand (I don't think you're supposed to do that though).

Despite the circumstances, Rwanda doesn't seem to be all that cynical. It is one of the fastest developing countries in the world, and the government hopes that Rwanda can achieve "middle-income" status by 2020. The people are very welcoming, and living here can really only be described as easy. I would never have thought it, but Rwanda is turning out to be the perfect place for my first true international experience.

There's so much more coming soon from me,
but check out these pictures in the meantime!

A vervet monkey in Huye
Black-and-white colobus monkeys in Nyungwe National Forest
I wish I knew how to do this.

Prayer at Ruciranyari, just outside of Gasarenda

The "Canopy Walk" at Nyungwe National Forest
The crowded streets of Gasarenda

A typical Rwandan shop

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Life After SUSI

Life after SUSI 2016
Updates from Alumni Scholars
By Alena Klimas, IIJ Projects Coordinator

SUSI Scholars at the Washington Monument in Washington, DC

The Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) 2016 scholars returned to their home countries in August. While in the United States, SUSI scholars visited Media outlets across the country and networked with Ohio University professors and media professionals. They brought diverse experiences, courses, and backgrounds. There were a total of 18 scholars from 18 countries from five continents. It was a socially and regionally diverse and talented group with unique academic specializations and interests. The SUSI summer institute is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State's Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs. The Institute for International Journalism (IIJ) at Ohio University, administered the six-week summer program.  The IIJ reached out to see what the scholars were doing back home at their home institutions. To no surprise, the scholars are doing amazing things back home and working to incorporate what they learned in the SUSI program (in the United States) into their professional and personal lives.  

Dr. Amel Abuzaid (Sudan) with Dr. Kofi Obeng-Asiedu, Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State.

Amel has returned to teaching at her home university. She teaches courses in the English Language for the Special Purposes of Communication, Media Laws and Ethics, and Communication Translation. Amel is also collaborating with different departments at her school in order to share her experience in the United States (and with SUSI) to students and colleagues.

Dr. Sofiene Mallouli (Tunisia), with Dr. Kofi Obeng-Asiedu, Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State.

Sofiene returned to Tunisia and will began teaching later September, teaching graduate and undergraduate seminars on Media Impacts; Pragmatics; Media and Politics; and Media Literacy. He has already included her SUSI experience into her lectures!

Rosette Leung - Hong Kong Baptist University
After returning to Hong Kong, Rosette reflected on her wonderful experience as a visiting scholar for the IIJ, as she became an integral part of the SUSI scholars’ experience for a few weeks. She learned from lectures but also from SUSI scholars. Rosette enjoyed and appreciated the “great opportunity for us to gain something from each other by sharing different views, values, and cultural experience” SUSI scholars. She touts SUSI as an amazing experience that she would one day wish to partake. She is now back home in Hong Kong teaching at the School of Communication at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Dr. Ashfara Haque, University of Development, Bangladesh, with Dr. Kofi Obeng-Asiedu, Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State.

Ashfara has kept busy working on publications and a new research project. She has a piece recently published in a London based newspaper. She will also be teaching Broadcast Journalism with a focus on American Media. She will incorporate many of the visits to American media institutions. She also is in the process of developing an Environmental Journalism course with materials she obtained during her time with SUSI. Ashfara plans to continue to work on publications for international conferences and to pursue further study.

Ms. Joanna Spiteri- University of Malta
Joanna returned to her home in Malta but still misses the personal connection she made with other SUSI scholars. She has reflected on much of her experience with SUSI in her home country. Currently, she works at the office for Broadcasting Authority and is preparing lectures for a course on Gender in Communications. Joanna also has another research project in the works. She will be working with Dr. Aimee Edmondson on conceptualizing a code of ethics regarding gender issues and gender portrayal in the media. Joanna is also involved in the International Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Her experience with SUSI has also contributed to her participation and formation of a regional conference in collaboration with the US Embassy in Malta and with AEJMC. Another project in the works is an exchange program between her university and a university in Ecuador!

Mr. Batzorig Tovuu - Mongolian University of Education
Batzorig is a general producer for the Mongolian National Public Service Radio and is a PhD candidate at the Mongolian University. He had a wonderful experience with the SUSI program and felt like he can now incorporate US media issues into his coursework. He also gained insight into how better to broadcast programs specifically focusing on development issues, such as the Communication for Development program at Ohio University.

Mr. Daniel Superville, University of Montevideo, Uruguay, with Dr. Kofi Obeng-Asiedu, Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State.

For Daniel, SUSI was a life changing event and has left him much to reflect on. He hopes to keep in touch with all of the friends he made during the program and continue to be an active alumni of the program. SUSI also challenged Daniel to think more about his course work. So, Daniel has spent time since his return rethinking about new prospects. He is now exploring options for his professional career and his future after his SUSI experience.

Dr. Fatma El-Zahraa Mohammed- Ahram Canadian University, Egypt
On social media and on a personal level, Fatma has shared her SUSI experience with friends, family, and colleagues. Fatma received hospitality and warm reception in the Athens community. She is currently working on a joint research project regarding terrorism and intends to publish it in a US journal. She also intends to participate in the AEJMC next year.

Mr. Jorge Cruz Silva- Pontificia Catholic University, Ecuador
Jorge is writing conference papers and his dissertation for his Ph.D. He will begin teaching classes titled: Research workshop; communications; and News writing 101 in October. He hopes to incorporate much of his SUSI experience especially his visits to The Budget, The San Francisco Giants organization, and NPR.

Ms. Nahria - STIKCOM Muhammadiyah University, Indonesia
Nahria returned to Jakarta in late August to continue her work with her university. She reflected on SUSI program and how the program “made significant changes in my life, my career, and my college with all kinds of benefits it offers.” In addition, Nahria talked to the local media in Jakarta about her experience with SUSI and with her trip to the United States. She will also be speaking with the US Embassy in Jakarta about SUSI and its benefits. Nahria facilitated the relationship between her university and the Department of Ministry of Research and Technology, which is the first federal connection at her university.

SUSI 2016 scholars on the last day of their stay in Athens, Ohio.