'I've never felt more connected': Dalhousie student reflects on African experience
For nursing student Arielle Noseworthy-David, her two weeks in Zambia last summer as part of a Dalhousie University program that allows African Nova Scotians to study abroad was a life-changing experience.
It is one she wishes all African Nova Scotians could have.
Noseworthy-David was one of four students chosen to make the trip in 2022, the first of a planned series.
Another group of students went to Colombia as part of an associated program.
The trip was part of an ongoing program that gives African Nova Scotian students a chance to interact with students and professionals in Africa.
While there, they attended the 14th African Youth and Governance Convergence event held in Lusaka in August 2022.
Being African Nova Scotian, Noseworthy-David said when she learned about the program she saw it as an "amazing opportunity" to be immersed in Zambia's culture and to further explore that aspect of her heritage.
She was surrounded by people who looked like her for the first time in her life.
"I have never felt more connected and at home in my life," Noseworthy-David said.
Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, the assistant vice-provost of equity and inclusion at Dalhousie, said one of the objectives of the program is to allow participants to experience what it is like not to "see themselves as the only one in spaces, or in classrooms."
Students take part for credit, Hamilton-Hinch said, and it is a learning trip, not a vacation.
Noseworthy-David said she was struck by the vibrancy of Zambia and how welcoming and kind-hearted the people were.
She said it took her time to adjust to the differences, but she was grateful for the experience.
Part of her time there, Noseworthy said, was spent telling people about African Nova Scotian communities and where Nova Scotia is located.
Noseworthy-David said the experience changed her.
She said it made her think about the transatlantic slave trade and how different things might have been if it had never happened.
"I could be living there in that continent and being immersed in that culture, and that would have been the norm for me," she said.
Hamilton-Hinch said she understands what the experience can mean to African Nova Scotia students. She spent two years working in Gambia.
She compared the project and others like it to the symbolic Ghanaian sankofa bird.
The mythological bird is depicted as looking back. A proverb, loosely translated, says it is not taboo to go back for what you forgot.
"The sankofa flies looking to the past and going to the future," she said. "That's what we do in these projects. You see the past, you're exposed to the past. You see the strength and the resilience of people of African descent."
This year, participants in the program will be going to Ghana, home of the sankofa bird and the former centre of the British slave trade.
Hamilton-Hinch said 15 students have applied for this year's trip. How many can go will depend on the budget.
Noseworthy-David has some advice for those chosen to go.
"Take every chance to be immersed and to explore the culture," she said. "Ask questions and teach them about where we come from. Just enjoy the experience."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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