When the plane lands in Lusaka, Zambia, at 8.35 on a Sunday morning, the air is already close to 30 degrees Celsius. In the plane are Aalto University students Anna Pölönen, Daniel Uusitalo, Henna Haarala, and Oana Iliescu, and in their heads are many hopes and expectations for the upcoming two weeks.
Despite their different backgrounds and not knowing each other beforehand, all four students applied to the UNZA x AVP Student Challenge in Zambia for very similar reasons: to test themselves, work on a meaningful project, and get a taste of adventure. In Zambia, they hoped to utilize their skills in a new environment, learn about a new culture, and expand their minds. “It’s so easy to get stuck in routines. I learn something new at the university and my job every day, but I wanted to learn something that’s also different,” Daniel says.
We went out there, talked to real people, and learned so much more about the culture than I could’ve imagined.
And different it was. Even though many of their hopes were realized, quite a few expectations proved to be dead wrong. “I thought we’d do mostly data analysis on our computers. Instead, we went out there, talked to real people, and learned so much more about the culture than I could’ve imagined,” Anna says, to everyone’s agreement. And understanding the culture turned out to be pivotal to the task at hand.