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Leadership exchange program brings students from Africa to UNC

The African exchange program works to bring African student leaders to the UNC campus. Photo courtesy of Bradley Opere.

The African exchange program works to bring African student leaders to the UNC campus. Photo courtesy of Bradley Opere.

The exchange aims to create an “intellectual and cultural exchange between the brightest student leaders from the continent of Africa and the University of North Carolina,” according to the program’s website.

The idea for the program came from Student Body President Bradley Opere who, while visiting his home in Kenya during the summer, realized that both UNC and universities in his home country were facing several of the same problems, such as sexual assault and race relations.

He said the idea for the program came from wanting to learn from other people, and he believes UNC is in a good position to make these connections.

Senior advisor and coordinator of the program Laura Limarzi said she thinks universities from around the world face the same problems.

“You might think universities here are so different from universities across the world, but then to hear someone say ‘we’re dealing with very similar things’ is very empowering,” she said.

Limarzi utilized UNC’s existing connections with African universities to promote the program and select 15 African students from an application pool of 50. Nine were able to attend the program. The program ends April 1.

The students have spent their time in Chapel Hill discussing solutions to on-campus issues as well as learning about various leadership institutions and on-campus resources, such as Honor Court and Counseling and Psychological Services.

The program is funded by student government and the universities of the African students. Student government did not cover travel costs. Some students self-funded these expenses, while others received government or university funding in their home countries. Student government received some money from UNC to supplement food and transportation costs within North Carolina.

Zander Prinsloo, a student from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said he has learned a lot, both from UNC and from the other African students on the exchange with him.

“That’s the way it’s been approached from both sides,” he said.

Limarzi said every student she’s talked with is very excited about the program, and that student government hopes to continue this kind of leadership exchange with foreign students in the future.

“We can benefit from these students, in ways that we might not always think about ...” she said. “It’s also a powerful tool to say ‘We’re really alike; we have a lot we can learn from these students, and why not try and work together to make all of our university campuses better?’”

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