By Lauren Cornelius

Unlike the hit television series "Survivor," when Lauren Cornelius went to Africa she did not have to compete for immunity challenges, face the jury at tribal council, and was certainly not vying for a million dollars. This true survivor instead provided the villagers of a small city called Kitwe with a learning experience they will not soon forget.

 

Lauren, a Systems Design Engineering student (Class of 2003), had contemplated visiting relatives living in Zambia. Instead of a vacation, she decided to spend her work term there. Before taking off to Africa, Lauren arranged to have a dozen used computers donated from local organizations and shipped to Zambia. The computers were offered by local organizations at a reduced cost and then purchased with donations from within the community. Once Lauren arrived in Africa, she set up shop at Trans-Africa College in Kitwe. Lauren transformed the classroom into a computer lab, where she taught classes of basic computer skills to students, and helped the teachers and the administration improve their computer skills. Most students had never used a computer before and the first few classes consisted of teaching them simple tasks like turning the computer on and how to double-click the mouse. Remembering the students' trial-and-terror attempt at using the computers, Lauren says, "I never knew a floppy disk could actually fit into a CD ROM drive." By the end of the term, the students were printing posters and assignments and were extremely proud of what they had accomplished.

Lauren kept in touch with her family and friends via e-mail. Occasionally they would exchange a letter, but Lauren says "My family only just received postcards that I sent them from Zambia about 3 months ago." When she was not teaching in the lab Lauren did some traveling through Zambia and Zimbabwe. Also, fortunate to be able to take an African culture course in her spare periods at the college, she learned more about her new surroundings.

Lauren hopes that the lab will provide the Zambians a general understanding of computers for future jobs and will allow even those living in Zambia access to the internet for information and opportunities throughout the world.