The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media has an ongoing mission in Africa. The continent has been the destination for many of the school’s depth reporting trips, and UM professors are working to create policy that will continue peace building efforts there.

They have traveled throughout, written stories and taken photographs of Ethiopia. One of our campaign classes is working with Ethiopian Airlines to increase its presence in the United States, and the company will be offering its employees the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from our school.

Our professors continue to work with Ethiopian leaders on peace building missions, and our students are planning another reporting trip to Ghana.

During a trip to Ethiopia, several UM students were asked where they were from. When they answered “Mississippi,” the inquirers expressed astonishment, wondering how students from such a poor state could make the trip to Ethiopia.

Mississippi and Ethiopia are often branded negatively, but the people of both states are proud and independent, and UM students found the Ethiopians they met to be people of accomplishment.

Through arrangements by UM Assistant Professor  Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D., who was once a professor at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, UM students have reported on activities in Addis Ababa, Lalibela, Gondar and Bahir Dar.

Addis Ababa is the capital of the nation. Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia where there are 11 churches carved out of rock. Gondar is known for the ruins of the Royal Enclosure, from which the emperors once reigned.

The most famous buildings include the castle, palace, a banqueting hall, stables, library and three churches. Near the city is the bath where Epiphany is celebrated.

Bahir Dar is on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. Our students traveled to the Blue Nile Falls, about 30 km to the south.

Beyene had taught intersession courses at UM on three occasions, and he asked his contacts in each city to coordinate logistics for the reporting teams who arrived Jan. 12 and returned home Jan. 19. He was assistant dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at A.A.U. before he was awarded a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska.

Beyene told students about being captured during Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea and of serving two years of hard labor as a prisoner of war. His insights about Ethiopia provided a helpful background for UM student reporters.

Ethiopians repeatedly praised the students for their understanding and warmth, and they said the trip had changed their lives. They realized the students had dealt with the challenges of Mississippi’s stereotype and had accomplished a lot with pride—just like the Ethiopians had.

This has been one of the absolute best experiences of my life. I hope that I’ll be able to go back at some point in my life. I would even consider living there for an extended period of time. Glad that I told my mom no to her telling me no about the trip.

Gabriel Austin, Student

During one interview, I asked a deacon if he could sing his favorite religious song from his childhood teachings. He lit up. He sang about the baptism of Jesus in Amharic. It may be my favorite moment in my reporting career thus far.

Jared Boyd, Student

The Ethiopian customs are so hospitable and if nothing else is certain, you will never go without coffee.

Leah Gibson, Student

I got to witness the christening of a baby. It zoned in on my faith and made me think of home .

Ann-Marie Herod, Student

I am beyond lucky to have been selected to go on the trip. I will never forget my time in Ethiopia and I hope to return someday.

Maggie McDaniel

As the plane flew closer and closer to Ethiopia, I looked out of the window and seeing the Sahara desert was like a dream. Sharon Sarthou told me that when I got to the fairytale land I needed to breathe deeply and smell the air. Africa smells like burning wood mixed with the punchy spices for cooking.

Cady Herring, Student

Today is the first day in Ethiopia. The excitement was absolutely overwhelming. I know that sounds cliche, but I honestly could not stop my eyes from moving across what was placed right in front of me.

Logan Kirkland, Student

The ceremonies in the streets have all of the joy of Mardi Gras but none of the frivolity. Everything seems purposeful here.

Sierra Mannie, Student

This trip has taught me a lot about cross-cultural communication. It’s difficult, but it’s also taught me quite a bit about human behavior. I’ve found that no matter the culture or the language or the setting in which people live, humans are all the same.

Lacey Russell, Student

Traveling to Ethiopia was a dream come true for my adventure hungry soul. It is a fun group to travel with, that was evident from the beginning. Our backgrounds, races, genders and personalities make up a colorful mix of people that blend together to balance out each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Clancy Smith, Student