International Professor Stories: Meet Dr. Muyeba

This week the Global Ambassadors had the opportunity to talk with Professor Singumbe Muyeba. He was born and raised in Zambia and in 2008 moved to Cape Town. He teaches at Josef Korbel School of International Studies about international development. According to him, “Zambia is the best country in the world” because “it is so friendly. People are helpful and kind; they want to make real friendships.

Zambia is well located in the southern part of Africa, has a population of 18 million people and was a British colony until 1964. Zambia is home to Victoria Falls (one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World). The government’s official language is English, but other main languages are Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, Tonga, Luvale, Lunda, and Kaonde. Professor Muyeba can speak English, Bemba, Nyanja, Chichewa and French. The main food in Zambia is corn and it is with it that the Nshima cake is made. 

After Colonialism was over the first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda promoted independence and cultivated the love for the country within the population. There are 72 ethnic groups in Zambia, and each speaks its own language, which could result in conflict. Still, President Kaunda avoided civil disputes between the groups by advocating the principles above and that all groups are cousins to one another. 

Professor Muyeba’s dad came from the ethnic group Lozi, which was established as a community before the 15th century. The community had a strong monarchy and bureaucratic system. His father was granted a scholarship and went to university in Germany. His mother was from the Bemba community, and he shared that by the time he was born, it was acceptable for different ethnic communities to marry. He grew up immersed in a combination of the Bemba, Lozi and Western culture. 

Professor Muyeba shared that the main events in a person’s life have rituals performed by the Bemba community. For example, when he got his first job, his elderly uncle put a leaf on the door for him to step on the way out to his first day at work in order to bring prosperity to his career and household. In Zambia, all is done in three separate ways: 1) Traditional customs; 2) The government requirements; 3) religious. By constitution Zambia is a Christian nation but welcoming of other religions. Relationships are essential and matter more than money. 

The first time Professor Muyeba came to the US was in 2001 to visit an uncle in New York. “He noticed then that, compared to Zambia, people in America are more individualistic, so it was more challenging to become part of other’s social networks. In his case, the church was the facilitator of his integration with the American community. “Americans value their individuality, but they also have a strong sense of support and are very generous.” Professor Muyeba shared that a positive thing when moving to the US is that this was the first time he did not share his room with anyone. So for the first time, he was “with his own thoughts and enjoyed time alone reading,” which made him realize how more productive he was. 

He can recall a cultural difference while in New York. He asked a person for directions to a park and the person only laughed at him and continued walking. Professor Muyeba said that would not happen in Zambia where people would “do their best to explain it to you how to get somewhere.” 

While in Denver, Professor Muyeba advices to visit the African Grill for a taste of authentic Zambian food. He also enjoys Little India and going to Washington Park to experience the outdoor life. Two other places he recommends students to visit is the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Maroon Bells in Aspen. 

For incoming students, he has several pieces of advice: First: Always be attentive to immigration requirements. The rule of Law in Zambia, for example, is more relaxed than in the US; Second: Find good networks. That is important to make friends and eventually for professional opportunities. The best way is by being part of a group, like a church or a sports team; Third: Research figure of speeches. This will allow you to connect with Americans more easily; Forth: Travel to different parts of the US. As an example, Professor Muyeba told us that before moving to Denver he always lived on the east coast and believed the American culture was as the one on the east coast. “Most people think that all the US is a city life and actually most of the US is made of farms and small towns.” 
Last advice is: Do not expect all to be simple. “People think they will come to the US and life will be easy and they will have prosperity. And that is not a reality for a lot of people.” Professor Muyeba suggests students should learn fast the credit culture and how to manage credit because chances are that they are coming from a cash based culture.

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