One of the best things about college is that it helps you learn what you are truly passionate about in life through exploring various opportunities, making it easy to define a path into a rewarding career post-college. Yet, the decision about what and where one wants to be after attaining a college degree remains a difficult one. This past winter break, I was fortunate to be part of a three-day externship at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I shadowed a Lafayette alum graduate student at the university. Through my experience, I also got the opportunity to speak with other graduate students, some professors and staff members. The main goal of the externship was to explore both the academic and everyday life of graduate students through first-hand experience. This allowed me to gain insights from both the students and their professors, who all provided well-rounded answers to my inquiries about graduate school. From everyone that I got the chance to meet or talk with, I learned the value of pursuing a career that one is passionate about and its impact on academic and personal success.
The Fall semester was exciting since I got a chance to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York. The trip was very inspiring and informative. I learned how decisions are made and how countries work together to overcome the challenges that the world is facing. Over the winter break, I attended the SHE-CAN leadership training. It was so moving. I learned how women can use their voices to advocate for themselves and others. It was also a great time to catch up with my SHE-CAN sisters, and we were all able to celebrate the beginning of the New Year together!
Last semester was a very productive semester for me. I finally found and declared a major that I was very passionate about: Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. I took very interesting courses from the GSFS's department, and I believe that it was a great start to exploring my new major. I made good connections with my professors and the Department Chair. They are all very interested in my story and the different perspective that I share with my classes and my professors.
Additionally, last semester through the Bonner Scholar Program I was able to find a very fulfilling service position at the Community Service Resources Center. I volunteered at CSRS as Communications Coordinator. Through my service, I was able to learn a lot. I was in charge of creating newsletters and connecting with people on campus, which helped me improve my academic writing and my organizational and communication skills.
Right before this semester took off, I went on a 10-day hike in Kauai, Hawaii. I was stunned by how full our flight to Kauai was. I thought since the holidays were over not many people would be traveling in the middle of January from all over the world to Kauai, but I guess I was wrong. I had done a little research on the island and found out that it had a good number of similarities with Rwanda, including the climate, some of the vegetation and the culture. So when we landed, I couldn’t wait to get passed customs and go explore because this is the one place that was close to looking like home; it was in the tropics, and culturally similar too.
On our first day in Kauai, after landing we [student group of 10 and our professor] went shopping for food for camping. Then we headed to Lydgate Park Camp Ground where we camped a night before moving to Haena Beach Park Camp where we camped one night as well. During the two days before our big hike to Kalalau beach, we got to swim on the most beautiful beaches and explore a little bit Lihu’e. The farmers market was my favorite; not only did I get to taste new fruits to me, there was live Hawaiian music. If you know me well, you’ll understand how big of a deal with was, being that I live and breathe music and find so much joy and comfort in it. Even now I still find myself tuning in on Island Radio just to hear again the beautiful music of the island.
We started our 11-mile Kalalau trail hike on the third day. It was intense. Though it was untypical of me, I sprinted the first 2 miles. By the third mile I was ready to go back, but of course being the stubborn and proud kid that I am, I couldn’t dare say that in front of my peers who were in the same situation. Instead, I turned my undivided attention to the environment around me, which helped my mind stay numb to the weight on my waist and shoulders. During our hike and camping in between, we got to swim more and do day hikes in search of more cool waterfalls and scenery. While camping at Kalalau beach, we met the famous Uncle T, and he reminded me of my own “Uncle Ts” back home - the kind of men who are always watching out for the neighborhood - so humble, so kind, the “neighborhood’s father figure” kinda guy. Uncle T has been living on Kalalau beach for 17 years. Therefore, he knows the ways of survival on an almost deserted beach, 11 miles away from civilization. So we learned a few tips and tales from him about the island.
Reflecting back on this trip, I was reminded by how privileged I am. I may not be as privileged as the average student at Whitman, but I am definitely lucky to be going to a school that has such amazing classes like this tropical backpacking class. Classes like these allow students like me to experience things that I wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t gone to Whitman College.
My first semester at MSU was pretty challenging because I was trying to make a lot of adjustments to find where I fit, especially socially. It was very challenging for me to make friends at first. Everyone is so busy, and it was hard for me to find someone to talk to. I felt very alone in the first days. To make friends, I began to join various clubs and organizations on campus. I joined MSU’s African Student Association and another club on campus called MRULE, which is a multicultural organization. We meet and talk about race and culture-related issues. To find friends with similar interests and values, I became a member of the MSU Ballroom Dance Club and found a really great church choir to join. Some of my favorite memories of this semester were the Spartans American football games that I attended. I went to two of their biggest games, and I had a lot fun. I also had to adjust to the weather in Michigan, and my worst moment was falling down when it first snowed!
I was able to adjust to the snow
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