Reflections from a Zimbabwean Grace Scholar: Malvern Madondo

The Grace Scholarship Program is the result of a partnership between PVF and a donor to provide the critical gap funding necessary for bright, low-income Zimbabwean students who are a part of the US Achievers Program (USAP) to study at US and European universities.

We interviewed a few of the Grace Scholars to learn more about their background, experiences in college, and plans for the future. Below is our interview with Malvern Madondo, a third-year student studying Mathematics, Computer Information Systems at The College of St. Scholastica.

Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country.

All in all, my decision to study outside Zimbabwe was a consequence of several factors and opportunities that I came across in school and at home.

When I was in high school, I read an article about a girl who had received a scholarship to study at a college in the United States; she was part of a program called the United States Student Achievers Program. Later, I learned more about the program as I reached out to other USAPers (like Primrose) for advice while applying to universities. I felt participating in USAP would open doors for me that I would not otherwise have. With support from my family, friends, and teachers, I applied to and was accepted into the USAP program. I got to meet many other talented, hardworking, and motivated students from the country, and together we went through the college application process: SATs, Common App, essays, and more. I applied to four colleges, was waitlisted by two, and got rejected by the other two. That was a tough moment for me, and it was even harder for my family, whose hopes of a college grad in the family had increased since my acceptance into USAP.

I took a gap year and taught Math and Science, mostly to students needing remedial lessons and young adults who had failed those classes in high school. During this time, I had a great opportunity to intern at the EducationUSA Advising Center under the mentorship and guidance of Rebecca Zeigler Mano (known by most as Mai Mano). Throughout all this, I worked on my applications and eventually got accepted by The College of St. Scholastica.

Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?

I think the W-Curve of cultural adjustment pretty much resembles how I have been coping with the different cultures and environments that I have been part of during the past couple years. Before coming to the US, I participated in a pre-departure orientation geared towards making the transition as smooth as possible to students who might not have gone anywhere outside Zimbabwe before or who had not been exposed to different cultures before. This orientation and my internship at the EducationUSA Advising Center made it a little easier to adjust. Despite the preparation, I still go through the phases of cultural adjustment now and then. I think about home often, and my daily conversations with family and friends are enough to make me miss being with them. Having a close-knit Zimbabwean community at my school has really helped out a lot, and I have met many people from the US and other countries who have been kind and supportive.

What types of activities are you involved in at school?

I am a Storm’s Advocate, a role in which I promote healthy living and wellness among my peers on campus. This semester, I am a member of United for Africa, Math Club, and Computer Club. I recently started a couple initiatives geared towards supporting students studying Computer Information Systems at my college and motivating local middle school students to get them interested in tech and studying STEAM subjects. I am also involved in a mentorship program that seeks to help students from various academic backgrounds grow professionally and network with professionals in the local area.

What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?

Something that I am proud of since starting at The College of St. Scholastica is how much I have learned outside the classroom and the network I have developed with peers, faculty, staff, professionals, and other individuals from various walks of life. All this has given meaning to my experience in college so far, and I appreciate that kind of growth.

What do you plan to do post-graduation?

At the moment, I do not have a solid plan on what path I may take after graduation. Whatever that path may be, I am hoping to be in a position and at a place where I can make a positive impact and am able to give back to those whose efforts and sacrifices have made it possible for me to be who I am this day.

How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?

The Grace Scholarship has made it possible for me to not only attend college, but also do so with less financial burden as the opportunity to study at The College of St. Scholastica would have been almost impossible without the financial support of PVF. Because of the scholarship, the amount that I have to pay on my own is within range, and I am able to focus on my studies more, engage in other activities outside school, and more.

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