Reflections from a Zimbabwean Grace Scholar: Allen Matsika
Now in its 8th year, 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.
This year, 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 second interview with Allen Matsika, a senior studying Liberal Arts at St. Johns College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
AM: My high school History teacher, Mr. Masango told me once that there is no one reason for anything; this is the same with my decision to study outside Zimbabwe. I left Zimbabwe for many reasons, the main one being my desire to help people in Zimbabwe in some way. I have always wanted to be a political leader in Zimbabwe, and it struck me that studying outside Zimbabwe could be advantageous for my dream. Gaining a worldview would assist me in helping to integrate Zimbabwe into the greater scheme of the world picture someday. I believe the future belongs to those who understand their place in the big picture of a well-connected world. The breakdown of my family and the desire for peace of mind added to my reasons. I thought if I created more space between myself and my family I could have time to breathe and process the intense preceding years of my life. I figured, I could be successful in school but until I resolved those feelings I would never be happy. Coming to the US would also provide me with a fresh start, to reinvent myself, build myself up without past reputations and to test myself in a new environment.
PVF: Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?
AM: I like to pretend it wasn’t difficult to transition to the new culture but it was quite a challenge. The first day when I landed and I tried to order a burger, the difference in pronunciation alone disturbed me so deeply it made me wonder if I was going to thrive in this new culture or I should get on a plane and go back. In the past three years I have had to question and reshape my ideas of relationships, freedom, politics and religion to mention but a few. Coupled with the constant and rigorous philosophical enquiry I am willingly subjected to at St. John’s College, I would say the journey has been tough but eye-opening.
PVF: What types of activities are you involved in at school?
AM: In the past three years I have been involved with the International Relations Study Group, the community service projects of which I was the founder of one which survived for my first two years in college. I have been an Ambassador for the student government to the Board of Visitors and Governors and the larger Santa Fe community, and I have been involved in three publications, two of which I was editor for a year. I have played soccer, tennis, dodge-ball and basketball. This year, I will cut back on my involvement in some of these as I prepare for graduate school and my senior thesis. I will be working with the Chinese Study Group and the International Relations Study Group, and I will be playing a lot more soccer and tennis to balance it all out.
PVF: What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?
AM: Winning a community scholarship at the end the 2013-14 academic year is my greatest accomplishment so far. Just contributing to my immediate community for three years and having someone notice is really a heartwarming feeling. It says to me, I haven’t kept to myself because I come from a different place. Instead I have opened myself up, given myself and melded with a culture different from the one in which I grew up. It also says to me, I have resolved at least most of my feelings and thoughts from years before St. John’s College and I am ready to take on the world again.
PVF: What do you plan to do post-graduation?
AM: I hope to attend graduate school for a joint degree in International Relations and an MBA. This degree program will segue into an involvement in international business,allowing me to travel more, learn more, and gain a well-informed world view before I eventually settle in Zimbabwe. I am also working on my own business ideas, I am working on an app that I hope can help depressed people find hope in daily tasks, which allows me to pursue my dream of helping others.
PVF: How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?
AM: The Grace Scholarship has allowed me to have a sense of peace as I worked on my academic and personal life. I did not know money could actually disrupt a huge part of life until I had to find ways of contributing to my own school fees. In the beginning I was at a loss for ideas but I came around and with help managed to settle things. Fortunately, because of the Grace Scholarship, the gap left was manageable, and it made it possible for me to be less stressed in the midst of a tough situation. This peace of mind is easy to take for granted until it is disrupted and I am glad I can appreciate what the Grace Scholarship is doing for me. I have also been able to keep tabs on my own growth as I correspond annually with the Grace Scholarship. The essays I wrote help me to actually look back on each year and see the trajectory of my own growth. This has helped me with my ideas for career choices and degree programs, and has been invaluable in my quest to reinvent myself by helping me add more self-worth to my daily experiences. I am about to finish my senior year because of the financial help the Grace Scholarship has offered me, and I will be the first in my family to have finished college – that is one goal soon to be under my belt.