Reflections from a Zimbabwean Grace Scholar: Promise Kondo
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 final interview with Promise Kondo, a third-year student majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Jacobs University Bremen.
PVF: Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country:
PK: Well, when I was young I mostly imagined myself going to the local high school, getting good grades and then going to the best university in my country. Although, I really wanted to go abroad someday, I never thought it would be possible because I thought of how my parents would be able to finance my studies abroad or whether I would even get a scholarship to go abroad. Then one day, I heard about the United States Achievers Programme (USAP) from a friend and how they assist students in applying to universities abroad. I said to myself, “maybe I should give it a shot,” and I did. When I got accepted into USAP, that’s when I realized that life doesn’t always have to be ordinary and you always have to aim higher and that’s when I was convinced that studying abroad was one big opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss.
PVF: Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?
PK: Having lived in Zimbabwe all my life since the day I was born, yes the transition was indeed difficult. I had never been to other neighboring African countries even just for a few days and the only culture I had been exposed to for all the 18 years of my life was my own country’s culture. Of course, exposure to a European culture for the very first time would be overwhelming. I found myself having to adjust to the diversity at my university where there are people from more than 110 nationalities with their own cultures, and I had to adjust to the German culture off campus too. My first semester was the most difficult of all, I got homesick a lot of times and this did not help me at all. I then decided to join clubs and sports and this did not only help me cope with homesickness, but it also enabled me to make more friends and above all, to overcome my fear of adjusting to the diversity at my school.
PVF: What types of activities are you involved in at school?:
PK: During my high school I was in the choir and I was also really interested in tennis. So, when I came to Jacobs University I decided to engage into these activities as well. I joined the African Choir (Mzuka) and also became a member of the African Black and Caribbean Society (ABCS) in which I helped in organizing African events on campus and educating other students about Africa. In my second semester, I joined the Jacobs Way, which is the only theatrical, musical play at my school. I had never in my life thought of venturing into acting but for some reason, when I came to Jacobs, I did and I loved it! Just recently I became a member of the Rotaract club where I am involved in community projects such as teaching children English and helping refugees. I have realized that engaging in extracurricular activities has made my life at Jacobs more enjoyable and less stressful.
PVF: What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?
PK: Well, this is indeed a challenging question as there are so many things that I believe are great accomplishments in my life both academically and socially. I would say giving back to the community by participating in clubs such as the Rotaract club, has been one of my greatest accomplishments so far.
PVF: What do you plan to do post-graduation?
PK: After my bachelor’s I would like to go to grad-school and further my studies. I am not yet sure where exactly I will go and how I will finance my studies but I’m keeping my hopes high.
PVF: How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?
PK: For me, Grace Scholarship is indeed God’s miracle in my life. I had applied to four universities for my undergraduate studies and I got accepted to two of them but none of them was giving me full financial aid to pursue my studies abroad. At first I thought maybe my dream of studying abroad was indeed just a dream after all, and then Grace Scholarship helped turn my dream back to reality. Personally, I believe that Grace Scholarship was indeed God’s Grace in my life. Because of this scholarship I have not only met so many people from all over the world, acquired so many life time experiences which I will always be grateful for, but I have also obtained high quality education which I am very convinced has brought me closer to accomplishing my dreams.