Reflections from a Zimbabwean Grace Scholar: Kudzai Mushongahande
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 Kudzai Mushongahande, a second-year student studying Business and Non Profit Management at Earlham College in Indiana.
Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country.
I chose to study outside of my home country for several reasons. I really wanted to continue to play field hockey and be progressing with my degree at the same time. I was not sure how to go about this, so I took a gap year after high school to really decide what I was going to do. During my gap year, I volunteered at the Chiedza Child Care Center, coached field hockey for 2 seasons at my former high school, and interned at the Education USA Advising Center in Harare under the instruction and mentorship of Rebecca Zeigler Mano and Tafadzwa Muzhandu. There, I learned that the United States was the most ideal country that offered me the opportunity to do both field hockey and pursue my degree at the same time. Currently, I am a student at Earlham College, a four-year college with Quaker affiliation and an NCAA Division III institution.
Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?
Studying abroad is one of the most challenging things I have done and am currently doing. Initially, when I left for college almost a year ago, it never crossed my mind once how I would feel when I arrived or how well I would assimilate into the environment. I was just looking forward to my new life at Earlham.
Transitioning to this new life was something I had never really prepared myself for, and it has been an overwhelming experience altogether. For me, the biggest shock wasn’t cultural; it was simply the shock of being in a completely different environment, with no familiar faces and no one who was even from the same hemisphere as me. Initially, I found it hard to adjust to life in the US with the fast pace of life, big cars, and meals that could feed an entire family. However, even though there were very tough times, especially at the peak of the field hockey season, the support system I have at Earlham (and back at home) was enough to keep me grounded.
What types of activities are you involved in at school?
Being an active member of various student organizations on campus helped me get out of my shell and get to interact with a diverse group of people. I am a member of the Pan-African Students’ Association and New Measures, the only all-female acapella group on campus. I arranged one of the six songs the group sang for the annual final concert, and for a first-year student that is a scarce opportunity! I feel so honored to have been given a chance to do so. Other than being involved on campus in the student organizations, I am also a student athlete; I am a forward and a goalkeeper on the college’s varsity field hockey team.
What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?
One achievement I am most proud of as a part of the field hockey team is that I was named a Fall Scholar Student Athlete and Epic Scholar for attaining a GPA higher than 3.5. Also, my team had the fifth highest GPA of all the Division III teams in the country, an achievement I am so proud to have contributed to.
What do you plan to do post-graduation?
I have not yet decided what I want to do. However, I do know that it will involve some form of innovative social initiatives that will improve the lives of those in the communities I grew up in.
How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?
My father passed away just when I had been accepted into college, and it would have been impossible for me to attend Earlham College without any form of outside financial support. The Grace Scholarship gave me such an amazing opportunity, and my goal is to empower others the same way the Grace Scholarship has empowered me.