Reflections from a Grace Scholar: Paddington Mbumbgwa
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 Paddington Mbumbgwa, a first year student at the Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.
Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country.
The decision to study outside of Zimbabwe was really unexpected until my second year of high school because of my living situation. I had no expectations of having a bachelor’s degree, and I still remember being asked what would be my dream job; I told him I wanted to be a teacher.
My family applauded my dream of becoming a teacher mainly because it seemed to be the only affordable profession I could achieve due to the real financial constraints. Being a teacher would be the first professional job of any of my family members. This mindset was also influenced by their lack of exposure. Teachers and nurses were the most admirable professions in the rural setting that I was raised in. I am the first person to have five Ordinary Levels (O-Levels), went to Advanced Levels (A-Levels, or high school) and I will be the first to graduate in my family.
It is my goal to set an example to those who are following. To think about other professions was hard because no one in my community had even graduated from college and therefore could not be influential. I used to think that health professionals were for those who went to group A school and those who come from cities and rich families. Then after finishing up form four (Ordinary Level), I got a government bursary for a level sciences-STEM. While in high school, there was a person who knew about the USAP program and he sent my materials to apply for USAP. Fortunately, enough I got accepted into the USAP program. With highly skilled USAP officials, they helped me to look for U.S. universities that would be a good match for me. I got accepted at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina where I am currently a freshman, studying biochemistry with the intention of going to medical school for a MD/PhD.
Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?
Changing from a totally different environment was nothing to joke about. Everything was new: food, cultural values – just to mention a few. It was hard to balance school work and environmental adjustments at the same time. But this happened for a short time because of unconditional support I had from all angles of the campus that included the best professors, advising office as well as the Global Engagement Office, not to forget my roommate. And also, a few days into school I joined the soccer team and there I managed to make a lot of friends. In a nutshell it was hard though it lasted for a short period.
What is your most significant accomplishments at school thus far?
My greatest accomplishment so far has been to adjust very well to the environment with excellent grades in all the classes I took last semester. Since I had to balance school work and environmental adjustments at the same time, I am grateful that I managed to accomplish these two things which is something I was not expecting. This quick adjustment to the environment is a real personal success I really appreciate: this will contribute a lot to my success in the next 3 or 4 years of the college. In addition to that I am grateful for being part of the Warren Wilson College soccer team.
How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?
When I got accepted to WWC, I did not manage to get a full scholarship. At that moment I was really depressed because even though I was excited to be accepted into a college, I still could not afford to attend. I was given some scholarships but still there was a big deficit. Grace Scholarship fund came as my savior. It restored my hope for a better future as well as the happiness I had lost a few days before. Without the Grace Scholarship funding I would not be able to continue attending college. Let me take this opportunity to pass my vote of thanks to the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation.