Kudakwashe Faith Nhanga
Class of 2021
I am the second born in a family of three children. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My mother is a teacher and my father passed away in 2008. I did my High School education at Thornhill High School in my city, Gweru, Zimbabwe. My favorite subjects were Chemistry, History, and English. Because I loved Chemistry, I thought I would be a chemical engineer after high school. However, after completing my Advanced Level Exams, I could not advance immediately to university due to the financial burden it would have imposed on my single mother. Thus, I took a gap year during which I worked as an intern at EducationUSA Zimbabwe.
I did not know a lot about Ashesi University before I started the application process. However, I did know several Ashesi students from the United States Student Achievers Program (USAP), which aims to assist ‘brilliant but underprivileged’ students to attain scholarships from around the world. And one thing that stood out to me was the kind of student leader that Ashesi aims to nurture in a span of four years. The Honor Code, the emphasis on entrepreneurship, and a curriculum that always incorporates leadership all made me realize that by attending Ashesi I would be different from my peers who would attend other institutions. I would be equipped with essential tools aimed for African development that would make me an active contributor to positive change in my country and on the continent.
It was not very difficult for me to move away from home, because of the strong cultural diversity that Ashesi offers. There was a strong international presence on campus, and everyone, international and otherwise, made the transition almost seamless for me. However, it was a bit overwhelming at first as I had to adapt to new foods, new people and in some ways, a completely different environment.
If I did not have a scholarship, I would not be attending university. I don’t know where I would be, but I do know that I would not have the opportunities that are at my disposal now. I would like to share with donors that a scholarship in the life of an Ashesi student, and more so in my life, does not simply mean you have invested in the life of an underprivileged student in some locality in Africa. It means you have changed the trajectory of that student’s life, and that of the family he or she comes from. It means that by lifting up that one student, who will be equipped with the resources to be an ethical and entrepreneurial leader not only in his or her community but in his country and the continent as a whole, you have invested in cycles of generational development.
At Ashesi, I have learned the importance of embracing my values, even in circumstances where it may be easier not to. I have learned to give back, and to think outside of the box. I have to also learn to be open-minded, and how that is key to problem-solving in my major and in my society. From the faculty and student leaders around me pioneering social change through different means, I have learned the importance of collaboration and citizenship.
I have been working with The Mentors Network at Ashesi since my freshman year. I did a project with them as my Act of Global Citizenship for the Melton Foundation. The aim of the project was to equip students in local schools with scholarship information, including how to search for scholarships, how to apply and when to apply. I have continued this project by frequently visiting the schools and helping students who are willing in their application processes.
Simultaneously, I have also been working on other projects. I am currently working with local organizations such as the Brownie Initiative to improve sexual education awareness in rural or semi-rural areas where such information is often seen as taboo.
A Passion for Engineering
I have always been interested in Physics, Chemistry, and the other sciences, and I always knew I would be an engineer. Upon coming to Ashesi, I chose Mechanical Engineering because I knew it would allow me to learn from a lot of fields. As I have progressed in my major, I have come to appreciate and be very interested in how mechanical engineers design, build, and test machines. We do not see a lot of engineers in Africa put their expertise into the field and make machines that local people will use. This has motivated me to endeavor to one day play a pivotal part in equipping people especially in the rural areas with cost and fuel-efficient machines that make use of renewable resources and would make their lives easier.
Being a woman in engineering means a lot to me. People always appear taken aback or impressed when they ask me about my major or what I am doing in university. This proves to me that even though there has been a lot of development in empowering women in STEM, a lot still needs to be done especially in third-world countries that are still largely patriarchal. Hence, I feel empowered as I reckon that I am playing a small but important role in changing the dynamics of how women and their capabilities are viewed in my society.
My goals for my future career include going to graduate school and specializing in Renewable Energy. In a few years, I see myself working to provide machines that are fuel-efficient, affordable and available to people in third-world countries who need them.
Share this story