It seems like I have been here in North Carolina for only a few days but apparently two months have passed since I left home in Zimbabwe. People ask me how my first entrance into the USA was and I always burst into laughter first before I tell them the ordeal – that my flight got cancelled after waiting for it for 6 hours, that I could not contact anyone because my sister accidentally locked me out of my WhatsApp account as soon as I left home, how I almost spent the night on the floor of the Newark airport, eyes red from crying. It has been a hard transition right from the starting point, but as you will notice, I have learned to laugh it out, and then to go on.
I would be lying if I said I haven’t reached a moment when I felt I couldn’t go on. There have been times when I felt like going crazy because people couldn’t decipher my Zimbabwean accent and kept on telling me to repeat my words more than twice. I got to the point where I decided not to say anything unless asked. Then one day in the biology laboratory, an American girl walked up to me and said, “Are you French? You have a cute French accent.” I laughed so hard before telling her that I was Zimbabwean. She is the first real friend I made, one who became so eager to learn about Zimbabwe and about me as a person. I never thought I was going to make friends, but I finally found my kind of people, right in the almost all-white crowds of students. It feels so better to have just a few people really eager to get to know me than to have crowds pretending to like me.
On the tenth of October, I met Carlos Alvarez and his family, a multimillionaire businessman, originally from Mexico; I learned that it is he who pays my and my big USAP sister Kim Bako’s tuition and fees. His daughter is a Davidson alumni, Class of 2002 and his vision, inspired by the solid education she received from Davidson, has always been to improve the diversity at Davidson by bringing in high-achieving, low-income international students like myself from all over the world. Mr. Alvarez and his family are not only generous, but also very kind. He also grew up in a family that was struggling to survive on a small business and in our conversation, he constantly he reminded me of how special I was and how I motivated him. As he introduced me as the most recent Alvarez scholar, I found myself thinking that it does not matter how many people do not understand me because I am African, or how my job in the dining services can be so tiring or the drop in grades that welcomed me to college as I try to learn the differences in the U.S. academic system. What matters is that there is a lot of good in the world if people can still show this much love to someone they do not even know, someone who will not necessarily bring any benefit to them. There is so much good in me too, and I can make a difference in the world.
I have fallen in love with Davidson College. After these two short months in North Carolina, I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. I love the small town of Davidson too, the soft music I hear in the shop nearby when I take a walk in the evening, the old African-American couple from a local church who said they wished they could adopt me, and my host family who always find time in their busy schedules to make my transition to Davidson smoother. I will forever be grateful to USAP and Education Matters, to Davidson and the Alvarez family, for the incredible gift to see life from this perspective.
Kimberley Tanatswa Muchenje is a USAP alumna who attended Chipindura High School near Bindura and is currently in her first semester at Davidson College in North Carolina.