The Botstiber Scholars program provides students from sub-Sarahan Africa with the tools needed to complete a college education before returning home to work as community leaders. This year, Penn State partnered with the Botstiber Foundation to send four of those students to Happy Valley on full scholarships.
Daniel Adofo, Caleb Musekiwa, Emmy Muhoza, and Edward Amoah left their hometowns in Africa last fall to begin their undergraduate careers at Penn State. As part of this specific program, the students are working on undergraduate careers in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Along with required coursework, the students attend various workshops and leadership programs on campus. Each student also attended a retreat last September where they were able to network and build relationships with other Botstiber scholars from different schools around the country.
“The goal of the program is to provide opportunities to students in sub-Saharan Africa who have the potential but are incapable of paying tuition to attend university for themselves,” said Musekiwa, who graduated from Lotsane Senior High School in Botswana. “These students in turn are expected to return to their respective countries and become involved in giving back and developing their communities.”
With almost a full year of school at Penn State under their belts, the scholars have enjoyed studying in a new environment, immersing themselves in a new culture, and getting a feel for what exactly it means to be a Penn Stater. Outside of the classroom, they spend time participating in various extracurricular activities and hanging out with new friends.
“My experience at Penn State so far is a good one — I enjoy the Penn State community. My high school is a very small community, approximately 700 people,” said Emmy Muhoza, who grew up attending a small school called Nu-Vision High School in Rwanda. “So coming to Penn State was such a big thing, but with all the support systems in place for international students, especially at the Office of Global Programs, I really had a smooth transition.”
But adjusting to a new environment so far away from home never goes without a few challenges. From completing new types of coursework, to cultural changes, to State College’s unpredictable weather patterns, the students have learned to prepare themselves for various types of changes each day. But, they are confident their new experiences will only help propel them into valuable leadership positions in the future.
“My experience so far has been challenging, but at the same time, fun and rewarding,” Musekiwa said. “Adjusting to the new environment and culture was and is still not easy, but it’s definitely a good learning experience. I enjoy the vast amount of resources available to me and also the willingness of the instructors in helping students get excellent grades.”
And the best part is, it’s only the beginning of the journey. The scholars hope to spend the next four years excelling in their schoolwork, building closer relationships with the Penn State Community, and continuing to aid their own communities at home however they can while they’re away. The Botstiber Scholars program also hopes to continue its legacy by sending twenty more students from Africa to Penn State next year.
“Of course, I hope to graduate from Penn State with a degree in mining engineering,” Muhoza said. “But I also hope to grow holistically as an individual, as well as be in a position to use the opportunities provided to me at Penn State to help improve the lives of Rwandans and be part of a group that works towards Rwanda’s development and Africa as a whole.”