Makabongwe Ngulube is a firecracker. The spark in her eyes and the joy in her smile bring her brand of energy to her surroundings and friends. Her upbeat positivity is ingrained into her very DNA, that little piece of personality that makes her…her. With an optimistic outlook and a genuine drive for helping out her countrymen, Maka’s story of life studying in the USA is a reflection of her open mind, a generous heart, and an invincible Zimbabwean spirit.
When Maka enrolled at St.Catherine’s University in Minnesota, she wasn’t really sure what to expect. “Going to the US was the first long trip away from home”, she says, and for someone coming from a close-knit family, life without them was hard. However, it wasn’t as hard as getting to know her new surroundings. In Minnesota, a largely white community, Maka was for the first time acutely concsious of her skin colour. “I’m very aware that I’m a minority. You see white people in Zimbabwe, but they’re not in masses. It was way too much in one go.”
Fortunately for her, she was not met with hostility in her new community. Her host family showed her around, easing her into Minnesota life and getting her used to moving around the city. She had to adjust to a foreign climate: temperatures during a Minnesota winter average -4 degrees celsius. Compared to Harare’s average of 18 degrees, it felt like jumping from a hot tub into a pool of ice. And she wasn’t ready for the food. The potato-heavy diet, a staple in Minnesota, was something that Makabongwe couldn’t wrap her head around. “When you’re out of your comfort zone, you have to completely adjust.” So she held her breath, and dove head-first into the unknown.
Maka the Student
Two and a half years on, and Maka has carved a piece of the American city for herself. She’s made friends, has joined the local church, and is enjoying university life. Going to an all-female university would be a nightmare for some , but Maka loves St. Catherine’s. “It’s not as bad as Convent (in terms of boys)!” She has her books to keep her busy. Studying International Relations and working at St. Catherine’s University’s Admissions Office takes up a lot of Maka’s time, and even during school breaks she stays active with internships and summer jobs. She’s already mulling over life after university, with a career in diplomacy being a strong possibility.
“It’ll Never Truly Be Home”
Maka loves her school, she’s made good friends, and thanks to a small Zimbabwean community in Minnesota, she isn’t completely isolated from her culture. But for her, the convenience of American life will forever fall short of Zimbabwe. “It (Minnesota) will never truly be home.” Maka hopes that the Zimbabwe she left is still waiting for her when she comes back, as sunny and welcoming as she remembers. Only then will she truly feel at home, in a place full of hope, dreams, and love.