Joseph Phiri is one of our scholarship students enrolled at Africa University. He has just finished school and walked across the stage as a graduate on Saturday!! We are so proud! Joseph shared with us his experience, thoughts, and reflection of the past 3 years and what’s ahead.
One of the most interesting stages in life that gives one an opportunity to explore is the ‘college phase.’ Life at university is a time when the teenage years end and we dive deep into the ocean of new beginnings and possibilities. This golden period better equips one for all the challenges they will face in life and creates a strong foundation of knowledge.
August 9th, 2016, it was a Tuesday. I remember this day because it still burns brightly in my mind. The stress from a very long bus drive, the hot air hitting our faces as we drove through Mutare. It was the first day I had ever set foot in a University as a student. As we drove into this unknown territory, I remember how I was overwhelmed with excitement as I looked at David, Grandson, and Natasha. We followed the road from the Africa University gate and it led us to the dorm room and admin block. The room assistants were so happy to help us start this new adventure called varsity life. I was not so sure whether Africa University would become a home away from home, a refuge, a shelter, a learning place or not… But my life as a student studying Public Administration and Management began!
My experience at Africa University has taught me one fundamental thing – life is unpredictable. It might be good, it might be bad, it might be weird, and it might not interest you, but expect anything to happen. For example, you might have a wonderful job this moment, and be fired the very next. College life has prepared me for all of this. It is a perfect blend of joy and hardships. It is important to socialize and meet new friends. I met a lot of different people and learned about their cultures that helped me grow as a person. I have come to understand how to talk to different people and how to judge their behavior, thus helping me with important life skills. I learned how to sit through a boring lecture; tried to cope up with the surprisingly strenuous course outline and had the opportunity to learn from some great research minds. Academia, as they say, never lets you go free.
The main reason for going to university is to get an academic qualification, but personally, I think that the social side of things and developing as a person are equally important. The good thing about university life is that you are left to manage your own devices, unlike grade school, where you’re told what to do and how to do it.
I have also learned that learning never ends. In first year, I found campus groups where I could explore my co-curricular skills along with many other students. We shared common interests and ideas. There might have been a time where I felt like joining the choir or other clubs at school was a waste of time and it would make me fail. I learned this was not the case. I was quite involved in our Student Union right from the word go. I wanted to do something that was outside my course so I could meet new people. I got involved in the welfare side of things. It is common for students to say, “I don’t like the way this is being done, let’s change it!” I’m never one to sit around and complain about things. If something was bad, I wanted to change it and that’s what the Student Union does. I got to be the President of the Students Electoral Committee, which means when there’s an election held in which all students should vote, I preside over all the stages from nominations to the declaration of the winners. I had the final say and influence on all students’ union electoral matters. I was also room assistant in second year. My area of responsibility was student welfare at the halls of residence, which means that if there’s any problem that affects a lot of students at the dorms, it is my duty to inform students and school admin so it can be better dealt with. Trust me, once I got the hang of how to go about varsity life, I got a lot of opportunities to excel and met a lot of people that helped make me a better person in all areas of life. University life at AU taught me that one can be that director, that vocalist, that dancer they have always dreamed of becoming. AU was fun!
A few days after schools opened in January this year, there were a lot of riots in Zimbabwe that saw a lot of people losing their lives and properties. The riots were because of an increase in gas prices and other house hold commodities. There was a total shut down for a few days. No one was allowed to move around the streets. People were not reporting for work except for the police and the army that were maintaining law and order. All networks were shut down and any form of communication was traced by the government intelligence services. There was panic everywhere and I remember texting Alissa, Megan and the rest of the Arise team giving them updates of how I was. I have never felt so loved before; these guys stood with me every single day of the riots. They prayed for me. They wrote messages every single minute. They made a lot of escape plans for me and it made me realize how much other people cared for my life. All this was made possible by Arise Africa, Highland Park United Methodist church and all the supporters of Arise. I will forever be grateful!
I have spent the past 3 weeks interning with Arise Africa until my graduation on the 8th of June 2019. I am super excited and nervous. I can’t wait to wear that graduation gown and walk down to the chancellor to get capped and receive my degree from the vice chancellor. This is huge to me! Four years ago, I had never even guessed I would be a graduate. It makes me nervous to know that now I have a whole lot of things to think about after graduation. What’s next? What job do I want to get? How much do I want to make a month? Are there enough employment opportunities out there? Do I want to work for the government or NGO? Am I really ready for all the responsibilities that come after? A lot of unanswered questions but I am still so hopeful. I also know I have the support and love from Arise to help me make those decisions.
Graduation is one big event that most students would be searching on the internet for anything that is related to it. Some would be searching for clothes to wear on graduation, some, good poses for photos and others how to make good graduation memories. I was one of those that searched the internet for everything about graduation. I am excited because this signifies a move from one form of simple existence of life to another more mature one. It will be a time to celebrate all the achievement of success from the time I wrote my first notes in class to attempting my last examination question. It will be a time to celebrate the long hours of learning and preparing for examinations. I get more excited when I think of how this transition will help me realize that I am now entering a different phase in life with much more responsibilities and hard work.
I am nervous but I am not yet decided on what I want to do next but I know for sure that life at AU was a time for me to explore my career path. It was a time of dreams and innumerable paths. I can be as good as a manager who runs a big non-governmental organization who got a completely different Public (government) Administration course for a major. I know for sure I can work for a non-profit organization and even gain the satisfaction of being a humanitarian. The point is that at university, you are free to try out these new things and no one is going to forcefully control the decisions you make. Employers aren’t just interested in degrees these days. You’ve got to look at other ways you can expand yourself. They don’t just want someone who has spent years of their university life book-bashing. They want someone who can communicate well with people and work hard in a team. University definitely helped me do this and broadened my mind. I get to talk to people and avenues open up for me which I thought never would.
I want to thank Arise Africa, Highland Park United Methodist Church, my friends and family and all my supporters for making this a reality for me. Your prayers and every other form of support given to me during my time at school have helped me be a better person in life. Thank you very much!