Vanessa Mbabazi, Business Administration Student

Vanessa Mbabazi is one of 332.

That is, Mbabazi is one of just 332 Rwandans who are currently enrolled in 118 U.S. institutions of higher education in 37 states (according to the 2013 statistics from the Republic of Rwanda's U.S. Embassy). Now in her third semester at NCC, the business administration major is still enjoying everything about pursuing a degree in a country where the higher education system is beyond the developmental stages.

"In Africa, they're still in a developmental system. When you get a degree in my country, that means that you stay in the country to work. I can't apply for a job internationally," says Mbabazi. "I thought if I came to a more developed country like the U.S., I would get so many more opportunities."

Mbabazi became aware of her chance to attend school here when a friend referred her to NCC's website. Mbabazi - who didn't speak English and had never traveled to the U.S. - applied in March 2012 and was enrolled that April. Upon her first visit to the campus, she was initially struck by how friendly and caring the staff was. She also remembers the excitement of everything being new.

"I didn't know anything about this country, and obviously the culture here is so different," Mbabazi says of coming from an eastern African country that was famously torn apart by genocide in the 1990s. "Where I come from, everything is small and spread out. I was not fearful or nervous to come here. I couldn't wait to be independent."

At first, it was difficult for Mbabazi to keep up with her professors because she was having a hard time getting used to the English language. With help from her roommates and generally immersing herself in campus culture, Mbabazi caught on quickly and passed the ESL test on her second try. Since then, she has concentrated on fulfilling her ambitions of earning a degree in business administration, with a larger goal of one day working in business law.

"I would definitely like to be a business woman, but I would like to be a business lawyer because I've always been obsessed with lawyers and the law. We don't have many lawyers where I come from; in my country that is also still in development," says Mbabazi. "My goal is to be financially successful and to find work here in the U.S., but I also want to help my country."

Mbabazi has enjoyed the opportunities she's had to travel with other international students to places like Washington, D.C., New York City, and parts of Maine, New Hampshire, and even Louisiana. She says that being in the International Club has helped her to open up a bit, and that she just wants to continue to make her family back at home proud of who she's becoming as an NCC student. She'd also like to leave a little bit of herself at NCC when she eventually transfers.

"I'd like to try to tutor French, which is my native language," says Mbabazi. "I just need time in my schedule. My first goal is earning a degree."

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