A trip, especially a study trip, is a personal experience and a subjective one. Reactions, feelings and sentiments differ according to each person, and according to other parameters such as the country, and the encounters made. In this article, I will share with you my feelings, and the different stages lived during the last eight months in the land of a thousand hills. During my journey, I met many international students from different countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Togole, etc. And it is often around our computers and a good cup of Rwandan coffee that each one tells his journey and the subject comes on the table.
I wanted to go far away and be overwhelmed. I had always been passionate about discovering African countries, so it was the perfect opportunity to move from envy to reality. Moreover, Rwanda fascinated me. I learned some words in Kinyarwanda (the local language, and the most spoken in Rwanda). As soon as I arrived at the university, I was intrigued by this country of contrasts, which mixes tradition and modernity, and which holds a rather appreciable rank in terms of development and good governance in Africa. I wanted to see what was happening in the country of a thousand hills, to have a critical and objective look at the information given by the Western media.
First steps in Rwanda
That’s it; it’s the day of the significant departure, goodbye family, friends and also to my girlfriend (it must be said). Hello, excitement, thirst for adventure and discovery. At the beginning of the journey, we are often at the top of our game. We go through all the blogs; we take all the recommendations we can find. This is not a problem, it’s a human reflex, and it’s legitimate when you’ve left everything to go on an adventure, especially for studies. But it often becomes tiring, and even more so than you think. I landed in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. A city where at night the temperature often drops to 15°C during December. Rwandans are amiable, calm, and they do not hesitate to help you in case of difficulties. As soon as I arrived, I was touched by this devotion.
Living in Rwanda being an international student
Rwanda is much more open to the world and advanced than what we see in the media.
I love Rwanda, but it took me a few weeks to get used to it. The hardest thing was the language barrier (I wasn’t perfect in English and Kinyarwanda was even worse). In the beginning, it was tough to make myself understand, but with the learning of a few essential words, everything became much more comfortable. There are two things I have become familiar with in Rwanda. Firstly, I learned to get familiar with bikers because they are now my companions on the road. To go to the campus, to the market, or to visit a friend, the fastest and cheapest way to get there is to take a motorcycle. The most exciting thing about bikers is that before you get on the bike, you have a long and funny discussion. Long because the majority of drivers do not speak English very well and you will have to try to express yourself in Kinyarwanda and it is amusing because you will have to use gestures to make yourself understood.
Secondly, it is an obligatory sport (I am talking about the hills) In Rwanda even if you don’t like sports, you will be obliged to do sports everyday (an intriguing thing). Every morning before taking a motorcycle to take me to the campus, I did a little bit of sport because I had to climb about two small hills. It’s during these moments of obligatory sport that I understand better why this is the land of a thousand hills. I am lucky to be a student in Rwanda. Everyday I meet new people, I learn a lot about different cultures and also have a lot of Rwandan friends at school.
Author: Joseph Sandwidi
Date: 23rd March 2020