Buena Vista University

BVU Graduates from Rwanda Remember the Past, but Look to Their Future

May. 31, 2012


Reprinted Courtesy of The Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune

For years upon years, walking through the Victory Arch at Buena Vista University has been a sign of hope and bright futures for the new freshmen and again for the graduating seniors. 

For four graduates from Rwanda, who were awarded their diplomas on May 26 for their hard work and dedication, that symbolism could not be more true.

All four are grateful to have had the opportunity to receive an education at BVU; they can’t say thank you enough for all who helped give them the chance to make their lives better.

While there have been a number of students from Rwanda at the University over the past several years, and there are still others studying here, Alain Ndayishimiye, Honore Karera, Gaju Rwayitare and Remy Nshuti are the first to have completed their coursework here.

In 1994, a genocide in Rwanda left nearly one million people dead. Many people fled, like Remy’s family, and many remained and are left with memories and scars full of family losses. They don’t dwell on the past; these students are among the new generation.

“We want people to know that we will remember our past but that we also have a future,” said Gaju.

Alain, Gaju and Honore all plan to return to Rwanda to make a difference in their home country, after fulfilling Optional Practical Training (work). 

“I had the chance to come the United States to get an education,” said Honore. “I will betray the people at home if I don’t go back; it’s my duty.” 

The students commend the University for taking an interest in them as well as other international students.

Every bit of their time at BVU has been a learning experience — from practicing and later perfecting their English language to learning American traditions to eating new foods to discovering snow and to even driving a tractor (Gaju!)

It goes much deeper than that — and they thank their teachers and all the caring people and friends they encountered while at BVU.

“I have learned to be independent, have received encouragement and learned to live my passion and my dream. I know what I want and I now know I can do it,” said Gaju. She added that she is the first woman in her family in generations to earn a college degree; most women in Rwanda don’t have the opportunity to go on to higher education. 

“I am so thankful and grateful to be here,” said Honore. “This really is the land of opportunity. They really push you here to reach your dream. At home, we aren’t pushed.”

They all feel without this opportunity their lives back in Rwanda would be very, very different.

The four students chose fields of study that have challenged them and can be used to make a difference in any part of the world they will be; they are all very bright.

Alain majored in computer science and has already landed a job in North Carolina at Volt; he hopes to be able to go on to graduate school. Honore majored in criminal justice and looks ahead to all the possibilities in store for him including helping others and “giving back” to society. Gaju majored in environmental sciences and looks forward to eventually returning to Rwanda and helping change the water quality for the people. Remy majored in finance and banking and will remain in the U.S. 

While at BVU learning, they also helped teach others about their African culture.

It was also important for them to share a history lesson about the genocide. In 2009, the BVU Rwanda students organized a candlelight vigil to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and since then they have had many discussions and shared many prayers with others regarding the massacre.

The four graduates have not been back to Rwanda since they came to the U.S. but have kept in touch with their families through technology. They have learned their country has changed — the economy is better, there is growth, there is peace. 

“It will be great to catch up with everything there. It will be breathtaking,” said Honore, who added he is so proud of the progress his home country is making.

They all hope to return for a visit to Storm Lake in the future and will share with others the experience they had here and encourage others in Rwanda to also attend school here if the opportunity is given to them.

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