Kerah Williams ’13,
who lives in Little Rock, Ark., recently befriended two students
from Rwanda when her family hosted their stay in the United States as participants
in the Rwandan Presidential Scholars Program. The Rwandan program supports the
two students’ matriculation at Spelman College. Williams reports on her experience
by Kerah Williams ’13
can’t say I had a grand epiphany when my family recently
hosted two Rwandan students, Janet Akayenzi and Rosine Dushime.
say they did either. I can happily report, however, that
we had fun and learned a few things from each other.
Students collaborate in hosting an etiquette dinner.
From left to right: Rosine Dushime, Kerah Williams ’13,
Janet Akayenzi, and Gisele Izera (who was hosted by another
Janet and Rosine
are in the United States as part of the Rwandan Presidential
Scholars Program, which was founded by President Paul Kagame
in 2006. The program has formed a consortium with ,
the Clinton Foundation, and about 30 universities and colleges
throughout the southern United States.
I could tell anecdotes
about their stay with me and my family, but there were too
many to recount. A lot of our jokes centered on boys and
how we preferred hosting girls—how girls are neater, and
understand social graces more readily. We had a great time
practicing said graces at an etiquette dinner I coordinated
with Janet, Rosine and a couple of my American friends. I
talked them through six courses. When we finished we washed
all the glasses together in the kitchen.
My most memorable
interactions with Rosine and Janet were those that illustrated
how much we have in common as women. Many of our humorous
moments—the times we cleaned up after dinner, and our excitement
about attending women’s colleges—showed that women of all
nationalities have a lot of the same emotions and viewpoints.
As a Smith student, I was thrilled
to learn that our new friends will attend Spelman College
in Atlanta, one of the program’s partners, this fall (read about it in .)
Until Janet and Rosine came
to stay with us and we discovered they would be going to
Spelman, I wasn’t aware of the exchange
program between Smith College and Spelman. Women’s
colleges, like women as individuals, have an incredible sisterhood
that transcends geography and nationality. This is one of
the things that makes Smith so special and one of the reasons
I am proud to be a student of a fantastic women’s institution.
The Rwandan Presidential Scholars
Program requires that participating students return to Rwanda
after graduating from an American university to apply what
they have learned in their homeland. Another goal of the
program is helping enrolled students practice and improve
their English before entering college.
In spite of the stipulation
to return to Rwanda, the program should not be viewed as
one-sided. There is plenty that people in the United States
could learn from Rwanda and its people. Rwanda has a strong
contingent of women representatives in the government assembly.
Women also wield much financial power in the country and
make up a large part of banking clientele.
I am eagerly anticipating
my return to Smith, as well as Janet and Rosine’s start at
Spelman this fall. My mind is at peace knowing they will
be well cared for at Spelman as I am at Smith, a hallmark
of women’s schools.