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   Date: 7/12/10 Bookmark and Share

Summer Scrapbook

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 as host.

Viewpoints Shared Among Women Across Oceans

by Kerah Williams ’13

I can’t say I had a grand epiphany when my family recently hosted two Rwandan students, Janet Akayenzi and Rosine Dushime. I can’t 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 family).

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 Bridge2Rwanda, 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 Inside Spelman.)

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.


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