In the summer of 2013, Colgate sent these international students digital cameras to capture their experiences as they prepared to travel across the globe to campus for move-in day. For most of them, it was their first trip to the United States.
Now, four years later and with diplomas in hand, the students reflect upon their time on the hill.
Abeneazer Chafamo ’17
Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Majors: Computer science and economics
Activities: Club soccer, debate, African Students’ Union
An interest in computers and an entrepreneurial drive spurred Abeneazer to join Colgate’s Thought Into Action program. Through the student incubator, he and Michael Sorin ’18 developed an online platform called InstaTute, which supports student learning outside the classroom.
“It’s aimed toward making students at an institution like Colgate have more accessible academic resources,” Abeneazer explained. “It allows students to have instant access to tutors in any of the courses that they are taking.”
In developing the app, Abeneazer used the concepts he learned in his computer-science courses, including how to program and code for mobile applications. He also spent a summer working with Assistant Professor Michael Hay on the evaluation of machine-learning algorithms that incorporate privacy protocols into data collection.
Abeneazer’s overall experience was far better than his second day on campus, when he lost his passport.
“I was afraid I might have to go back home,” Abeneazer said. “But the international student services office [OISS] was an incredible support system. Makiko Filler [assistant director] looked up all the necessary information and explained the procedure for applying for a new passport. It was very unsettling, but it was handled very well by the OISS.”
Hongyi “Steven” Huang ’17
Hometown: Dalian, China
Majors: Economics and international relations
Activities: Office of Admission tour guide and student ambassador, Link staff in Office of Residential Life, Konosioni Senior Honor Society, Geneva Study Group, participant in This Is Not a Play About Sex
Campus to campus
A few short weeks before graduation, Steven wasn’t sure what he would be doing after walking across the stage and accepting his diploma from President Brian Casey.
During his four years, Steven embraced the liberal arts model of learning. He found trying many things to be more enticing than having a razor focus on a single subject or concept.
“I came here all the way from China, so I figured I should choose the classes I’m interested in and explore. That’s the whole point of a liberal arts college,” Steven said. “I realized that you’re not required to find out what you will be passionate about for the next fifty years of your life before graduation.”
It was outside the classroom, as a student ambassador and tour guide in the Office of Admission, where he ended up learning the skills that would lead to his first job after graduating. Steven is now a member of admission at NYU Shanghai.
“My roles in Colgate’s admission office came with valuable experiences that have prepared me with multiple skill sets to work for the NYU Shanghai admission office,” Steven said. “Interactions with prospective students, families, and admissions officers have helped me a lot throughout my job-application process as well.”
MariaDorin Shayo ’17
Hometown: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Majors: Physical science and Africana studies
Activities: Model African Union, African Students’ Union, Community Leader, Sisters of the Round Table, Student Government Association
Coming to the United States for college during a time of national debate regarding issues of race and class, MariaDorin was prompted to more closely explore her identity as an African student.
“I didn’t think much about my identity growing up. I was just Maria, my father’s child,” she said. “Coming to Colgate made me confront who I am as a person because you have to engage with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and you have to ask yourself who you are and determine your goals. You can’t know your goals or how you are going to situate yourself without knowing your identity.”
During her sophomore year, a campus sit-in occurred, which had a profound impact on how MariaDorin viewed herself and saw her place among her Colgate peers.
“At that time I wasn’t sure of my identity as a black person,” she said. “I never thought of my identity as black because I came from a predominantly black society, so it wasn’t particularly salient. I had to figure out how I fit into that whole discussion, not only as an African but also as a black person at Colgate,” she said. Reading civil-rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois in her Challenges of Modernity core class helped shape her views.
With a desire to inform people about Africa, MariaDorin created the African Fashion Show. “Not many people know much about Africa outside of the usual things they see in the media,” she said. “I wanted people to know about the fashion, the food, and the people.” She established the event as a member of the African Students’ Union, an organization for which she later became president.
She is now working at Dalberg Global Development Advisors in Tanzania, assisting nongovernmental organizations and foundations with development challenges and public-health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.
Wilson Ochar ’17
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Major: Political science
Activities: Club soccer, Student Government Association, French Club
When Wilson arrived on campus in 2013, he mistakenly missed international student orientation (due to his own admittedly poor planning) and found himself lost on the first day of classes. He wasn’t even sure where to buy books. Fortunately, his academic adviser, literature professor Margaret Maurer, helped him get everything in order.
“She was very patient with me,” Wilson said. “She just took my hand and helped me get to where the other students were. I can’t imagine where I would be without her help.”
A warm smile
Making connections on campus came naturally for Wilson, who is the kind of person who lights up a room with his smile and openness to engage. As a result, he became president of the French Club and a frequent participant in Model African Union.
Wilson received summer funding from Colgate’s Center for Career Services, which helped him return to Kenya for an internship in the country’s ministry of tourism.
“Colgate has such [vast] resources and generous donors contributing this money. [I got this opportunity], and career services came in and said, ‘You don’t have to worry. We have your back.’ I am so thankful for that,” Wilson said.
Maria Isabel “Izzy” Kubabom ’17
Hometown: Accra, Ghana
Activities: African Students’ Union, Sisters of the Round Table
Although quiet and reserved in her first few weeks on campus, Izzy found her voice by joining student organizations focused on cultural identity and support.
As a member of the African Students’ Union, she worked with fellow international student MariaDorin Shayo to establish the African Fashion Show, which took place for the third time in November 2016. Izzy was also an active member of the Sisters of the Round Table, which provides an opportunity for women of color to connect, bond, and share their feelings about the minority experience in America.
Izzy spent the summer after her sophomore year in her hometown, Ghana’s capital city of Accra, as an intern with an anticorruption nongovernmental organization. The following summer she spent in Accra researching her thesis, which focused on how LGBTQ people in the country are involved in advocacy and how their involvement affects their identities and their daily lived experiences.
“I learned that there is an LGBTQ presence in Ghana and they want recognition and protection,” she said. “They want to live their lives like any typical Ghanaian.”
Izzy is currently a social media intern for the nonprofit Brace Institute in Washington, D.C. She is also looking for a full-time job in research or a nonprofit development organization.
Julia Zschiesche ’17
Hometown: Hong Kong
Majors: Economics and political science
Activities: Colgate International Community, University Chorus, a cappella with the Mantiphondrakes, University Theater, leader for international-student orientation
Initially concerned with Colgate’s rural location, Julia ultimately found it to be the catalyst for forging strong friendships. “You can’t just escape into the city. You have to bond with the people around you. I think that makes the transition easy, because you are making that transition with everyone else,” she said.
While part of Colgate’s Washington, D.C., Study Group, Julia interned as a research assistant with the International Economic Development Council.
Speaks five languages
A snapshot of Colgate’s international representation
15% (including dual citizens)
74 countries represented
China (98), Canada (66), and South Korea (28) have the largest representation on campus
Class of 2021:
Applications from 145 countries
11% international in enrolled class
37 countries in enrolled class represented (including dual citizens)
Live in 90 countries
Learn more about Colgate’s International Programs.