Juliette Ugirumurera left Rwanda with nine other people to a country far from home.
She came to the United States six years ago with a scholarship to attend Oklahoma Christian University. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in computer science at UTD.
Although the first year in the United States was hard, Ugirumurera said she began to adjust after that. The thing she likes most about America is the education system, she said, because students have access to all the resources they need and the professors are always available to meet with students outside the classroom, which is not always the case in Rwanda. She also said she feels that people here are friendly.
“I have some friends (in Dallas) so I felt it was important for me to stay where I know people,” Ugirumurera said about choosing to come to UTD.
The UTD website reports that there are more than 5,100 international students on campus. According to the Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis, roughly 115 students came from African countries within the last three years, most of them being Nigerian, followed by Egyptian and Kenyan.
The growing population of African students at UTD led to the founding of the African Student Union three years ago. The motto “Unity in Diversity” is exemplified in the fact that its members come from different countries in Africa. While most of the members recently have come from a country in Africa, or have lived abroad at some point in their lives, there are some members of other nationalities and races, such as American and Asian.
Because she did not know many people at UTD when she came, and knows of only two other Rwandans on campus, Ugirumurera said that being a member of ASU helps her feel at home.
“I like that I can go and experience that African environment. ASU is one of those places where I go and be like, yes, I’m back to my roots,” Ugirumurera said.
Nikki Awolowo, a Nigerian member and treasurer of ASU, feels the same way.
“I really love ASU. We have people from different parts of Africa, which is the coolest part. They are really glad to be a part of Africa,” Awolowo said.
ASU was formed by a group of African students to create an African community for students and teach African culture to UTD’s student body, ASU secretary Mark Nwokocha said. It holds many events throughout the year, such as talent shows, dance competitions, potlucks, bake sales and fashion shows to equally showcase the beauty of the different African cultures.
Although it is mainly a social organization, members like to work with other UTD organizations and do volunteer work. This year, ASU has also partnered with the Black Student Alliance to host different events to tie the traditional African cultures with the African-American culture, Nwokocha said.
ASU is currently preparing for International Week from March 31 to April 4. It will be representing Ghana in the “Passport to the World” event. There will be food, crafts and music at the booth, and members will be dressed in traditional Ghanaian costume. ASU will also perform a mixture of modern and tribal dances at the talent show.
All students are welcome to join ASU. Those who are interested should send an email to email@example.com.