Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"This is Just the Beginning": The Story of a Lifetime with YYAS, by Josh Nyoni

The early morning sun threw my shadow westwards as I hurried for my first lecturer. I was still gripped by euphoria and could not believe my luck. I had made it for the 2016 Yale Young African Scholars Program at Arundel School in Zimbabwe.

I was surrounded by intelligent and rather talented individuals: My fellow Africans. As we sat in the hall, everyone’s eyes beamed with joy and excitement. That is the day I realized that I had not just made it into the program, but I’d taken part in a life changing opportunity that most people long for. It was more like a blessing.

The program had more of a university feel in the way things were done. It was exciting and unique to be in such an environment. It felt like learning at an actual university! Lectures were delivered by leading Yale University professors, followed by discussion groups.

During the day I took seminars and at night I met with my workshop group, where I learned more tips and strategies for applying to university. I admit, between the SAT and ACT it was quite difficult to choose which standardized test to take when I returned home. Regardless, I got really great advice from the tutors and learned effective test-taking strategies. It was amazing!

Throughout the program, YYAS emphasized diversity and equality for everyone, despite students’ cultural differences. I made lifelong friendships, and even managed to learn brief sentences in a foreign language. At YYAS I explored academic interests that I never thought I would ever pursue. All program members, from instructional staff to lecturers, and from students to university admissions officers, were motivating and supported me from the beginning to the end.

The best part of the program was the talent show, which followed the awards ceremony and marked the end of the YYAS session. During the show there were unique performances put on by students from different cultural backgrounds. These acts showcased the real beauty of Africa! I even got to be Master of Ceremony which was a real treat.

Every day I think about my past experience at the YYAS program. Not only did I learn to be a better communicator, but I also learned how to be a better team player and a more responsible person. The staff and students became my brothers and sisters. I was so inspired by their efforts. Thanks to YYAS, I have obtained a cross-cultural understanding of my beautiful continent and developed new leadership skills that will last me a lifetime.

Thanks to YYAS, the opportunities ahead of me are endless. This is just the beginning.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Too Good of an Experience to be True, by Roy Ndebvudzemene

Being around 100 students from different African nations and backgrounds is one of the best wonders life has offered me so far. The Yale Young African Scholars Program (YYAS) was an action-packed week with mind-blowing activities. Although I felt a bit overwhelmed on the first day, I vividly remember every detail about my week in Rwanda. I will cherish every moment I had with my peers and the YYAS team.

During my week in Rwanda, I spent a lot of time with my YYAS "family”, whom I met every night after the days’ main activities and lessons. Little did I know they were going to become my family for life. I was enlightened about other cultures and amazed by how well we all got along despite being from completely different parts of the continent. It was then that I realized the demarcations that are on the map of Africa dividing us country by country don’t actually exist, especially not when it comes to attaining our same goal which is to make Africa prosper. I came to understand that we are all under one banner that defines us: we are all Africans!

Every Yale student instructor was amazing in his or her own unique way. I got to interact with all of them during seminars, discussion sessions, test prep, workshops, and meal times. My friends and I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the best lecturers the world has to offer. Overall, this university-focused program was a real eye opener for what to look forward to at university. Not only did we get introduced to SAT but we also had the best tutor to take us step by step through the whole thing. And, not only did we receive direct university guidance, but we also had the honor of meeting the deans of admission from several universities around the world, including Stanford University, Columbia University, and Macalester College, just to name a few.

In this tightly-scheduled program, I learned so much about other countries. I experienced the Rwandan culture through drumming and dance. I saw people showcase their talents during the talent show. The only painful memory I have was the day I had to say goodbye to my new friends and return home, but I embraced it with the courage that we all learned from one another. To me, this week was the beginning to something great, and I will treasure it for the rest of my life!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

YYAS: An Amazing Journey, by Demilade Sanusi

Demilade Sanusi (second from right) and other participants from YYAS 2017 in Ghana pose for a photo with YYAS Mentorship Coordinator Yaa Ampofo.
Before I got to the YYAS program in Ghana, I never expected that I would make so many friends or like it as much as I did! I wasn't sure what was going to happen that week, and I was prepared for the worst: but the worst never came.

After check-in and the welcome keynote, the first thing we did on Day 1 was play a game. Not the normal kind of game most people play when they first meet each other. No, this game involved running around in a circle, jumping, yelling, and basically making a fool of yourself in front of people that you had never met. At first I was shy and not a fan, but as we progressed I realized something: no one cared how you looked as you ran around barefoot yelling “Balance the ball, balance the ball!” People were too engrossed in the game, having too much fun to actually judge someone they hardly knew. And through that game, many of us began to connect. It didn't matter where you were from or who you knew there: once you ran around and came back to your spot, people just started approaching you and everyone laughed, creating a sense of friendship and connection.

From that day on, things just sort of clicked. We ate meals together in big groups; we sat next to each other in seminars and talked about big world issues and ideas. People respected others’ opinions and created a fun learning environment. Life seemed so normal, as if we had all been attending the same school for months.

But, like all good things in life, the program came to an end. I wasn't surprised to see people crying as they left their new friends. It seemed oddly appropriate. YYAS was a wonderful program and I am so glad to have attended. It is something I would definitely recommend for any African high school student—and not only because of the beautiful friendships that would be made. The idea of an academic summer program for only one week might seem ridiculous at first to some people, but what we learned academically and socially in that week has undoubtedly gone a long way toward shaping our future. I couldn't imagine it to be any other way.

My Experience as a Yale Young African Scholar, by Celine Kichwen

Celine Kichwen (left), a YYAS 2017 alumna from Kenya, shares a smile with another participant, Kene, from Nigeria.
July 29th, 2017: I remember that first morning so clearly. As I made my way to the airport I was overjoyed since it was my first time leaving Kenya. Standing in the queue and checking in felt like eternity, but soon I was on the plane and headed for Ghana. I had so many expectations and I can proudly say that YYAS met all of them!

I, along with two others from Kenya—Yvonne and Amos—arrived in Accra around noon. We were picked up by a member of the YYAS team and then taken to Tema International School. The hot weather was a real struggle but I easily coped. I entered the dining hall and I was shocked: I didn't expect to see so many students. They all looked so jovial and full of knowledge just waiting to be passed to the rest. The first friend I made in Ghana was Faith. She guided me to the various rooms showing me where I was meant to be and at what time. Even though we had just met, we talked so much that it seemed like we had known each other for a long time.

My seminars were “The Art and Science of Engineering Design,” “The International Criminal Court (for Africa?),” and “Gender in Africa.” In each seminar I had a chance to learn both from the Yale student instructors and my fellow participants, too. We also had debates within the seminars; each person contributed their ideas and opinion, thus offering different points of view. The lectures, taught both by Yale University professors and local scholars and practitioners, were also highly informative.

In the evening workshop, I met my “family” for the week. We were eight students altogether, plus our workshop leader, Naima, who is also from Kenya. During the subsequent sessions I came to better understand how to write essays—the concept of “telling” and “showing,” as explained by Naima. During the test preparation course with Ms. Esther, I took a mock SAT exam. It was difficult to finish everything in the time allotted, but after the first few sessions I was confident that I could tackle any SAT exam with ease. 

Throughout the week the university guidance presentations made by Ms. Laura, the YYAS Program Manager, and the admissions fair with university representatives from North America and Africa, taught me what to look out for as I prepare my university applications.

The talent show was the last major session at YYAS following the certificate ceremony. I enjoyed watching my friends showcase their talents and different cultures through poetry, song, and dance. I also participated by dancing with my fellow Kenyans on stage!

Attending YYAS has so far been my most exciting experience. I can confidently say that YYAS was a major milestone in my life. I learned so much about the whole process of applying for universities and the different opportunities for financial aid and scholarship. I had a chance to meet and interact with students from all over Africa and learn about various cultures firsthand. And finally, at YYAS, I was given a family; I believe that the bonds we created will go a long way.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My Awesome Experience at YYAS, by Francis Koroma

My name is Francis Koroma and I am from Sierra Leone. I was fortunate to participate in the Yale Young African Scholars 2017 Program that took place at Tema International School in Tema, Ghana. It's a great honor for me to share my unforgettable memories and experience of a lifetime here on this blog.

I first heard about YYAS in early 2017 when I was searching for education opportunities online through Google and African Youth Opportunities. I went through the application criteria and saw that I was eligible to apply as a secondary school student in Africa. I was so curious and intrigued by this opportunity that I began my application right away. 

I nervously waited for the results; I had never applied to something like this before! When I found out I had been selected I was beyond ecstatic—I was one of 300 students chosen among an applicant pool of 2,000 individuals from across the continent!

Me and my workshop 'family' group during the awards ceremony on the last evening.

Not only did this program help me to develop academic and leadership skills outside my classroom in Sierra Leone, but it also made me more self-confident in many ways. For example, before coming to YYAS I was not familiar with the SAT, or what university life is like, especially in the United States. However, throughout the week I received individual and group tutoring lessons that covered the writing, math, and reading comprehension sections of the SAT. And, thanks to a generous gift from the Higherlife Foundation, all participants received a brand-new Huawei tablet which was equipped with additional study material to practice at home.

The Program also exposed me to many different opportunities for tertiary level education and how best to prepare my university applications. I got to meet university representatives from schools in the United States, as well as Africa, and learn about the liberal arts curriculum and various financial aid options.

Moreover, YYAS helped to broaden my thinking and stretched my curiosity. During the week, I heard lectures delivered by both highly regarded local practitioners and Yale faculty. I even had a chance to interact with Yale undergraduate students who taught workshops and seminars, which was one of my favorite parts of the program. For example, one seminar was titled “Moving Bodies and Inspiring Movements: Music and Dance from Expression to Resistance”. I really enjoyed being part of this seminar because it's taught me a lot about music and dance and how to reflect our memories back to the past.

Here I am speaking with Prof. Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University.

And how can I forget about the talent show?! I saw such a range of talents and skills from my peers. For my own act, I designed a specific shirt and danced in front of everyone on stage.

A photo of me performing an original dance during the talent show in Ghana.

Above all, YYAS gave me the first opportunity outside of Sierra Leone to get in touch with other African students from across the continent. Through this shared experience together we got to learn so much from one another. I had so much fun with my new African brothers and sisters, and I will never forget the memories we shared. If you are reading this and thinking of applying, don’t think twice—it is worth every second! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

YYAS: The Experience of a Lifetime, by Wesi Gaobolelelwe

"I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy…" -Charles R. Swindoll

I learned about the Yale Young African Scholars Program (YYAS) during a school assembly. At first, I was pretty skeptical. The pictures and videos that were shown revealed so little about the program. I didn’t expect it to be jam-packed with excitement, life lessons, and amazing food.

Wesi Gaobolelelwe (left), with other YYAS 2017 participants, during a lecture in Ghana. Photo credit to Higherlife Foundation.
YYAS is designed to introduce secondary students in Africa to the demanding university and financial aid application processes, though that’s not all we took away from the experience. We also learned about leadership and how to come together as one, embrace diversity, and work with other passionate, driven, and talented individuals from across the continent.

Being part of the 300 participants, chosen from more than 2000 applicants, was truly an honor. When I found out I was accepted in April, it was then that I realized, “I made it. This is really happening!” The countdown began and in no time I found myself sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight to Ghana. 

The week I spent in Ghana attending YYAS was simply amazing. I learned so much from the facilitators and lecturers, but the most special and meaningful things I learned were from the other high school students around me. Being with so many people from all over Africa showed me how we’re so connected. Before my trip one of my fears was being alone most of the time. However, when I got to Ghana there was never a time I felt alone. I met new people every day. During lunches we had engaging discussions amongst ourselves and the staff; snack time was always accompanied by music. My free time was spent on the basketball courts singing, dancing, shooting hoops, or playing soccer. It was a lively week filled with fun activities and games.

I thought that being from the South—and the only person in my program from Botswana—would make me stick out like a sore thumb. I realized, though, that it didn’t matter: our differences were what brought us together. Listening to some of the folk tales from my new friends, and sharing some of my own, showed me how similar we were despite culture, politics, color, and geographic distance.

Towards the end of the trip, leaving was the last thing on my mind. The YYAS instructional staff, leadership team, and the other students had become family. I highly recommend YYAS to anyone who wants to grow as a person, learn and experience different cultures, and make lifelong friendships. It has opened me up to so many opportunities, and if I had the chance to do it again, I would without a doubt.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My Experience at YYAS 2017 in Zimbabwe

Peter Amprako (second from left) with his fellow YYAS 2017 participants in Zimbabwe.

The 2017 Yale Young African Scholar Program (YYAS) in Zimbabwe was an insightful, exciting, and life-changing experience for me. My participation in this education program exposed me to many new things and gave me a good introduction to an international learning environment.

Firstly, this program granted me the opportunity to see the world outside my own country, Ghana. I was fortunate to interact with other youth from different African countries and cultures. I learned to express myself in a university-like setting and share my knowledge and experiences with others.

During the program, I also learned about leadership and teamwork through enrichment activities, such as the lily pad game and the leadership compass activity. There was great satisfaction learning how to work with others in team exercises and drawing upon each other’s ideas to complete a task.

Additionally, I was informed about the opportunities to pursue my education in the United States and elsewhere. Initially, I had no clue about these possibilities for tertiary education, but with this exposure at YYAS I learned so much! The test preparation organized was also really transforming. I gained new testing skills related to reading comprehension, essay writing, and math. I became more conscience with time management, solving complex mathematics problems, and reasoning logically. The social topics discussed, as well as science themes and games, have made me a more well-rounded thinker.

To sum it up, the YYAS program was a great platform for me to think critically and outside the box, confront issues in my society head on, and develop necessary leadership skills to succeed in the classroom and in life. These experiences will surely help me to achieve my future goals and contribute to the development of my country, and that of Africa.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Jean Lambert Niyomugaba’s YYAS 2017 Experience

I am very grateful for this opportunity to share my Yale Young African Scholars Program (YYAS) experience with all of you who are reading this blog!

YYAS was my first time leaving my family for such an extended period, apart from time I spend in boarding school. I met so many other young people like me from all corners of Africa, and I had a chance to share with them my homeland, Rwanda. YYAS exposed me to many talented African secondary school students, all of whom are future community leaders. We studied together, shared experiences, and exchanged knowledge and ideas. This instilled in me an incredible awareness of self and adoption of new cultures as a common tool for leadership.

Jean Lambert (right) with friends from YYAS 2017 in Rwanda.
I was greatly appreciative of the YYAS staff and Yale student instructors who helped to facilitate the program, and for their brilliant ingenuity, generosity, and kindness.

When I first arrived at the program I was very moved by how the YYAS team welcomed students and made each and every one of us feel at home. When I received the schedule, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many interesting activities and I wondered how we could accomplish them in such a short period of time!

The Discussion Section: I had never experienced this sort of learning environment before in my entire life. Following each lecture, students had a chance to point out different issues and raise their own opinions and ideas. This opened my eyes to see beyond my home country, Rwanda. We took time to better understand the world around us and to think and to see things in ways that could lead to better development, thus finding solutions to great challenges our respective nations face. YYAS encouraged us to go beyond the local, and we were challenged to think global!  

Workshops: At the end of each day participants broke out into their different “family” groups of 6-8 students with a Yale student lead instructor. I had never met people who were so interested in my life! In addition to learning more about university life, how to write a college essay, and other university application strategies, I learned how to create an “elevator pitch”. I am now able to effectively introduce myself to any person I am meeting for the first time!

University Guidance: I loved this part so much! I learned A LOT and it gave me the opportunity to ask my many questions about different universities and the general application process. On the Admissions Day I was so grateful to meet more than five university admission officers from the United States in person! I got to ask them about their schools and learn about their various academic programs and campus life. I am now prepared more than ever to take on the university application process and common application.

Test Prep:  It was such a great experience to sit for the SAT exam! It was my first time to take this test but I learned so much. Even after YYAS I am still practicing my skills and trying to increase my score for the real thing! We were taught reading comprehension skills, essay writing techniques, and mathematics by a very nice tutor named Esther, who shared with us so many tips and strategies for tackling the test.

Seminars: I took three seminars led by the Yale student instructors. Each class was so unique and totally transformed my way of thinking. The seminars I took were:
  1. (Should we have) Democracy in Africa?
  2. Religion and Politics in the 21st Century
  3. Renewable Energy: Theory vs. Practice

Talent Show: How could I forget about the talent show? This took place on the last night of the program. I greatly enjoyed listening to and seeing my talented peers perform—especially those who shared their cultural dances and songs! No one felt embarrassed or intimidated. It was such a welcoming environment and an effective way of sharing our very rich cultures with one another. As I watched each performance, I thought to myself: we are the leaders of Africa!

It is hard for me to believe that that experience has passed, but I look ahead knowing that I have now built bridges with peers from other African countries. I have no doubt about the deep, enduring friendships made at YYAS, made easier by social media which links us together! These lifelong connections and experiences will be paid forward as we continue to learn, grow, and give back to the world. I highly recommend YYAS to anyone and everyone!

Let me use this opportunity to call upon all of you who want to have your lives transformed and see your dreams become reality: please don’t miss your chance to apply for this program!

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alumna Recounts Her YYAS 2016 Experience

As I stood in the registration line, trying to look for a few familiar faces from my school, I felt nervous, yet excited. It was finally happening! I remember standing in front of a boy called Nenfort, who had trouble registering because he preferred another name on his tag. I found him quite amusing but kept quiet, too shy to introduce myself. Little did I know that he'd become the clown of my workshop group that week at YYAS.

Rumbidzo Dangarembizi (second from right) with her friends at YYAS 2016.
When my friend Fadzi and I welcomed two South African girls, Felicity and Thenjiwe, and helped them with their bags on arrival, we never thought that they would become two of our closest friends at the program. I still treasure their relationships to this today. In the evenings before bed, we'd sit in each other's rooms talking about the day and anything and everything, like we'd known each other our whole lives.

It was amazing seeing people from all over the continent and the beautiful blend of accents filling the air each day, making me feel right at home. There were so many names to learn throughout the week. I felt as though I met someone new every day! I found myself meeting new people even on the very last day.

Breakfast was one of my favorite times of the day. Our table was never shy of jokes and laughs, which always came from the Zimbabweans and the Nigerians. The Nigerians amused us with their love for jollof rice and their confusion over why we didn't have plantain in Zimbabwe. By the end of the week, we all felt like a family.

The talent show was an exciting showcase, too, especially when everyone gathered on the stage to dance. In that moment, watching everyone perform, we were all the same. We all spoke the same language as we danced to Davido's music. When people performed it was interesting to see the uniqueness and individuality they all possessed, whether they performed spoken word, sang, danced, or did stand-up comedy.

I believe that the program really opened the door for students to pursue tertiary education, especially at American universities. The Yale students who served as instructors during the program were all African, just like me. They all came across as kind, loving, and helpful. The advice they gave us in our workshop group, admissions sessions, and seminars was truly valuable. The goals that they had reached by being accepted into such a prestigious university didn't seem so distant anymore. All the information that they fed us throughout the week cleared my confusion and gave me a definite path.

I'd encourage any of you who are unsure of what you would like to do in the future, or who want to go for university, to apply to the program,. The lessons you'll learn at the program are invaluable and life-changing. Please don't pass up the opportunity. It is definitely worth going for the experience of a lifetime!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

YYAS - the most indelible expeirence of my life

 Sekou, on right, with friends at YYAS-2016 in Ghana
Yale Young African Scholars Program (YYAS) has been the most indelible experience of my life. It was my first time to have left Liberia to visit another country for an educational program. I admired so much my interaction with young, talented and like-minded high school students from the length and breadth of Africa. Everyone came from different backgrounds with different experiences and lifestyles, which contributed to the overall diverse nature of my YYAS experience.
YYAS was in one way a major eye opener for me on global matters, and on the other hand, a robust introduction to U.S. university preparations. There were several admissions representatives from some of the most prestigious universities giving insights on U.S. admissions procedures. As though that was not enough, the fun associated with all the YYAS activities made it a truly enjoyable and stress-free experience. I always feel nostalgic whenever I remember playing the slippers games and running around with people from over 25 African nations, as though they were all my family, like brothers and sisters. The cultural night on the last evening of YYAS-- where we watched the many beautiful talents and cultures of every single country represented-- made me want to refuse returning to my country so soon!
My YYAS experience was the only time I realized that hearing different opinions from different perspectives can all be right in given circumstances. The discussion sections were an awesome time to exercise my intellectual muscles. Everyone offered different views about issues, each one providing a specific suggestion to addressing a particular challenge. When all combined together, this method can be a powerful solution to solve any problem on earth.
The workshop sections were a unique experience where I drafted for the first time my statement of purpose and shared it with my colleagues from South Africa, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Tanzania. I also learned a lot about the U.S. Common Application, letters of recommendation, interviews and other university application procedures. Though I left YYAS more than five months ago, I feel like I’m still at YYAS every single day because of the network of amazing, everlasting friends I made during the program, whom I now interact with on the Alumni Network Facebook group and on various social media platforms.
Finally, the YYAS mentorship program connected me to inspirational figures who are guiding me on a daily basis and will continue to serve as my mentors throughout my life. In total, I would describe YYAS as a one-week transformative journey-- a journey that marked my transition from intellectual childhood to an adult understanding of global mindsets, an appreciation of diversity and to a powerful network for my educational advancement.
Sekou Jabateh, Liberia

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My YYAS Experience

Sope (on the right) with a new YYAS friend

Honestly, I never thought I would get into YYAS when I applied. I was just the fourteen year-old girl who played basketball, had good, but not great grades. I was kind of scared, not telling anyone about my application until I got accepted, not really believing the acceptance letter in front of my eyes were mine.
My YYAS experience was a mix of emotions. It was scary meeting so many people from Yale University, a place I had only heard of. It was also fun making new friends from all over Africa, seeing people from places I’d only heard of on the news, playing games with people I didn’t know even existed. It was exhilarating sharing experiences and discussing with fellow African students, and meeting kids from other schools. It was silly, seeing university students whom you’d expect to be uptight having fun like they were ten year-olds, making jokes and playing goofy games with us during family time. It was also saddening, saying goodbye to those wonderful people at the end of the week, people I’d never thought I’d be so attached to after seven days. The YYAS program was one experience that I would love to have over and over again. My experience was a bitter-sweet one because it brings a wave of nostalgia every time I remember it, as remember the awesome people I might never see again, but it’s sweet because I would never trade that experience for anything in the world.
Sope Olusegun-Lartey
YYAS 2016 

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Zimbabwe Experience

If there is one action I will never regret in my life, then I guess
that action is applying for YYAS. Not only did it change my way of
thinking, it also opened my eyes so that I saw many opportunities
around me that I  would have never seen on my own.

Firstly spending one week with Africa's most intelligent students is
one thing one can always treasure. I enjoyed the program because I got
a chance to learn new cultures as well as learn new languages. I got
to exchange views with peers of my age. This was a great thing because
I l learnt to look at things at different perspectives. I also got a
chance to showcase my piano skills with others.

I was able to meet Yale faculty who delivered mindblowing lectures
ranging from political science to information technology. These
lectures surely kept me at the edge pf the seat as I was keen to
learn.It was also was a blessing to meet university students from USA
who shared their college experience with us. This was a giant leap
ahead for me because I now know some of the things to anticipate when
I apply for college.

Before YYAS I was not good at socialising with people because I was
shy but during the course of the program, I learn so much
communication skills and made so much friends from all over Africa
that when I went back home  I was surprised with the progress I had
made in terms of socialising. I wouldn't dare to leave out the food
whenever I mention about YYAS. Words can not describe the food at YYAS. One has to experience it to know what I mean. I would certainly
recommend the YYAS to everyone for it is one awesome experience. I
would even recommend it to those who hate me,who knows they might
like me for that!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Joy Talemwa reflects on Zimbabwe 2016

My alarm went off and I jerked out of bed and run to my mum’s room. Mummy! Mummy! We need to go to the airport now, otherwise the plane will leave me! Throughout the 1 hour journey my mind was spinning and turning as worry waged in my mind about the plane living me. Finally, we reached the airport and I was right on time for check-in. Phew! I was finally settled. It was hard to say good-bye to my family and a few tears did flow down, but their eyes glowed with great pride and optimism (given their teenage daughter was flying alone for the first time). There was no backing down now!

The flight was relaxing and calming. While at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport, I met other Scholars from Kenya and immediately the fear and anxiety melted away. We started sharing and laughing about school, friends and future plans.  The journey took 6 hours and at midday, we arrived in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is such a beautiful country!  Despite its economic and political instability, the breath-taking scenery and warmth of her people outweigh the former.

Yale Young African Scholars was an intellectual, leadership building, and fun-filled 5-day experience that united talented and intelligent African young future leaders at the aesthetic Arundel School. Meeting other participants was a hilarious experience; remembering everybody’s name and nationality was studious!

As the birds hummed a morning melody and the sun’s beautiful bright rays pierced through the sky, we woke up and freshened up for the day. Breakfast was always served at 7:30 and by 8:30, we were expected to be in the lecture hall for the day’s lecture. The lectures were very interactive and enlightening presentations- by notable speakers and distinguished Yale lectures and faculty members- about various topics like Cyber Internet, Leadership and Ethics, Nostalgia for the Colonial Times, among others. Discussions then followed. These were one of my favourite parts of the program because we got to share, discuss, and even counter-argue the topics discussed in the lectures. The morning sessions were climaxed by workshops, were aspects of the common application were explained (in my workshop we always played buzz/bing before discussing!)

 A sumptuous lunch buffet awaited us at 12pm. The lunch break was one hour, during which we could have special lunch sessions with the YYAS facilitators about college life, cultural adjustments, applications, and career paths in fields like medicine and engineering. After the delicious meal, we would proceed to our seminars. All Scholars chose seminars that they wanted to participate in.  I chose Digital Footprints, Education Policy, Social Economic rights, and ‘What it means to be African?’ The debates, presentations, practical and visual methods of presenting these topics made them so interesting and easy to understand. During the program, we also had families and every-day at 2:30-3:00 pm, we met our families and played and had fun together. We got at connect at a deeper level with our family members and leaders.

A College admissions student panels, keynote speakers, a Yale mixer night, and admissions session were some other events we enjoyed throughout the week.  During admissions sessions, questions about SAT and ACT, Financial aid, majors, and college life were addressed. One the second last day,we  were separated in different project groups and tasked to develop an “Afrotopia-a new Africa.”
The last night was lit! After the group presentations (where we presented our ‘Afrotopia’ to fellow scholars) and certificate ceremony, we had a talent show. It started off with a spoken word piece and then several dance presentations followed: shoki, dubbing, nay nay, and many more dance moves were showcased in the two hour performances. Musical talent and several piano pieces and melodies were sang (the audience got to sing along too!).

Yale Young African Scholars was a life changing experience that challenged me to love my country and continent. Life-long friends from Cameroon (one participant from Cameroon was Joy Jude- we shared a name!), Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Mauritius were forged. YYAS was an unforgettable experience because it was intellectually stimulating yet so engaging and fun at the same time. Advice, Insight, contacts, and selfies were shared. The Alumni of YYAS 2016 is a family of committed teenage Africans united by a love for the motherland, and driven by a passion to transform their communities by using their gifts, talents, and resources.

YYAS is the right place for any African teenager, with a love for their continent, to connect with like-minded young Africans with great visions and dreams!