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ASA’s graduation crush: Nomzamo Mbatha and Njabulo Ntombela

Hi ASA fam

I decided it was the perfect timing in light of all the controversy around the University of Florida‘s incidents with black students during their graduation ceremony (here). It’s important to understand that graduation for Africans is NEVER a small thing! Not only because we all have a good dose of #Wakandamagic in us, but also it remains an achievement for our ourselves and families esp. if we put things in perspective and look at the stats of people with tertiary education in Sub-saharan Africa. Today’s post is inspired by Nomzamo Mbatha (South African actress) and Njabulo Ntombela (a graduate of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal‘s faculty of Law) ‘s graduations. Everything about it was amazing, here’s why:

Their story

Nomzamo dropped out of the University of Cape Town (UCT) to pursue a career in acting after she lost close people in her family, which forced her to pursue her dream. Fast forward a few years later, she is 27 and definitely one of the top actresses in South Africa with a few international brands endorsements such as Neutrogena. This is #goals because despite her success, she decided to come back to finish what she started, her degree-a Bachelor in Commerce (BCom) in Accounting.

Njabulo comes from Nkandla (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa) and was raised by his great-grandmother after both his parents and grandmother passed, in his interviews with News24 he says “he’ll live to honor her”.

Honoring their loved ones

Her dress had pictures of the loved ones she lost (one of whom she lost to suicide), and the depression & suicide helpline for South Africa. In her own words, “I wanted the pictures of my late baby sister, Carla, late older sister, Matu, my late father, Nicholas Nxumalo and the greatest love of my life, the woman who named me Nomzamo, my late grandmother, MamJoli. The many tragedies I had to survive.”

Nomzamo Mbatha in her Vanessa Gouden dress (a South African designer)

 

On the other hand, not only did Njabulo decided to wear his traditional attire to represent his cultural heritage; but he also decided to take his great-grandmother to the podium with him to be capped. His picture was a hit on social media and gave South Africa #thefeelsfordays! What a beautiful act of reverence to honor the person who supported him!  I must admit that I regret not doing this for my parents, and hope to make this up in future (guess I’d better get working on that Ph.D. and/or MBA,lol!).

Njuabulo walking with his great-grandmother to be capped (SowetanLive)

Honoring Ma’ Winnie Mandela

Nomzamo had mentioned in a previous interview that her icon was her namesake Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela (former ex-wife of late president Nelson Mandela) affectionately referred to as “the mother of the nation” by South Africans for her contribution and keeping the fight against apartheid alive while her then-husband was incarcerated. Her graduation happened to be at the same time of Ma’ Winnie’s passing and she chose to honor her during her ceremony. She shouted the very popular ” Amandla Awethu!” which means “power to us”-the slogan of the fight against apartheid. In Nomzamo’s own words, ” This was your dream…You fought for the marginalized and was immensely instrumental in the defeat of the brutal apartheid regime. Your resilience ensured that today, we, your children could walk on a graduation stage built off the backs of our fallen people… we assure you that we receive the BATON…”

Africa well represented i.e. Ululations on fleek

You can hear Nomzamo’s loved ones scream at the top of their lungs as she makes her way to the podium in this video (here). If you are African and/or have ever attended an African celebration ceremony, you will be familiar with ululations (those coordinated sounds/screams you hear people make…#thefeels). While these have variations depending on which part of the continent you are from…The fact remains the happier we are, the stronger we ululate!

 

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from you about how you and family celebrated your graduation or are planning to celebrate your graduation this year. My own mother did not disappoint for my graduation when it came to ululating…she came VERY prepared with tools (so extra…lol!) but that’s a story for another day :).

Stay awesome until my next post

XxKenaya

Congolese bloggers ASA loves

Hi Everyone!

I hope this finds you well, it’s been a minute. One of the most attractive perks of being a blogger according to me is being part of a community: be it writers globally, in Africa and/or Congo more specifically. In today’s post, I thought I would share Congolese bloggers who have caught my eye in various ways.

KongoTravels

The first one is Tania, a tech entrepreneur based in Johannesburg (South Africa), mother and wife. She is the co-founder of Maxicash (a money transfer app targeting the remittance from the Congolese diaspora, I wrote about it here). Besides her jovial personality, her blog shares her love for travel and tips especially for those holding a Congolese passport.

NISSYTEE

Nissy is a Congolese blogger/presenter/Youtuber based in the UK and a graduate of Cambridge University. She started her Youtube channel as a student and shared much of her experience and challenges as a minority student. I may be wrong but believe the above was the motivation for starting her online magazine BEBBOnline which discusses issues relevant to minority students.

AlaWaiki

I cannot remember how I found Waiki online, but I really LOVE her! She runs both a lifestyle blog and Youtube channel called AlaWaiki. It’s effortless and beautifully structured,  and anything she shares from restaurants reviews, recipes, home decors is very relatable. She is a mother of three and has recently launched her business-an online store for baby clothes (CeriseIndigo). I have personally used a few of her home decor ideas & like to think of her as my online friend :).

Let’s Cook with Elle

Confession time: while I can make good food (so I am told by a few generous friends…lol!), making Congolese food is not my strength based on a number of factors (help at home, boarding school, generous aunts & parents that valued education as a core family value,etc). Based on a few people I have spoken to, I am definitely not alone…If like me, you aspire to change that: No need to panic, Youtube has solved that for ALL of us.  Princesse is a Congolese food blogger and Youtuber based in the UK, her lovely personality makes it impossible not to enjoy her tutorials. Her videos are also short & to the point. Very easy to follow regardless of what you plan to make be it pondu (cassava leaves), ndunda (spinach), makayabu (salted fish), fumbwa, oxtail, ntaba (goat meat),etc.

Young Professional Congolese (YPC)

This is more an association than a blog, started a few years ago by Gradi Tomene and Michael Otadende. YPC is the first UK based platform for young Congolese professionals which aims to build a visible and active network; leveraging the knowledge, skills and experiences of young Congolese professionals across the country.

Coungolese and Fabulous (YCFNOW)

This is an Instagram page & helps me stay connected with the other young Congolese across the world on a mission to do their best wherever/whatever they are doing. I had the pleasure of engaging with one of the funders, and here’s why they started the blog. “It was created in 2011at the peak of DRC elections; a pivotal period within The DR Congo‘s history. During this time, there was a lot of tension amongst Congolese people on various social media platforms both in DRC and within its Diaspora – a safe haven had to be created to rear off all of the negativity. We needed and felt our fellow Congolesepeers needed it. So Young Congolese and Fabulous was born“. I could have never put everything I feel/felt as a young Congolese in better words.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Is there any other Congolese blogger who has caught your eye? If yes, do share with me.

Stay amazing

XxKenaya

 

 

10 Mistakes I made as a first time blogger

Hi ASA fam

Greetings and I hope are enjoying your week-end. As I have decided to be more committed to my blogging journey this year, I thought I would reflect on some of the mistakes I have made thus far. Hopefully this might help some of you thinking about embarking on this scary journey of sharing your views on the big wild and scary  world of internet.

Social Media Presence (or lack thereof)

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Picture taken from here

It took me 2 years to get an #Instagram account and despite creating it last year [Do check it out @africanstudentssbroad(ASA)], it is not linked to my blog just yet. This is a BIG no no. Many of the views and readers are in fact gained through social media be it Pinterest, Instagram and/or Facebook. I am working on fixing this before the end of this month.

Blog Name

Name picture
Picture from here

This changed at least twice, while the account was already created: eek! While it is perfectly understandable to change your mind, watch out for your contact details and email addresses as these might no longer be accessible. I am currently experiencing this issue and plan to resolve it shortly

Contact Page

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First of all, I would like to apologize to all my followers/readers for the inconvenience caused on this one as I know a few people tried to reach me unsuccessfully. For some reason, the registered email addresss stopped working as my contact page is currently linked to the old email address which was deactivated.

Blog Theme (i.e. Look & Feel)

This will probably take you SO much time and end up being a timewaster as well. An

Theme
Picture from here

article I read suggested selecting a theme in the beginning knowing it will change and improve in future. Do not get paralised with going through the 100s of WordPress themes without selecting a theme that works. I also decided to updrade my suscription as I have access to more themes. I am in the process of changing my theme based on the blogs I admire i.e. A little bit of Lacquer, Hayet Rida, Opportunities for Africans

Not being tech savvy (or committing to becoming)

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When I started ASA, the goal was only “to start” and I unfortunately did not put much more thought into what would be required and how to run a blog successfully. I focused on creating content (i.e. writing) and not so much on becoming WordPress savvy (e.g. what pluggins would be requires, how to improve the traffic to my blog, what plans would work better based on my goals,etc.). I have now decided to upgrade my blog from the WordPress Personal to Premium Plan. Last year, I also decided to do a Blogging Course offered by WordPressTraining Johannesburg which really helped me increase my knowledge about WordPress.  Do watch out for all the upcoming plans and changes:)

Not writing directly into WordPress

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At the beginning, I would write in MS Word and then copy/paste the content onto WordPress: what a nightmare and absolute waste of time! The format would change, and I would have to spend an extra 1 hr editing the content on WordPress. I then read an article suggesting writing directly onto WordPress as one can save drafts which has now simplified the editing process.

Blogging schedule

This is probably still my biggest downfall. I mean 2 things here: (i) a schedule of blogging time required (i.e. a paricular day of the week and time either before and/or after work) and (ii) a blog post schedule for your readers (e.g. Sunday evening). Furthermore, you

blog-schedule
Picture taken from here

need you plan your content as well. Based on the articles I have read , you need to have at least 2-4 content posts already lined up. This allows you to keep a strict posting schedule during these very busy period, especially if you are working full time. Although I still need a strict both blogging & posting schedule, I believe I have improved from my early days. I now save all my blog ideas/drafts on WordPress and get to edit/finalise them when planning to post. I have committed to uploaded at least 1 blog post per week this year.

Not being focused (audience & content)

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Those who know me well are used to me sometimes jumping very quickly from one idea to the next-blame the Luminary in me. I have many opinions & I like many things :D. My original mistake was to want to write/post about anything that went through my mind. This did not work for 2 main reasons (i) it was not necessarily serving the purpose of why I started the blog (i.e. empower African students abroad) and (ii) not every idea is a blog post-here is why…Trying to force an idea into a blog post is a COLOSSAL waste of time because it would take me much longer to create a story line out of what should have just been a brief status update on my personal social media account. I still struggle with this at times, but I am now better. I am only committed to sharing content relevant for my intended audience i.e. African students abroad/students abroad.

Fear

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This is probably my biggest struggle as fear has held me back. I started ASA with many doubts about whether or not (i) I could be a successful blogger and (ii) the content would actually be valuable for my readers. That fear is still there but thanks to your comments and a good support system I have decided to forge on. Plus most of the bloggers I look up to have been at it for 4-5 years before their big break, so if my content can help 1 person at a time… that would still be worth it.

Underestimating the time it requires for a post

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I see all sorts of “how to write a blog post under 1 hour”. Not sure about who these amazing bloggers are, but it takes me a anytime between 3-6 hours per post depending on the content (sometimes more for post that require some research). I believe I will get better at this with time, but it still takes time before posting something just like writing an essay in school. Knowing how much time is required per post has also helped schedule better.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and it helps anyone who is going through this and/or thinking of starting their own blog. I am sure I will keep making a few mistakes, but am excited about the journey to correct the ones I have learnt from.

XxKenaya

P.S: All Gifs were taken from giphy.com

Overcoming the odds: The story of Christy Shakuyungwa #NamibianQueen

Hi ASA fam

I hope you are all doing well in your respective corners of the world, happy International Women’s Day to all our female readers. I decided to start a new series called #ASAHallofFame to introduce people who have/continue to inspire me throughout their journey either as students and/or professionals. I know that as a student abroad you will face MANY challenges, hopefully these stories help you realise that whatever you are going through is temporary because other people have faced similar challenges and overcame them. Today is about a very close friend of mine, and I could not think of anyone else on this #InternationalWomensDay: Christy Shakuyungwa-her story is nothing short of inspirational.

Christy
My friend aka #ASAHallofFame Christy Shakuyungwa

I honestly cannot remember how I met Christy,  it may have been through a group assignment of Technical Drawing in first year…we have remained friends for over a decade through laughing at the failed tests, many MANY very long sleepless nights before an exam, boy’s stories, running a few races and wine-filled evenings. When I started ASA, I knew that I wanted to share her story as someone I completely admire for beating the odds, and thankfully she agreed to  it.

Christy first started her studies in Namibia at the University of Namibia (UNAM), where she started a degree in in Marine Biology. Halfway through it, she realised that she really did not enjoy it and convinced her family to allow her to study Chemical Engineering in South Africa. She applied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), got accepted and thankfully secured a scholarship from a mining company.  Unfortunately, despite spending 80-90% of her time studying, she did not achieve the minimum required grades and faced academic exclusion from UCT. She then decided to register through the University of South Africa (UNISA) to complete Maths and Physics which would then allow her to come back to UCT-this was an option allowed by UCT at the time. With very difficult finances (and unable to have her own accommodation), she managed to do just that and came back to UCT for the 2nd year. During that time, she was also dealing with an emotionally abusive  and manipulative partner (and only revealed this much later before they broke up). As a result she was diagnosed with depression, and was on medication for a period of time… Unfortunately, she was excluded again from UCT in her 3rd year due to low academic grades and lost her scholarship. In between, she went home and told her family what she had been going through. She then came back and  registered with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to finish her Chemical Engineering degree as Technologist. She lived on a shoestring budget but that never stopped her from smiling, she has always been one of the most resourceful people I know. Things seemed to be getting better for her: she was studying again and only had 2 years left, she also got out of the abusive relationship painful and went on to meet a wonderful man. He was such a wonderful angel who was unfortunately diagnosed with leukemia and passed away a few months after. After much pain and still battling depression, she graduated from CPUT and went back to Namibia to find work. With a limited job market and tough economy, she secured a job only 1 year later which was tough emotionally as there were moments when the depression seemed to win over. She always wanted to be an entrepreneur and decided to resign and pursue her entrepreneurial dream full time after a year or two into her job. She started a doll company (Taati & friends) as well as a linen company (Lipitua Linen). Due to a slow start and limited income being generated, she decided to go back to full time employment while pursuing her dream of becoming an entrepreneur as side hustle.

Taati & friends
A picture of the African doll she has created: Taati & friends with traditional Namibian attire

Fast forward a few years, she is now a full time chemical engineer and owns not one but two businesses in her beautiful country Namibia. My biggest lesson from Christy’s journey is that of perseverance and self belief. She had so many reasons to be discouraged, and give up but she never quite did. We always joke with her and say that things can only get better for her as she has gone through drama of a lifetime in a short and intense period of time in her 20s. By the looks of things, it is indeed true. Her dolls business is picking up and she won the first US embassy in Namibia’s bootcamp for social entrepreneurship and represented her country at the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme (AWEP). She was also selected as part of the first lady of Namibia group of women for a study tour. Oh as if it was not enough, she continues to push the linen business while on a full time job.

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Christy winning her prize from the bootcamp

I hope this inspires you. Whatever you might be going through, get yourself a good support system and believe in yourself. Why? Well, there is really only one of you in this planet: if this is not motivation, not sure what else it could be. I hope you enjoyed this post.

XxKenaya

11 Inspirational TEDx talks by Africans

Hi ASA fam

(Belated) Happy February! We always need a bit of motivation once in a while as we can lose focus when life gets busy… Not sure about you but I am expecting this quarter to be mad busy work wise and have been on the lookout for motivational messages. Since February is the #monthoflove, #Blackhistorymonth and the epic month of the release of #Blackpanter. I thought I’d bring out my inner #Wakanda warrior self and share with you a few the TEDx I’ve enjoyed, and as a cherry on top- it’s all by motherland moguls.

  1. Afu Ose, Co-founder of She Leads Africa (SLA)-How do we go beyond 30%

She is hilarious, check her IG page (@afua_osei). This talk makes such a valid point wrt to women quotas in the work place. If we would not consider 30% a pass/acceptable from our strict #Africanparents, why must it be the case for women in leadership positions?

2. Zain Asher, CNN News Anchor-Trust your struggles

I have watched this video more than 5 times, and it simply never gets old. Zain Asher is a household name in her own right as news anchor, but also happens to be Chiwetel Ejiofor ‘s sister (nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 12 years a slave) talks about how she managed to land her dream job, the importance of preparation and trusting your struggles.

3. Fred Swaniker, Co-founder of the African Leadership Academy  (ALA) and University (ALU)-The leaders who ruined Africa and the generation that can change it.

Those who know me closely know that Fred Swaniker is my #mancrusheverydayall. Why? His life mission is to build African leaders in the hope they will make better decisions and steer the continent in the right direction. He resigned from a very cosy job at McKinsey & Company to pursue his dream and later founded both through the African Leadership Academy and also African Leadership University.

4. The late Komla Dumor, CNN News Anchor-Telling the African Story

I am sad to admit that I only got to know more about this man post his passing. This video just shows how much passion he had both for his job and his continent. Definitely gone too soon, but his spirit lives on! May his soul rest in peace and his family be comforted on his tragic loss.

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (writer), We should all be feminists

The famous Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi is not shy to talk about 2 things: (i) she is African (Nigerian to be specific) and proudly so, and (ii) she is a feminist. She’s been quoted by Beyonce and has won multiple awards. One of her books got turned into an award-winning movie, half of a yellow sun. In this video, she explains why we should all be feminists.

6. Lindiwe Mazibuko-There is no one waiting to save us, we must save ourselves

Once very popular for being the youngest female member of parliament in the main opposition political party in South Africa, The Democratic Alliance. She later graduated from the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and decided to come back to her home country. She is currently writing a book, amongst other responsibilities.

7. Monica Musona, Don’t be  a spectator in your own economy

She was mentored by and worked for Africa’s richest man i.e. Aliko Dangote and decided to return to her home country Zambia to start a food processing company (Java Foods)

8. Vusi Thembekwayo, founder of my GrowthFund-the big lie of small businesses

A business mogul, with many titles to his name. Vusi Thembakweyo is redefining the entrepreneurial eco-system in South Africa. His main mission is to scale-up black-owned small businesses to multi-billion enterprises through his latest venture, my GrowthFrund.

9. Patrick Awuah, Founder of Asheshi University. Educating a new generation of leaders in Africa

Safe to say that my eye is easily caught by anyone in the education space on the continent. Patrick resigned from the lucrative position in a top tech company in the US to return to his home country Ghana where he founded Asheshi University, one of the top leading private universities on the continent.

10. Jason Njoku, founder and CEO of Iroko Partners-Failing all the way to success.

If you are in the tech and entertainment space on the continent, it is almost impossible not to know about Jason Njoku. He founded IrokoPartners (his 11th venture after many failed attempts), the first online distribution platform for Nigerian movies, an industry worth billions. We owe Iroko for being able to access African movies/Nollywood while on international planes. In his TEDx talk, Jason talks about his difficult journey to success.

11. Farai Mubaiwa (co-founder of Africa Matters)-We are the ones we have been waiting for

Difficult not be inspired by Farai, I have been following Africa Matters almost since day 1 and always find their articles super informative. I can relate SO much to what she says i.e. as a Congolese, I often felt very hopeless in the face of all the horror, corruption, war and rapes, ignorance I often encountered when it came to the DRCongo. My coping mechanism was to become a professional #Keyboardwarrior as she calls it but felt even more helpless when I realised that my words did not change the No. of people that died daily and/or the women raped. At only 23, she decided to stop waiting and decided to do something about it. She’s managed to build a platform with thousands of views and was awarded the prestigious The Queens Young Leader Award in 2017. Africa Matters is also having their first ambassador’s programme, check it out if interested and do apply by 5 March 2018, here.

I hope you enjoyed this and wishing you an excellent week ahead. Please share the love if there are any additional TEDx videos that has caught your eyes: sharing is caring 🙂

XxKenaya

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Valentines’ day as a student abroad

Hey ASA fam

Since it’s almost Valentines Day (Vday), I thought I would write to all those students who are nervous about the fact that you may not have someone to celebrate Vday with you. Depending on which part of the world you find yourself in, Valentines Day might be a bigger deal compared to others. South Africa definitely takes Vday seriously: In my matric class, girls would be delivered roses , chocolates and teddy bears. And later at university, there was all sorts of Vday bashes and dinners being organised. But Kinshasa is worst…lol!

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As a self-confessed hopeless romantic, you can imagine that not being able to have someone/celebrate Vday was torture for most of my 20s. I had even convinced myself that I would be able to know that someone is “the one”if he showed up at Valentines’Day and we were able to celebrate it together…. Looking back, I can safely say to the old me “Babes, take a chill pill, sit down and chillax…It’s not that serious”. Here’s why:

Be gentle on yourself

Don’t force yourself into a lifeless/emotionless robot…It is okay to wish celebrating the day with someone, perfectly normal to miss an ex especially freshly out of a relationship. Or even secretly hope that your crush might reciprocate your feelings and come clean on Vday. Those thoughts have crossed us a lot more than we would ever like to admit it…Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way, you’re not a weak: just human… 🙂

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It is truly just a day (mainly driven by a BIG commercial agenda)

Most of the couples I know, actually do not celebrate valentines day. Even though it took much convincing from the guy’s side (most of the time), this decision ended up being a mutual one between both. Their reason makes loads of sense… they do like/love each other and do not need to display their love/like for each other on a day with a big commercial agenda. Each to their own I guess 🙂

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Get over it, it is all in your own head

There is nothing wrong with you, millions other people will be celebrating Vday alone and/or simply not celebrating. Confession time: I have actually never celebrated Valentines day (well sort of). I was either in long distance relationship with a shoe string budget which did not allow for any fancy romantic getaways (a few years ago, a long phone call was the best you could hope for) and/or out of a relationship by the time Vday came around. I survived with no bruises/broken bones,etc. So have millions others and so will you 🙂

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Choose something to do

There will be loads of events being organised either in favor of and/or against Vday. A few ideas:

  • Evening of pampering yourself indoors with a great movie/bookgiphy (3)
  • A Singles Vday event, or anti-valentine party (these are usually so much fun)
  • Girls/Boys’ evening hanging out
  • Work on your tutorial/project due

Studying/Work has always been my (almost) perfect escape/response to anything. If unsure what to do, decide to work on that tutorial and/or project due that evening. Go to the library and/or the lab before you know the evening will be done and tomorrow will be back to normal :).

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and happy valentines day to all readers who will be celebratings!

XxKenaya

P.S: All the gifs were taken from www.giphy.com

 

The untold story of the (immigrant) security guard… Part 2

Hi ASA fam

Today’s post is a follow-up from my previous post about security guards based on some of the comments I often hear (here). I decided to share the stories of five security guards who were/are students and decided to overcome the odds under challenging circumstances.

Alpha

Currently working as a security guard for a church. He comes from one of the best public schools in Kinshasa and was top of his class in Maths. Alpha approached me as he wanted to study but was unable to access online lessons without a laptop (which he received from a generous soul!). Through a combination of various support, he enrolled with Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), and later decided that studying via correspondence through the University of South Africa (UNISA) was a better option.  Especially because it allows him to keep his day job as a security guard. He is now in his 2nd year of a BSc in Maths (after passing his first year with flying colours).

Charlie

I met him as he used to work for a car dealership close to our flat. He came from the DRC, had worked as a volunteer for one of the UN agencies and saved up the money for his tertiary studies. Based on our conversations, he came from a middle-upper income family back home, and was staying with his uncle to save up on rent. His uncle encouraged him to work as a security guard as he would need additional income and could save up. He had decided to enrol for a degree in Economics with a private university Varisty College (after a year). I advised him to rather apply for CPUT and/or a university as their fees were a fraction of what private universities charged. We lost touch when I stopped seeing by…I imagine that he started school and changed jobs and/or decided to focus on studying.

Cedric

I met him through our department on campus. He was a masters student and I was still undergraduate studies. We were not close, so I heard about his story through a common friend. He had studied metallurgy back home and came as a refugee (with his wife) to get his masters. Without much funds to sustain themselves, he decided to work as a security guard until he finally managed to secure his masters’ admission into University of Cape Town (UCT) without a scholarship. He used to come to campus during the day and work as a guard at night for a few months until his supervisor helped him secure a scholarship. I lost touch with him, when he secured a job with one of the biggest mining companies in South Africa (to support their DRC operations).

The Dr

He used to work at a grocery store (Spar) close to my place. He was probably in his late 40s and/or early 50s, I later discovered that he was my friend’s uncle. He was a registered Phd student in Humanities at UCT. He completed his Phd two years later, and I lost touch with him when I stopped seeing him. I assume that he changed jobs shortly thereafter.

Eric

He used to work for our church before. He was quiet and I did not know him personally other than the odd greetings and encounter at one/two Congolese gatherings. He was studying engineering via UNISA and returned back home once he secured a good job with one of the big mining companies in the DRCongo.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I wrote this mainly to celebrate these brave humans, who decided to study under very challenging circumstances. But most importantly to inspire those who might look at their current financial situation as a dead end. Be inspired, be brave & courageous. If they overcame the odds, you too can.

XxKenaya

P.S: Please note that names have been changed to respect their privacy

 

Money mistakes to avoid as a foreign student…Part 2

Hi ASA fam

I hope you had an awesome week. Today’s post is a follow-up from my previous post about money mistakes (here) to avoid as a student abroad based on my own experience. See another list below:

Not take enough advantage of the exchange rate

This is probably going to be relevant for ALL foreign students (esp. the African ones).Most parents (and/or scholarships) would give you money in USD and/or Euros. Moreover, because the money transaction fees are so high in Africa, we tended to receive money in bulk i.e. for 12, 6, 3 months. In South Africa over the 10 years as a student, the exchange rate from USD to Rand went from 7-14 at various times. Can you imagine what it could have done for our pocket money if we exploited it well? *inserthappydance* Ma double, double oh!…like the Uche song…lol!

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Not look around for the best bank deal for student accounts

In line with the above, there are multiple options in terms of potential interest you can accumulate while the lump sum money is locked up in an account.When I left Congo in 2003, 1% of the population had a bank account (I was not one of them) so all this admin was just overwhelmingly foreign to me (this has now increased to 10% I believe). I was just happy with the first bank that agreed to open a student without too much hassle (visa verification, proof of accommodation, proof of fund, etc.).

giphy (17)

Watch out more closely for those transaction/transfer fees

It is a fact that Africans generally pay the highest transaction fees (here)! This is a balancing act you need to master with your sponsor (i.e. parents, uncle and/or scholarship). My parents resorted to using MoneyGram for the first 4-5 years as Western Union had closed shop when we arrived in South Africa (which had an average fee of $70-100/$1000 sent).

Bank transfer fees

Luckily, this changed when my parents opened a local bank account which enabled them to transfer money to us and almost halved those costs per transactions. My point is, do your research & do not be afraid to try something better. I believe fintech has completely disrupted the banking industry, and Maxicash now offers the cheapest rates for the Congolese diaspora in South Africa. Read more about what I wrote on Maxicash, here. There are similar services in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, etc.

Not buy the flat/apartment we lived in

15 years ago, foreign nationals could apply for 100% of a home loan in South Africa (this is no longer the case). I/We was not aware of this…We (read about living with my brothers, here) stayed in that flat for 9 good years & genuinely believe that if I had mentioned it to my parents in time, they would have been interested…esp. since we had to pay rent for it anyways…by now we would be well into half of the bond repayment…Oh well 🙁 !

giphy (19)

Not work on a side hustle and waste my holidays away

I had a few odd jobs mainly for financing my nights out &  my #shopaholism…lol! I regret not looking for the opportunity to build something and/or make a constant & sustainable income stream as a student (they say that the average millionaire has 7 streams of income).

giphy (21)

Not look hard enough for scholarships

I made the Dean’s List in my first year (hoping I would secure a scholarship) but it giphy (20)was only applicable to South African nationals. I somehow got discouraged along the way and stopped looking. I should not have limited my search to South Africa and kept applying for international scholarships supporting African women in Science. I found these websites very helpful Opportunities for Africans and Afterschool Africa. Also, check out this list of scholarships for African students I came across on Wendy Luhabe’s blog.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from you…wrt to any other money mistakes you made and what you learnt from them. Wishing you a financially savvy & bright future 🙂

XxKenaya

Other useful articles

  • 5 worst money mistakes you can in college by Forbes Magazine (here)
  • Top ten student money mistakes by BankMobile Vibe (here)
  • Top 5 money mistakes you should avoid in college by Money Crashers (here)

Money mistakes to avoid as a foreign student…Part 1

Hey y’all

As we are starting week 3 of 2018, I thought I would reflect on the money mistakes I made as a foreign student. I hope this helps anyone who’s recently relocated to start their studies and/or looking at managing their finances better this year.

Continue living as a Congolese in South Africa

Living like a congolese

Congolese (my beautiful people) care FAR TOO MUCH about their appearance and often spend a lot of what they have (or do not have) on their looks: I did the same i.e. living la vida loca… on a shoestring budget. My favourite cash burners were make-up & clothes: Almost every night out had its own outfit, how silly & unnecessary! No one really cared in varsity esp. from first to third year when everyone is just trying to survive really. If you study in France, this might be different as the French are known to be very chic (always)!

giphy (27)South Africans, on the other hand, are VERY casual (sometimes even too much) and you can get away with wearing literally anything,lol! I did two things to address this: (i) stopped chasing brands (and/or their fake overpriced version)…Mr Price and some factory shops became my go to.  (ii) I decided some (very seasonal) fashion items would just skip me…lol!

Not save

I would link this to my upbringing (a little). Back home, there was always a kind uncle/aunt around keen to throw some money if pocket money was tight especially if you were a good child (which I obviously was, duh…lol!). So…many of us grew up thinking that saving as a teen/student is almost unnecessary as a result.  I almost NEVER had any cents left for the first 4 years in South Africa: I spent EVERYTHING (& more sometimes). This changed when I met my friends (read more about what I learnt from them, here). However small, I wished I had given myself the discipline to save (even if it was R100-R200/month, ~$10-20/month).

Save the money

Budget well (or lack thereof)

It is safe to say that budgeting was not really part of my monthly to-do list (which is not too surprising based on the above). This is a must: draft one & do your level best to stick to it. If it does not work, then adjust it. There are now all sorts of apps, that can help you track your spend which would simplify your life. You will need it later in life for sure 🙂

Budget

 

Pay for friends when out

This is not a mistake I made. As a girl, I got more free drinks and meals than I could ever afford…lol! I added this for my African brothers who are often the victims of this. Back home, when you invite peoplegiphy (8) (especially as a man)…It is expected that “thou shall cover the bill”…ALL of it! I understand this is also the case in Nigeria, Angola and other parts of West Africa. However, this is not the case in most Western countries including South Africa, Southern & Eastern Africa except maybe for special occasions (e.g. a date, sponsored graduation dinners-thanks to them folks,etc.) as sharing the bill is the norm. It is perfectly normal for everyone to cover the costs of their food/drinks + proportional tip. My word to guys is: Drop that habit like a hot potato and save yourself from financial ruin…Lol!

Not ask the locals for good deals

giphy (25)

Again, this is something we are probably all guilty of. We ask our countrymen/women for their experience adjusting to a new country rather than the locals themselves as they know best. This will be very handy for extending your pocket moolah i.e. access to specials/restaurants/cool bars/coupons, finding factory shops, grocery shops which sell in bulk, etc.

I hope you find this helpful…do watch out for Part 2 of this article next week 🙂

XxKenaya

Other useful articles

  • 5 worst money mistakes you can make in college by Forbes Magazine (here)
  • Top ten student money mistakes by BankMobile Vibe (here)
  • Top 5 money mistakes you should avoid in college by Money Crashers (here)

P.S: All the gifs were taken from GIPHY.COM

 

 

What 2017 taught me

Hi Asa fam!

Happy & blessed 2018 everyone! I hope you had a wonderful festive season and used it to catch up with family and/or loved ones (whether you could travel back home or not. I know the struggle can be extra real for students abroad). I thought a reflection on 2017 would be appropriate as the very first post of the year. Find out what I wrote about 2014 (here) and 2016 (here).

new years eve 2017

My faith: Cornerstone of my strength

This remains something that needs LOADS of work on my side…but I can safely say that my faith in God took me through our most difficult times last year as a family (multiple sicknesses & deaths, feuds, accidents, heartbreak to name a few, etc).

Appreciate & value my loved ones

Also, work in progress as I am not great at making times for loved ones.  Moving cities helped me re-connect with a few friends from home as well as many of my cousins. I went through some drama towards the end of the year, and I was a mess emotionally-my loved ones took over & saved the day. I remain SO grateful for my friends and family & promise myself to do better at letting them know so as life is indeed short (#YOLO).

Make that jump & take a leap of faith

After various (very anxious) talks with a few close friends (sending mad love to y’all as you know who you are), I moved cities and started a new job in 2017. The move remains a journey of personal growth for me with its ups and down, but one I do not necessarily regret making.

To go fast go alone, but to go far go together

Not sure about the rest of you, but I prefer going far over going fast :). Probably the most important lesson of last year from work.

Invest in yourself

I am that weird & extra friend with access to all sorts of self-help books, podcasts, articles around…lol! Having a routine that involved feeding my soul kept me sane, positive & motivated when I felt down. I intend to keep doing so :).

Goals: a long & windy road, commit to starting and starting all over again

The blog is not where I would like it to be….but I am to blame here mostly. I would like to express my gratitude to you ASA fam for not giving up on me despite my inconsistency: you guys rock! I got loads in store for 2018 and am excited about this journey with you.

Thank you for support

Based on the stats, you guys are mainly based in South Africa (<3), Nigeria, India, USA, Canada, France, China, Spain, Netherlands and Germany. Here’s to growing us even more in 2018 🙂

 

#Fitfam aspirations: consistency is key!

I have been overweight all my life with LOADS of fad/quick diets in between (and even became slightly anorexic in my teens at some point). I decided to commit to fitness for the rest of my life (to the best of my ability and) rather than just because of a weightloss goal. The gym was just working too well for me, so I cancelled my membership. Adventure Bootcamps has been great help to keep me motivated as it is a group of women with a number of outdoors classes. You can also read more about completing my very first goal for 2017 (*insert happy dance) i.e. running my first 21km, here.

Living alone: it is pretty awesome!

Read more about the previous post I wrote on this (here)

The D word: the struggle remains real…lol!

I ditched the men bashing a while back (as I am far from perfect myself) and watched out for it in 2017 more closely: Despite all the bad people and things around us, good men still exist, period! I remain a hopeless romantic (but an impatient one as well…). Still loads to learn :). Read more about what I learnt in my students years (here).

After watching Patricia Bright‘s reflection on 2017 (here), I decided to add these two [thank you Patricia :)!]

Mental health matters

This is a hard one: We lost someone in my close circle (may their soul RIP and family be comforted). It was a hard & heartbreaking wake-up call for me as not enough attention is given to this in the African community. Let’s be our brothers/sisters’ keepers & where required, support seeking professional help.

Walking away is okay

I let go of a few people throughout the year for various reasons. The one I remember most is when I decided to officially “break up” with a girlfriend after some hard thinking. We had lived apart for many years after varsity but remained in touch. I realised we grew apart: were in completely different spaces mentally, had a different outlook on life and our conversations were often very negative. I had to take action and wished her well which was unheard of for me (those closest to me know why). In Patricia’s own words, “Delete. Block” when it comes to negativity.

Wishing you all a fantabulous 2018, may all that you wish to achieve, your hopes/dreams come true and more.

XxKenaya

 

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