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Language Training Offers African Student First Step Toward Big Dreams

alexandre nduwimana

ALEXANDRE NDUWIMANA, 26, traveled half way across the world, coming to UT from East Africa to study English and pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. Alexandre chose UT because of the initial support he received from the staff at the UT International Office (IO).

This spring, Alexandre completed English as a Second Language (ESL) class at the IO. He is now completing some prerequisite courses at another local college and plans to transfer to UT in the near future. After completing his degree in biomedical engineering, Alexandre plans to return to Africa and improve the agricultural health of his home country, Burundi, by helping to build the nation’s capacity for feeding its citizens. Here, he shares his thoughts on learning a new language and a new culture during his time in Austin.


Why did you choose to come so far from your home in Burundi to the The University of Texas?

The International Office staff was so helpful. They quickly replied to my emails, answering my questions and providing other helpful information I didn’t even know to ask about. That was the reason I chose UT over the other U.S. school I was considering.

Now, my focus is on helping my country. Burundi is considered a poor country, but it is rich in tradition – and our land can be a great source of help not only to our people, but also to the rest of the world. For example, researchers recently found a species of frog in Burundi that was thought to be extinct. I want to help find new ways to help grow nutritious food that can feed our communities. This will allow our people to live off the land in Burundi, just like that frog.


This Spring, you completed ESL classes offered through the UT International Office while also adapting to living in the U.S. What has that experience been like?

I have realized that in learning English, I am not only learning a language, I am learning a culture. My ESL classes helped me learn the language – and immersing myself in the local community has taught me the meaning behind the language. One example is advertising - I have been interested in how much advertising communicates about the culture here – it is everywhere! Everyone wants you to “Like us on Facebook!”

The internet is an amazing resource. It has all the research you could ever need – more than I realized before coming to UT. Unlike America, schools in Burundi don’t always recognize computers as a necessary tool in education. Also, many people in Burundi do not promote computer usage. We have a very traditional culture, and some people feel computers can carry us away from our traditions. I appreciate how much computers have to offer, though.


What do you want to do after you have your degree in biomedical engineering?

I want to return to Burundi. I feel they need me, there are many opportunities there. Finding new ways to grow nutritious foods and making them available to the people of Burundi is what I want to do.  I am doing this for my country.


Story by Angie Pastorek

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