International Student's Experiences Bring Her Influence Back Home
by Ellie Walburg (B.S. ’17)
After learning and living in the United States for eight years, PGS graduate Kalizya Nseluka (M.A. ’19) is ready to return home to Zambia, equipped with the experiences for positive influence.
Nseluka completed her last class for the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program on Oct. 23. In December, she anticipates returning to her home in Zambia to use the resources and knowledge she's gained to bring about positive change in her community.
Her journey to reaching her graduate education began in 2012 when her parents helped support her along from Zambia to attend school in Michigan. After earning her associate degree and bachelor's in international relations, she knew she wanted to keep moving forward with her education.
"As an international student, contact with the admissions team is the most important deciding factor in moving forward when deciding on a school," Nseluka said. "The rapport that the admissions team establishes gives you a sense of being sure of the financial investment you're about to make and of being wanted in that community of scholars."
Her experience in Grand Rapids is something she had never anticipated when she first left home. "I had no idea that in these eight years, I would meet some of the most authentic people I have ever come across, and meet people from different corners of the world," she said. "I have met some of the brightest and down-to-earth people and most importantly, I have found my true authentic self."
After almost two years of advancing her education with the support of staff and learning from her peers and experienced instructors, Nseluka is eager to bring what she's gained through her educational journey back home.
"One of the major ways to help developing countries is to avoid brain drain," she said, or to encourage reinvesting the knowledge and skills gained back into their own community. "In Africa, we have everything we need. Whatever is lacking, we have the means to acquire if we can mobilize the right mindsets and capitalize on the skills and talents."
By returning and reinvesting her skills to improve the situation for her community, she simultaneously fulfills the calling she's felt God has placed on her life.
Despite being anxious about returning home, she's excited for future opportunities. "This is symbolic for a new beginning in my life," she said. "However, I believe that the call of God is progressive. He will mature you into the fullness of His plan."
After eight years of living in the United States, Nseluka looks forward to seeing her opportunities grow as she moves back home. "I must go back to where I started for me to propel forward. I am not going back the same person when I came to this country by myself at the age of 17," she said. "I have morphed into everything my parents hoped and prayed for me as they decided to send me across the world to pursue what they never could. They believed in me then, and they even more so believe in me now."
As returning to Grand Rapids for commencement in May 2020 was not an available opportunity for her, Nseluka celebrated the completion of her program in her own, unique way.
With the support from some PGS staff members, Nseluka staged her graduation ceremony as she dressed in her long black gown and angled cap with the tassel hanging on the left side. Her staged celebration included taking professional photos as she posed with her diploma folder.
In addition to being a launching point for future opportunities, graduating and possessing her cap and gown is a recognition of accomplishment and launching point for the next step in her career and influence.
"Having my cap and gown solidifies the deal and makes it real," she said. "It symbolizes the resilience, the financial struggles, the determination, the completion and the faithfulness of God."
As Nseluka moves on to this next stage in her story, she can rest in the confidence and support she's experienced that can inspire her to be a positive influence at home.