… but I wouldn’t trade my life for any other right now.
Some days I just stop look around and remind myself where I am. Today was one of those days. I am sitting in a classroom with 34 Grade 11 students while they write the Pre-ACT. I am looking over the class, praying for each one of them, and thinking, “Wow! This is really my life! I am teaching in AFRICA!” After the exam, I am reminded why I am working in Africa and that in many ways my students are at a disadvantage when they think about University. “Miss one of the questions asked how many nickels and how many pennies equal… What are nickels?” “Miss the reading part was sooooooo much technical language and stuff we don’t understand because it is so American. It isn’t fair.” After school, helping a student fill in financial aid forms. Yes student, you need to show enough money in an account to pay for two years worth of school. No, Americans do not need to do that. No student, there are not loans available (not that I would encourage them if they were!). If you want to study anywhere, you need to have it all in cash. No student, most schools do not account for the fact that income levels are drastically less here in TZ. Yes, I know you are a good student and I want you to go to the right-fit school but we just need to find one you can afford anywhere in the world.
Helping my students in the university search, helping them think beyond their life at HOPAC is exciting for me, but also the most frustrating. “Miss, where do you think I should go?” Where I think you should go and where you can afford to go are two very different places. There are many schools with the “right name”, good academics, but not many that really know how to work well with international students. I am a firm believer that the university experience outside the classroom is just as formative as the experience in the classroom. Coming from a school of 300, how can we expect our students to thrive in a big school of 25,000? They survive. I do my best to prepare them, but is it the best experience they could be having? The hardest is when they truly desire to go to a Christian school. They want to grow in their faith and even possibly pursue ministry. Yes, many Christian schools provide scholarships but it might be one or two full ride scholarships or the student is still responsible for room and board which is still too expensive. Yes, I know we can’t always get what we want. Yes, I know many students all over the world can’t afford to get to go where they want to go to school. But when you have a student with straight A’s, a heart for ministry and they have been doing all the right things to get into a good university, it’s hard. They have a good shot of even getting into Ivey league schools, but I can’t even offer a good Christian university where they can start training for ministry. The student’s response? “We will just pray. God will show me where he wants me. If he wants me at a Christian school, he can make it happen.” Yes student he can and he does. It’s not easy to wait and trust, but God is faithful.
As of the end of January, the class of 2014 will all be in University (28), gap year programs (2), or internships (1). University applications for the class of 2015 are almost all submitted so now we just wait for the results. Conversations with the class of 2016 are just beginning, and interviews for the new additions to the class of 2017 will be starting soon. This time of year gets me excited. Gives me hope for the future of Tanzania. So many students who can see their part in the future of their country in big and little ways. This is why I wouldn’t trade my life here. I get to witness God moving in students and God preparing students for bright futures. It’s not easy… but it is absolutely amazing to be part of!