The first member of her family to go to college, Blessing Havana has been a sponsor and an R.A., a liaison in the philosophy, politics and economics program and a member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She spent a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh and was an intern at the relief agency World Vision International, as part of the Pomona College Internship Program. Four years after arriving at Pomona, accompanied by her host family, she celebrated her graduation this spring with her mother and one of her brothers. She is waiting to hear from law schools and hopes to work in international law or with international organizations on policies that will help African countries.
Realizing a dream
I always wanted to study in the U.S. It was kind of a dream, but people used to laugh at me and say that’s not going to happen. Then in my final year of high school, I heard about this program called the United States Student Achievers that is through the U.S. Embassy in Harare. They helped us apply and select schools and study for the SATs, which I’d never heard of. I applied to four schools and got into Pomona.
A family away from home
A huge factor in feeling like I was part of Pomona was my sponsor group in Mudd-Blaisdell Hall. The first person I met was my sponsor, Nellie, an international student from Ghana. I don’t think I could have made it through my first year without her. She helped guide me, academically and socially. The next year I just moved across the hallway and became a sponsor. It was a great experience, getting to share what I had learned in my freshman year. Most of my sponsees were Americans, so they didn’t have the same problems I’d had, but as freshmen, they still needed to adjust. Seven or eight of them went on to become sponsors as well. I guess I did a not so bad job.
My “think tanks”
I made some really good friends when I studied abroad in Edinburgh and got to take a class in international law, which confirmed what I want to do. It also made me see the value of Pomona in a way that some people who don’t go abroad don’t see: my friends, the close-knit community. I also missed my professors—I call them my “think tanks.” I’ve learned so much from such great people, inside and outside the classroom, things like the importance of finding something you’re passionate about, about the value of family and being able to juggle that with a career. It’s helped me realize, hey, I can do anything.
One big thing I learned at Pomona
I’ve really learned to look deeper into issues. In high school I was taught to read and analyze and try to see where the author is coming from, but I wasn’t taught to critique the author, to see the faults or to think that the writer might have been wrong. Learning to do that is a skill that will help me in life. Even when I’m reading the newspaper, I’m thinking: What are your assumptions? What arguments are you making? Are they convincing? What is the other side of the story? It’s one of the problems we have in my culture; that the leader is always right, the parent is always right. We’re not taught to question or look deeper. That’s one thing, one big thing that Pomona has taught me to do.
Help from a stranger
It’s amazing, when I think of myself at a school like Pomona. I am the last child in my family of seven, the first in my family, in my clan, to go to college and the first to go to school outside Zimbabwe. And it’s a really big deal. My dad died when I was 3, so it’s my mom and brothers who have been supporting me. There is no way they could have afforded Pomona, or even the University of Zimbabwe. It’s been a big blessing to have somebody who doesn’t even know me believe in me so much to invest in my education, and not only in my education, but in my family and my country. What would I say to the donors? Oh my gosh, I could not begin to thank them enough.