Maybe it is expected of me to acknowledge that the going was not easy. This journey has reinforced in me the belief that the things that are worth it in life never come easy. Maybe it is expected of me to express how thankful I am. Words or actions will never be enough to express how happy and grateful I am for such an opportunity. Maybe it is expected of me to admit that I am scared of what lies ahead. All I can think is “Bring it on!”
As I reflect on the year 2016, I do not know how I was able to juggle ZIMSEC, Cambridge and the SATs while at the same time applying to college. Believing in myself had become a thing of the past before USAP, so I can safely say USAP changed my life way before I was accepted into Wellesley College. The program has opened up my mind to new ways of thinking and to the fact that the world is an endless sphere of possibilities.
My application journey did not begin at the August bootcamp when we were being advised how to tackle our applications; it began when I sat in a chair at the American Corner in Bulawayo amidst faces I had never seen before and talked about what I wanted, not what the world expected of me. That was the first time I gave myself a chance to imagine and express myself in a way I had thought did not show focus. I remember telling Amai Mano, Chenje, Noma and Bongi that I wanted to travel and learn about the way people live differently from each other. I’m glad to say this journey has been all that.
At the April meeting, I learned that you do not need to share blood with someone to call them your family. I met forty exceptional individuals whom I am sure I would never have met had I not gotten into USAP. Over time, they have challenged me to see the best in myself and rely on them for support, something which I was not used to. I had been conditioned to think that life is a competition and you have to do everything you possibly can to get ahead; 2016 changed that. I cannot bear to think that we have one collective meeting left and after that we will not be seeing each other as much. This USAP group has become family and that is the most important finding I will take away from this journey.
At our August bootcamp, I was challenged to go beyond my comfort zone and try new things. The “assault course”, as Chenje called it, was what summed up my application journey. I had never been on an obstacle course before August, and I did not complete it in the best time, but I took away a great deal of life lessons from it. The first one was never to give up no matter how disappointed, tired or dejected you feel because there is always a way to get to the end. The second lesson was that people are different: what works for one possibly will not work for the other. The third lesson was to find some time to do something that lets you cut loose and enjoy the moment.
My college application journey has not only been about the long nights studying, the tests, the deadlines or waiting for responses. It has been about meeting new people to call family, learning to believe in myself and pushing myself out my comfort zone. That to me is priceless and a million words would never be enough to express how it feels.
Nokukhanya Ncube is a member of the 2016-17 USAP Cohort. She attended John Tallach High School and will begin studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in August 2017.