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I am Smith

Hilda Nalwanga ’18

Kampala, Uganda
Government major; African studies minor

 

I came to Smith expecting to major in economics, but one of my friends suggested a class in the government department with professor Greg White, and it was wonderful. After I took a second government class, which was also wonderful, I knew I had to rethink my major. I was afraid my mother would be disappointed, but she was okay with my decision. She wants me to do what I love.

This past summer, I participated in the Global Engagement Seminar in Nairobi with 10 other Smith students and professors. We met local female activists, politicians and leaders. Imagine my happiness when one of the women at the conference turned out to be a Smith alumna, Wambui Mwangi ’90, whose mother is Ng’endo Mwangi ’61—also an alumna and the first woman physician in Kenya. It was exhilarating! Truly, Smithies run the world! Afterwards, I interviewed women entrepreneurs in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, and set up a blog chronicling their efforts. I would not have been able to go if I had not received financial aid from Smith. I used my Praxis internship money, and Smith covered everything else.

“What I am learning here goes far beyond academics. I realize how thirsty I was for this experience.”

I am definitely out of my comfort zone at Smith, but that is okay. I am more comfortable being myself. What has surprised me most here is the relationship between students and professors. My professors encourage me to speak up, to participate in conversations in class. Now I also feel free to go to their offices to chat. They have become my friends and allies. My opinions matter to them. What I am learning here goes far beyond academics. I realize how thirsty I was for this experience.