Daniel Kibuuka

International Student Services staff welcome Daniel Kibuuka to Pepperdine University.

International Student Services staff welcome Daniel Kibuuka to Pepperdine University.

Never Give Up!

“Never give up!” is one of the most common sayings I’ve heard and has eventually turned out to be one of, if not the, most instrumental sentence my ears have heard, as it has remarkably changed my life. I grew up seeing many of my colleagues fall short of tuition, and drop out of school almost every month, something that increasingly made me expect my turn of exiting school to be coming soon. I didn’t have any hope beyond high school, and had almost given up on myself.

It was not until Ashinaga Uganda, a mainly Japanese-funded non-government organization that provides emotional and educational support to orphans, stretched its helpful hand toward me that I felt some relief and regained sight of the possibility to constructively affect my community. Emotionally, Ashinaga through its counselors continuously encouraged me, alongside many other orphans that were undergoing similar conditions, to never give up, and that we had successful lives ahead of us, something that increasingly made me feel more composed than ever. Then academically, they provided me with school materials, and also covered a significantly huge proportion of my tuition. This made me feel reborn! As if that was not great enough, they introduced the overseas education program that saw the most outstanding academic performers in the national exams who in addition to this had promising qualities of future leadership taken to Japan for college after high school in Uganda. This program did not only provide me with role models to look up to in the form of students who went abroad, but also made me realize I could go to college if I worked hard like they all had relentlessly done.

As I couldn’t afford university in Uganda, Ashinaga’s highly demanding overseas college program was the only realistically possible option for me. While aiming at high grades to qualify for this program, I spent an average 11 hours in class from Monday to Friday, and on some Saturdays. I sacrificed most of my free and fun time for this opportunity to go to college. Eventually, when my name featured in the New Vision, a daily newspaper in Uganda, as one of the country’s highest performers of 2012, I knew I could qualify for the scholarship at Ashinaga, and I was right.

“It was not until Ashinaga Uganda, a mainly Japanese-funded non-government organization that provides emotional and educational support to orphans, stretched its helpful hand toward me that I felt some relief and regained sight of the possibility to constructively affect my community.”

Fortunately, at this time, Ashinaga had decided to diversify the overseas program by having students apply to U.S. universities, and that I was among the next year’s applicants to the U.S. Can you imagine? This to me sounded analogous to hitting the sun instead of the moon I had been aiming at. Since it was already May 2013, I had to wait for the fall applications in August to apply to U.S. schools. In pain, but with hope, I waited and applied to these highly competitive universities whose admission rates were discouragingly too low! Even though all the ten schools I applied to seemed equally great in most aspects, I preferred Pepperdine University, and kept waiting for its admission decision even after some schools had accepted me. The good news, probably one of the best news I ever had, reached me at 10:36 p.m. on April 24, 2014, that Pepperdine had accepted me! I couldn’t wait to get to Malibu.

The academic system and campus life here, which is extremely different from that back home, has increasingly affected me. First, since the average class size here is 19, and most of my classes don’t consist of one-sided lectures but involve actively participating in conversations with my professors and classmates, I’ve easily made professional relationships with professors and students both inside and outside of the classroom that have increasingly made me feel at home. I’ve already had lunch with a couple of professors and non-teaching staff and have also been to their homes for dinner, movies and sometimes spent my holidays with their amazing families. In addition to this, the opportunity to work in the Office of International Student Services has also enabled me to serve students and parents from almost everywhere in the world. I also interact with and learn from a very committed family of staff in this office, and from the people we serve. In addition, I have the chance to help international students the way I was assisted when applying to Pepperdine. Finally, our extremely beautiful, and highly spiritual campus here in Malibu is of course an amazing place that makes me feel blessed to be here.

My overall experience at school here has made me feel not only appreciated and respected, but also strengthened for a life of purpose, service and leadership, every day that passes.

Unlike before, I now strongly believe that by the time I earn my degree in integrated marketing communications, my major, I’ll be well prepared to not only live a self-sustaining life, but also to participate in campaigns and projects that will help reduce unemployment among youths in my country. This all I could never reach if I gave up. Thanks, Ashinaga!