My Story: Traveling to the US for College in the Midst of the Pandemic

My name is Delvin Takudzwa Marimo. I come from a small town called Chitungwiza in Zimbabwe. I am part of Ashinaga USA’s newest cohort currently studying in the United States.

Growing up in Chitungwiza, a marginalized town with a notorious reputation due to its lack of resources and perilous state shaped my educational interests and career aspirations. Losing my mother when I was only a child and witnessing my friends and relatives succumb to diseases like cholera and typhoid over the years was a catalyst for my calling. I want to advocate for the marginalized and provide resources for my community.

I was in Zimbabwe when the pandemic started, I had my college acceptance and was excited about starting the next chapter of my life in the US when things started to become unclear. During the height of the pandemic, Zimbabwe, like many countries, was on lockdown; there was no movement, no work, and worst for me, the US embassy closed. After a while, when the US embassy reopened but only for a week in order to process visa applications, I hurried and did everything possible to gather all of the necessary paperwork such as transcripts and sponsorship letters from Ashinaga USA. And since there was no traveling allowed in Zimbabwe during this time, I had to get a letter of clearance from the US embassy to present at police road blocks.

With the grace of God, everything worked out for me. My visa was processed on time for me to travel to the US to start my academic journey, and I was lucky to get a seat in the only flight traveling to and from Zimbabwe at the time. And it is when I boarded the airplane that I realized the seriousness of the pandemic outside of my home country. We were required to wear masks and sanitize our hands. The entire plane was sanitized. I was leaving a country with 10 reported pandemic related deaths to a country with millions of cases and thousands of deaths. I was scared and so was my family and friends. I was offered a chance to defer my semester by my college but I chose to fly.

In Fall 2020, I started my studies at Union College in Schenectady, New York where I plan to pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

When I arrived in the US, I was required to go through quarantine for 14 days. I was in a new environment and being secluded in a room by myself made it worse. It was my first time not being able to go outside for such a long time. I had mixed emotions because I could not wait to start meeting new people but on the other hand I became increasingly anxious about contracting the virus. But I was lucky to have peers from the AAI program in the US who I could talk to over the internet and phone. Their experiences helped me realize that I was not alone and is going to be okay. On the bright side, quarantine gave me all of the time to learn about the US culture. I was especially intrigued about the Black Lives Matter movement as it was making waves and I managed to watch almost all of the episodes of the Daily Show by Trevor Noah. This prepared me to easily fit in my new culture once things started getting back to normal bit by bit.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Union College for staying in contact with me throughout the process; from filling out forms to secure my enrollment, to helping me prep for my visa interview and the many informative webinars on COVID-19 to ensure that I am equipped with the knowledge to stay safe and healthy. For the two weeks I was in quarantine when I arrived in the US, the school supported me with everything from hotel accommodation, stipend for food, COVID-19 testing, transportation and more.