Joseph Ssengendo


Trying to Stand Out.

What seemed as a mere daydream turned into reality. While immersed in happiness, I did not know that I still had a long way to go. Not familiar with the education system of the USA, I embarked on intense SAT classes. Eight hours five days a week and weekly tests were a part of preparing me. At this time everything already had started changing. It was an open, challenging opportunity ahead of me. I had to apply to, at best, 100 universities out of 4,140…

Unlike many American students who do a couple of SAT exams and pick the best, I was restricted to a few because of the time. I had to follow up on everything myself, while Ashinaga provided financial support and guidance where needed. I could not ask my mum but rather Ashinaga student interns from America, who helped me a lot. It was a life-challenging period in which I learnt that every challenge comes with rewards. I was admitted to Villanova University College of Engineering and right now am pursuing my student career in mechanical engineering.

“I could not ask my mum but rather Ashinaga student interns from America, who helped me a lot. It was a life-challenging period in which I learnt that every challenge comes with rewards.”

Thinking about leaving all your family back home is depressing, but staying in the country you are unfamiliar with is traumatizing – getting used to weather, food, new people and leaving, while knowing any mistake can get you deported back. Thanks, Ashinaga, for supporting my precollege course which initiated me to new life in college.…

It was a new life – a life where I had to change classroom each time the lesson ends, unlike in Uganda, where I sat in same class and in the same seat throughout the whole year. It was all a new situation. Of course coming from Uganda made me feel unique. I had to say it every time I introduced myself. It is the way people here start conversations. “Where you from?” they always asked. I always answered.

From the first day I came to University, I really felt that the school is very good. I could not imagine how my four years would be, thinking that I would spend four years here with new friends. Most of them come from nearby states and they were chatting happily. I felt isolated. I hate that kind of feeling, I had to make new friends, therefore I said hello to them! To my surprise, they were very friendly to me and warm-hearted. Making good friends has been challenging – introducing yourself to many people whose names you cannot recall the next morning. It was weird to ask someone his name again. This has now become the past – a story I will keep on telling, seeing myself transforming and adapting to everything.

I have grown both intellectually and academically; I owe much of that to the caring and intelligent faculty of Villanova, my friends, family and Ashinaga. I feel very fortunate to gain my first experience in higher education in the United States with professors who are not only teachers, but also role models and advisers – all in a community that feels like a family. Engineering is not easy. I have been taking five classes in engineering and two in liberal arts. Sometime I find myself in some of those long, seemingly endless nights of studying and writing, but it has become natural for me. These down periods will pass, and I have a relaxed week.

I can safely say that dorm life is by far the most rewarding part of college outside the classroom. Living under the same roof with so many different types of people truly allows an individual to see the world with a whole new perspective. It is exciting when someone offers you cookies her mum baked or when you do movie night. It has made me feel at home.