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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Adult-studenting!


One of the biggest challenges I face as an entrepreneur, Mom, Wife, devoted friend and now ‘temporary student in the USA’ is staying on top of everything. The 6-hour time difference is also not helping matters much. I joked to one of the other Mandela fellows the other day that, I’m burning myself out trying to operate in two time zones simultaneously. I find that I am responding to emails, trying make sure I’m present in class, organizing group work projects, keeping in touch with the family, and of course attempting at times even to avoid getting distracted by social media.



So here's the update; It is the beginning of the third week of the Mandela Washington programme and I genuinely cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by. I was hoping to have time to blog daily, but alas... 24 hours a day is just not enough to get it all done right now. I have been playing catch up since I got here.  And I must add, getting used to this 'American style' University experience has been quite something in itself. Add living in *very* close proximity to a whole group of people who are also going through similar stuff to you, and you have yourself an interesting concoction. 

My days usually start with me rolling out of my single bed. Which is by the way, the highest bed I have ever, ever had to sleep in. If you are familiar with my height limitations, you will understand my dilemma. πŸ’†Then its a brisk shower to power me up for the day. I have been surprisingly good with taking my effervescent Vitamins everyday here (note, this does not happen back home). Plan an outfit, realise it has not been ironed (eek!). So change outfit and be ready to head down to the Business Centre with one of my favs on the programme, a stunning young woman from Tanzania. That's a post for another day. Our daily routine involves hiting Starbucks every week day because if you get there before 8h30, you get free coffee. Don't judge, I'm on a student budget so this is super!

Our classes cover a myriad of topics related to business leadership, social entrepreneurship, personal management and the likes. These have been great, and it already feels like I have attended a full semester of courses in just two packed weeks. Meaning of course that after a full day of sessions that include project teams where we are actually consulting on a real business case, I am FINISHED!

Administration-wise, Lehigh University is doing the most! Their systems run well, they are organised and they even went as far as to buy basic toiletries, baskets and laundry detergent for every single one of us on our arrival, possibly thinking that we may have forgotten to pack stuff in our rush to get ready. 
(I think it was probably more for the men whose wives didn't pack for them.) πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

We also have a card pre-loaded with moolah to be used only for food, laundry and pharmacy purchases. And like real little students, they made sure that we cannot swipe for alcohol on these cards!!! tltltltltl! Probably a good idea, some of us would have starved for the rest of the 6 weeks we are here. 

And lastly, our evenings are filled with nights where most of us are furiously typing away at our laptops trying to meet deadlines, or catch up with 'home'. And of course, I would be remiss not to mention the fair amount of "American Pie"-style partying (i.e. beer pong, shooters, all night dancing, twerk contests and salsa lessons all rolled into one- quite a feat!) that has been going on in the dorms next to ours. We do on occasion partake in these festivities- very often to some really unfortunate side-effects the next day. Lets just say, age is a factor here. I don't know how I did all that partying in my undergraduate days, while still somehow managing to get a Degree. 

'nuf yack yacking, I have a presentation due. Thanks for keeping me company while I procrastinated! 

Laters πŸ’‹

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ready or not...Mandela Washington!

What an absolute roller coaster of emotions this entire experience has been so far. I have been asked two questions about the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders repeatedly; What made you apply? and How do you feel now that you got in? Eek!! right?

To hazard an answer to the first question, I'll simply say, it was something of a dare to myself. You see, last year was one of the most testing years of my life. It tested my inner resolve to the point where I didn't know whether to stay on the path that I was on, or whether I should just give up completely and go back to that which was more comfortable (thankfully, I ignored the later). 


As life would have it, last year's challenges made me more determined than ever to just throw caution to the wind and do this year (2017) completely differently. This started with guarding my thoughts. I had to learn to listen to my inner voice, and at times, ignore it completely. So to come back to the question I was asked. Why did I apply? I did it because my inner voice asked me matter factly, why I find it easier to believe in other people's talents and abilities, but I almost always never reciprocate the same belief in myself? The result of this internal dialogue was me putting myself in one of the most uncomfortable positions known to man; in a  position to be rejected! 


And just like Shonda Rhime's says in her book, Year Of Yes,
"Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it."
I did it and look I made it!!!


"Dear Mandela Washington Fellowship Finalist
It gives us great pleasure to confirm that you have been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship.


As I embrace on this life- changing journey, I look forward to emerging from this programme and my trip to the US, empowered, enlightened and equipped to truly 'step into my own sun'

We regret more the things we don't do, than the things we do. 


Ready...or not- Here I am! 



(There I am in the front row, grinning from ear to ear)


Sunday, 22 January 2017

A letter to my younger self.



Nobody wants you to know how great you can be. It's not their job. Nobody is going to give you more than they can get from you for themselves.

Remember too that your parents are not perfect people, they too were young once, struggling with some of the issues that you yourself have.

Nobody told your Mom when she was a young girl much like you, that she was powerful, worthy and beautiful. So today, she may not even know how to say it to you.
It's up to you to learn it for yourself.

Know who you are. Tap into your own power source, so that the world doesn't shake you, as it shoves you from pillar to post, telling you who it thinks you are or who you should be.

Search for your passion, and know early on what things fill you with trepidation and what things excite you. It's these things that you should pursue.

Surround yourself with people who edify you, build you up and who are not afraid to be honest with you. But only for your own good.

Beautiful, brown skinned girl, forget the expectations that people have of you- and focus on how you can make your own dreams come true. That's not to say you should selfishly push your way through life- it merely means that you cannot know where in the world you fit in, until you truly know who you are, where you come from and where you want to go.

And dear child, you will not know what you have been called to do in this life, until you actually set out to discover this for yourself.

Most importantly, beautiful, brown-skinned girl, nobody should know something about you that you don't already know about yourself. And be careful of those who speak over your life. This should only ever be done in agreement with you, otherwise you run the risk of people always keeping you where they are most comfortable with you staying.

Lastly, take nothing for granted. Good and bad, life is always teaching us lessons.
Listen. Breathe. Live!

You are loved.