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Ouroboros? Probably not, but still...

This is a story of how a boy whom the world believed will be a medical doctor turned into a political enthusiast.

HOLD UP: This is a story about how a boy whom the world made believe he had to be a medical doctor turned into a political enthusiast!

Harvard Financial Aid may have been a big motivator for me to choose Harvard, but there was another very impoprtant reason. I was not sure if I truly wanted to continue my academic pursuit in science (I had been accepted to a technology institute) or combine my academics with my very social science related extracurriculars (I also another acceptance from a certain school in DC).

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Harvard presented me with the best of both worlds. Should I pursue science, I would still get a rigorous an education as I would as an economist or an anthropologist.

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I was President of a National-Championship-Winning Debate team, Founder and Chairman of the Entrepreneurship Community and Senator and Minister of State in the President’s Office for the Zimbabwe Youth Parliament during my final years in High School. This is where I had found a home for myself deliberating about issues that affected people on their day to day lives. Through debate, I had learned to think more critically and present convincing arguments. I had been involved in revising the Zimbabwe Youth Charter through the Zimbabwe Youth Council as well as presenting my views on the Constitution Making Process to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. These are the things that came naturally to me, this was my forte, and I was still doing it all just for fun.

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So I chose Harvard, and everyone was happy. To most, there had never been a choice to be made to begin with, Harvard was an obvious choice. To me however, I was the obvious choice, I needed to choose a school that best fitted my circumstances and ambitions.

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Freshman Fall came, Biomedical Engineering was, like most people thought Harvard would be, an obvious choice. A Life Sciences class, a Math class, a Genetic Engineering seminar and the required expository writing sounded like a pretty decent load, yet half way through the semester, Expository Writing was the lone class that I enjoyed. The three hours on Wednesday afternoons at Northwest Labs that I spent ‘building a cell one brick at a time’ were slowly turning into a nightmare. I remember walking to class one day after lunch and I got to lab fully covered in snow yet I had not even noticed that it was snowing. Turns out, that was supposed to my first experience of snow, and I had missed it. I loved Biology, I probably still do, but doing those labs was sucking the life out of me, I needed to find something that I copuld be truly excited about.

I brought the conversation up with my academic advisor, telling her about my confusion. I had had my life all mapped out including that 2-year OPT extension that would allow me to stay and work in the USA for up to 3-years beyond graduation. A career in science and engineering was going to be lucrative, with plenty of employment opportunities leading to the ultimate goal of financial security. Anything else truly sounded like a step down, yet I had to face the facts, my heart was elsewhere. I could of course have persevered through college with biomedical engineering, but I had come to Harvard to flourish, not to merely survive, thus I took the leap of faith and gave myself a chance to explore the social sciences.

Bunjee Jump in Victoria Fall Bridge
Above: A leap of faith!

I spoke to undergraduate advisors from departments like anthropology, economics, sociology, government etc, and they were all happy and eager to assist me explore their departments. I eventually settled on a government class on the Political Economy of Africa and a social anthropology class called ‘An ethnographic encounter.’ Splendid classes, I loved them! Once again I was passionate about learning, feeling challenged and experiencing real intellectual growth. Readings were hard, the papers were long and complicated, the research methods were different, but that is where the fun was, I engaged the new material with enthusiasm.

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When Sophomore Fall rolled through, I knew I needed to find a department with a strong academic advising system that would further guide me through my transition from science and engineering to the social sciences, thus I declared Social Studies, with a focus on Contemporary Africa and Political Economy. The finest journeys hardly follow the smoothest paths, and today I look at my Social Studies Degree with plenty of fond memories.

Social Studies Graduates Brunch
Above: Posing for a picture with my mom and Anya, the Social Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies

About the author

Hello friends. My name is Bhekinkosi Sibanda and I just graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies; my focus field was Contemporary Africa and Political Economy... View full profile

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