To celebrate International Education Day, we are highlighting our many inspiring alumni from our Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Global Student Leaders program. Through partnerships with five U.S. universities and a series of interactive classroom activities, community-based projects and site visits to U.S. cities of all sizes, SUSI students experience an in-depth investigation into program themes and enhance their understanding of American values. Xavier Nhaule of Mozambique spoke with Meridian’s Center for Global Leadership to reflect on his experience and its impact. Nhaule is the Executive Director of Banco de Alimentos de Moçambique Association.
This year’s International Day of Education theme is, “Changing Course, Transforming Education.” How has participating in SUSI so far transformed your life, career, or education? Do you anticipate new opportunities arising from this experience?
Participating in the SUSI program has meant a complete life transformation for me, both in terms of vision and goals. I discovered many skills that I didn’t know I had such as the ability to lead large work team and create social projects feeding my passion for helping the community. This experience had a significant impact on my academic life as it helped me to define my Master’s degree course and thus, defining the professional career I intend to follow. In terms of opportunities, after my return I created Mozambique’s first food bank and was invited to join the Mozambique – United States Alumni Association as their Project Director.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted education in your area? How have you given back, or helped build connections or roadmaps for today’s students?
The pandemic brought several changes in the teaching and learning processes amongst all levels of education, from primary to higher education. It forced us to use the new approach of teaching through digital platforms which had a negative impact on the quality of teaching for all students, as most were not prepared for the use of technologies. Due to lack of resources or the weak domain in the use of technologies, students had difficulty participating in classes because it felt like a new world to us. The national education system itself was not prepared for this sudden change as it required many resources that our country did not have at the time. As students, we had to adapt and create new strategies to support each other like virtual study groups where everyone could discuss their ideas and ask questions. For primary school children we decided to provide support through home classes and sharing video classes so that they can study from home.
In applying to the SUSI program, were there any aspects of the SUSI opportunity that inspired or motivated you to apply?
The first thing that caught my attention was the possibility of connecting with students from other African countries, as well as the opportunity to build relationships with the American people for my future projects. In fact, after returning home together with other alumni from Botswana, Angola, Mali, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, we met to participate in the youth entrepreneurship program, The Business Date Global Program in Botswana [founded by SUSI alumnus Witness Ditshweu].
What advice would you give the next generation about pursuing education through international exchanges?
International exchange program and allowing yourself to learn new things provides opportunities to discover your potential, your best side as a student, professional and as a human being. By participating in international exchange programs, you become a different from other students as you have more resources and are a leader in your community.
Why is international education important for creating the qualities of a great leader?
International education is important because a leader needs to know the unknown. They need to interact with the world to discover new opportunities — to be able to innovate and bring different things that contribute to the development of their community.
A leader needs to learn from other leaders as well as gather new experiences so that he can stand out and improve his skills and qualities. These are the reasons that make international education fundamental in the life of a student leader.