Each month we choose a student for the OISS Student of the Month that exemplifies and highlights everything it means to not only be a Spartan but an international Spartan. We choose these students based on their accomplishments and their participation in the community. For the month of March, OISS chose: Nikkita Ngalande.
Nikkita is from the city of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. The city is located in central Zambia and is the largest city in the country, home to over 1.7 million people.
If there was one word to describe Nikkita it would be determination. Determination to find the right path for herself. Determination to utilize her education to make the most good out of life. Her goals have always centered on making the maximum benefit for the people around her. I could tell from the very beginning of our interview that Nikkita never took anything for granted while striving for excellence.
Nikkita described to me from an early age how she always loved numbers. She was fascinated by different displays of data and the ways one could present data. Therefore, she wanted to pick a degree that could satisfy her passions and find her success once her academic career was over. As such she naturally came to the conclusion that pursuing a degree in Actuarial Science will be the perfect way she can help people and focus on the math she always loved. For those unfamiliar, Actuarial Science is the study of applying statistical and mathematical methods to assess risk in financial and insurance industries.
Using her determination, Nikkita excelled in high school earning high marks and being recognized as one of the top high school students in Zambia. Before garnering this attention, Nikkita had little interest in pursuing undergraduate studies outside the country. However, after attending a college fair with US universities present, she became intrigued with the idea of studying in the US. At the college fair, she was exposed to MSU admissions personnel. At that point, she was convinced that the resources offered at MSU and the College of Natural Science would be perfect for her pursuit in Actuarial Science. Another thing that convinced Nikkita to come to MSU was the Michigan cold. She had grown tired of the oppressive heat in Zambia and wanted a change of climate. Now, four years later she is seriously questioning her reasoning to come live in the Michigan cold. Other than the weather she has absolutely loved her time here.
After applying to MSU she then sought out several different scholarships to support her ability to finish out her education in the US. One of those scholarships she applied to was the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship. She described that the application process was incredibly difficult. The application to become a MasterCard Foundation Scholar was lengthy and competitive. At each stage of the application process there was rigorous questioning. However, once she was finally selected to be a MasterCard Foundation Scholar she received tons of help and advising. Her advisors offered her many different resources to help make her transition into the US even easier. Helping her prepare with her flights, her textbooks and any other questions she might have.
During her first year at MSU she took some time to adjust to the new environment she was in. She was not accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle that Americans live with. It was not an easy adjustment process for her. Nikkita mentioned a medical issue that hampered her ability to attend class for a period of time. That struggle with the medical issue put a huge stressor on her. At times, she wondered if this was what she was actually supposed to be doing with her life. However, she reaffirmed herself that this was her passion and she was right where she was supposed to be. With the help of advisors and her own determination, she overcame the struggles of adjusting to a completely new country and finished her first year strong.
Before starting her first year, Nikkita came into the mindset that she was going to 4.0 all her classes. After experiencing the struggles of her first year, she realized that she did not have to achieve perfection in order to succeed in her studies. She adapted to her environment and adjusted her expectations for her academic career. Coming to her own terms and making sure that it is much more important to remain enthusiastic and passionate about her own studies. In the beginning of her first year, she was obsessed with getting a 4.0 in all her classes. Now, she is much less stressed about achieving perfection in her classes. Focusing instead on comprehending and enjoying the materials she is learning in class. During her free time, she enjoys participating in both the African Student Leadership Association and the Actuarial Science Club.
Her academic career at MSU has taken a few unexpected turns. During her third year, she became a teacher assistant for a math class. She loved the experience so much she was considering completely changing her majors and becoming a mathematics major. Her passion was giving her opportunities to be exposed to much more than she had ever thought of when she was in high school.
After getting accustomed to the university culture at MSU she took the next steps to challenge herself during her third year. While originally applying to MSU she had discovered the Rhodes scholarship. The Rhodes scholarship is an annual scholarship offered to many different English speaking countries around the world that allow international students an opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Oxford in England. When she first saw the scholarship opportunity, she was confident in her ability to win the scholarship. Therefore, for the next few years at MSU she prepared herself to be a strong candidate that the Rhodes Foundation would consider. She challenged herself with a variety of honors courses, research assistantships and extra-curriculars.
She did not take the application lightly, the personal statement she needed to write for the application took almost three months to complete. Nikkita then told me the reason for taking so long to write her personal statement.
“I wanted it to be the best representation of me. Since no one was allowed to look over my personal statement I wanted the story I told in my personal statement to be exactly who I am.”
She left nothing to chance; she was determined to not pass this opportunity up. After submitting her application she heard word back from the Rhodes Foundation in less than a week. Nikkita told me how happy she was to be getting a response back for an interview. However, there was one challenge to the interview, getting there. The interview would have to take place in her home country of Zambia. Nikkita quickly prepared and scheduled her flight to her home country to undergo the interview. The interview itself was very intimidating, she was questioned by a panel of eight. She worried that interview did not go as well as she had hoped. However, she was called back the next day were she was told that she had received the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. She was overwhelmed with excitement. One of her goals ever since applying to MSU was realized and she could not be any happier.
With much excitement, Nikkita will be attending Oxford University next year. She will be pursuing a graduate degree in Mathematical Computation Science. With this degree she is planning on returning to Zambia. In Zambia she is hoping to contribute to the financial sector and create more improvements to develop the industry.
I wrapped up my interview with Nikkita by discussing any advice she had for any incoming or new international students at MSU. One of the biggest pieces of advice she offered was to immerse yourself in the culture and to excel in your studies while never losing sight of your passion.
It was a pleasure to meet and interview Nikkita. She is a determined individual that never lost sight of the passions she has. These passions have helped her adapt to challenging new environments and create greater exposure to new ideas. Nikkita’s determination will carry her through any new situation she finds herself in.
Tyler Perl is currently a senior majoring in International Relations. He will be graduating in May 2019 with his degree in IR. He also is minoring in Political Economy. Tyler plans after graduation to work in economic policy in Washington DC.