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'I find Abu Dhabi a beautiful place, so generous!'

silvia@khaleejtimes.com Filed on January 29, 2016 | Last updated on January 29, 2016 at 09.25 am
I find Abu Dhabi a beautiful place, so generous!
Roger Iradukunda a student of New York University Abu Dhabi from Africa, January 28, 2016. Photo By Ryan Lim

Rodger Iradukunda, 22, born in Rwanda, made it to Zambia as a refugee when he was just one year old, with his family escaping the 1994 genocide, when the Hutu majority killed one million Tutsi and Hutus minority...

...Now he is a scholarship student at the New York University.

 I'm now in my second year at NYU, studying civil engineering.

I first heard of NYU Abu Dhabi from my education advisor in Zambia. She advised me to apply here, because compared to other US colleges, you are assured to get a scholarship once you are accepted. Fortunately I got accepted, but as per the university's procedures, I had to come here for a candidate weekend, where all selected candidates have to come and get a feel of the school. I was really excited about it, and that they were going to pay for me. I couldn't make it, though, because I never had a passport before, since I was a refugee.

I talked to a person from NYU, who helped me a lot and she agreed to let me come in the second candidate weekend. That was good news for me!

I started looking for a refugee travel document and I managed to secure one right in time for the second candidate weekend, but then again I found the UAE does not accept refugee travel documents. I really went through a lot to get it, and when I hit this obstacle I felt disappointed, like I was making one step forward and three steps back.

Still, I began looking at the prospects of getting an actual passport, but things were not looking too good. By then the third candidate weekend was coming and I felt like that's it, I'm done! I was still in contact with the NYU lady and I wrote to her that maybe I'll be able to make it in the future, but, yeah, I was giving up.

It was a really dark time in my life. The harsh realities of life just hit me and I was thinking your abilities are not enough to get you somewhere. I thought my grades and my intellectual abilities were enough to attend school, but I saw there is so much more involved! There is politics, bureaucracy, things you never think about. Anyway, I reached the point where I was so sad and discouraged!

My dad then said: "No, we can't have this! We are going to get a passport for you". He asked my uncle in Rwanda to help me apply for a passport. So we did, but I didn't put any hope on it. The passport was approved though, two days before the fourth and last candidate weekend, so I quickly e-mailed the NYU lady and asked her to give me one last chance.

If you miss the candidate weekend you have to pay for your own fees, and I told her that I will pay for everything, just give me the chance to come, but she said it's fine, and booked me on the first flight out of the country. On my way to the airport, I collected my passport.

Everything happened so fast! I was really tired and excited at the same time! I couldn't believe this was happening.

The day I got the news confirming that I got in, was the best day of my life!

I find Abu Dhabi to be a beautiful place, so generous! It's more than I imagined. I always wanted to be in such a school, where there are people from everywhere, where I could travel around, where you don't have any needs since all the basic necessities are given to you - and even a little more than the basic ones - so yeah! This is a dream!

bernd@khaleejtimes.com

Interviewed by Silvia Radan. Street Talk is a weekly column to get a glimpse of people's lives in UAE

Silvia Radan

I'm a senior journalist with 22 years experience in all forms of mass media. Originally from Romania, I lived and work in Bosnia, Uzbekistan, England and, for the past 10 years, in UAE. I specialize in art, culture, traditions, heritage, but also environment and the hospitality industry. I'm passionate about jazz and world music, cinema, mythology and offroading - I'm a marshal with one of UAE's offroading clubs!


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