My name is Janet Mwanyika. I’m 23 years old and I consider myself as a global citizen. I’ve lived in 4 different countries and I believe I am by-product of all these four magnificent places. This past May, I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in finance, but I’ve decided to take the less travelled road in order to pursue a gap year.
Coming from an African family, the pressure begins at birth. Literally. Parents, your community and elders begin to predict your future and will tell you that you are destined for great success.
I grew up in a loving home situated along the coast of the Indian Ocean called Tanzania. My parents did everything to give us a better life than they had, consequently, they specifically pushed me to pave the way for my two younger sisters but still strived to support us in every way possible. With that being said, I always felt pressured to set a high standard. I have always loved learning and when I was blessed with an opportunity to go study in the U.S through a scholarship, I felt the pressure increase immensely. I remember my father telling me, “Farewell to our Tanzanian ambassador. Represent your country well.”
My college experience did not go as planned. My welcome week had a great-kick off in the ER and I continued to weave in and out of urgent care throughout the year. Due to the excruciating amount of pain, I was on narcotics for about 6 months. That sort of pain that was almost so traumatic to the extent that I became paralyzed with fear. I fell behind schoolwork, I missed exams, some of my official excusals didn’t offer me as much protection as I wish it did and I was literally failing some of my class. I then realized that my business school had a great reputation and the level of difficulty was very high. My achiever self couldn’t ignore this fact, so I started to put pressure even more pressure on myself to do well.
I knew my whole family was depending on me to succeed so I would not dare disappoint my country by coming back home. Very quickly, school became a chore and I felt so numb. After my second year of school, I paused my life and decided to go study abroad in Brazil. Travelling healed me. It mended every part of myself, re-ignited a flame in me that nearly burnout before I had a chance to truly shine. Getting away from the very fast-paced American culture, the heavy stress of finding the best internships and stellar grades showed me that there is more to life than the one traditional path that people carve out for us.
I had never felt more alive in Brazil and after denying every urge in my body to choose the safer option after college—getting a corporate job—I want to take a gap year because I want to further enhance my real-world education and not the institutional education that has stressed me out of all my life.
Therefore, during my gap year, I will be travelling to Cape town, South Africa through VACorps.
I am passionate about business development and learning alongside entrepreneurs how to build businesses from scratch. Why Cape town? Cape town is the hub of high growth startups in Africa and will serve as the perfect learning opportunity. It has a well-balanced mix of emerging markets and fast paced development within Africa.
I also hope to serve as a Kiva fellow for the second half of my gap year. I would love to do work that focuses on empowering women. I am passionate about teaching women of color about financial literacy. I believe that Kiva would help me gain experience in the microfinance world and I would be able to bring this back home in order to formulate a platform that will propel African women with regards to finances. I strongly believe it will allow African women to break free from the shackles of financial oppression, allow them to walk away from abusive relationships, allow easier access to financing and give them the confidence that they can do anything that their minds set out to do.
Janet received the grant for Gap Year planning, mentoring, & support through En Route Consulting.