The last 7 weeks here in Kigali have been stellar for a host of reasons. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore my passions on the continent of my ancestry. As I return back to my life in the States, I am charged with the call of what is next and how I can be an agent of change. While my time in Kigali has been reassuring, it has also been a reminder of how much work there is to be done to drive shared prosperity and inclusive growth across the Diaspora.
But first, the three things I am most grateful for from my time in Rwanda.
- Soft transition from student life back to work life: While teaching and facilitating the program are the core components of leading a Global Startup Lab, it was also in my best interest to explore my other interests. I used my downtime to scope Kigali’s cafe, restaurant, and boutique scenes. I also prioritized networking by organizing our field trips and guest speaker series. Not to mention, our teaching team probably tried more than half of the restaurants in Kigali. Somehow through these strenuous days, my body and mind readjusted to a typical working schedule, without disrupting the fluidity of school life.
- Appreciation for teaching and mentoring: Of course, as my formal education comes to an end, I begin to truly appreciate the art of teaching, which is a lot of work. There is so much that teachers do behind the scenes to ensure that students are retaining material and making progress. My co-instructors and I would often discuss, outside of our regular meeting time, how the students were doing and ways to effectively deliver the content. I never thought of myself as the teaching type, however this experience has made me realize that teaching is a life skill. It can come in handy when leading a team, organizing an initiative, or just building strong relationships.
I was also surprised to find myself emotionally attached to the work, so much so that if a student would miss class or leave the program, it hurt because I knew they would miss out and that their teammates would have to pick up the slack. This experience has made me a much more thoughtful and self-aware contributor. At the end of the program, we recognized four outstanding students who exemplified the rigor and discipline entrepreneurship requires. Their commitment motivated me to stay on top of my game and observing how hard they worked bolstered my resolve to remain consistent because you never know what is at stake or who is counting on you to succeed.
- Self-knowledge that I can move forward: Rwanda has taught me that you do not have to be defined by your past, but instead you can use it to propel forward. Through conversations with friends, you can see how Rwanda’s civil war affected the current populace and its ways of life. Time with family and friends is extremely valuable, especially to those who spent much of their lives outside of Rwanda as refugees. Also, all of the GSL students strove to use technology to improve their country. Steering the way forward, are symbols of ‘remembrance, unity, and renewal’ seen across the country. Post genocide, Rwanda was seminal in their reconciliatory and open dialogue approach to drive healing, rather than ignore or downplay their past.
As I move forward in pursuit of my purpose, I have to remember that there will always be those that doubt me because of who they think I am. And I also have the power to thwart my dreams with my own uncertainty. Knowing that, I must be prepared to act anyway, with the awareness of who I am and why it is so important for me to be represented in spaces that were not always welcoming to someone like myself. I can start by further mentoring my GSL students, letting their forthcoming accomplishments speak for themselves. I must also take the time to confront my own past and invest in the will to act, not despite my identity, but because of it.
As my GSL summer comes to a close, so does my time at MIT. I will always be thankful for the opportunity to spend two FULL years exploring my interests and finding that I can enact the change I envision for the world. I look forward to further exploring my passions and inspiring even more people. In the meantime, I will get back to work on myself and the dreams that follow.
Tosin Bosede is a technology professional focused on sustainable innovation and a recent graduate from MIT Sloan’s MBA program. She is spending her summer in Kigali, Rwanda, teaching university students business planning, product management, and personal development as part of a program to help them launch their digital ventures.