Muraho! I was a part of the Rwanda delegation last year, and this year the universe has given me the incredible gift of returning. I cannot believe that I am going back- for that I have to thank my parents, without whom this would be impossible. I am so fortunate to have people in my life who can recognize how much this means to me.

Less than two weeks, and it seems utterly unreal. The only difference is this year I know I don’t have to pack as much.

Last year’s trip to Rwanda spoke to me and impacted me in ways that left me lost for words. This past year whenever I had a challenge to face I would look to the Rwanda bracelet on my wrist to remind myself that the world is bigger and more powerful (in ways both good and bad) than the problems I was facing. Getting myself in the Rwanda headspace by remembering the grounded, connected feelings I had there helped me to keep my balance and keep my heart open throughout the year. I’m sure that will continue to help me throughout my life.

This is my senior year at Buffalo State, and I will be graduating with a degree in Theater and a minor in Painting. This January I will be auditioning for graduate school at the URTAs, which is a mass audition that offers the opportunity to be seen by many different schools. I am a person who has a tendency to overthink things, and going to these auditions post-Rwanda sets me up to be as grounded as I possibly can be. This trip will help me to find the actor mindset of “don’t think, just do”, which is necessary in acting and life. The idea of trusting the moment and being present instead of overthinking the past or future is crucial to experiencing our lives fully. I hope I can live that way in Rwanda so I can bring that into this year of transitions in my life.

Last year, a young man who worked at the hostel gave each of us Rwandan names one day after dinner. The one he gave me was my favorite word in Kinyarwanda- “Amahoro”, which means “Peace”. I hope I can use what I learn in Rwanda to spread peace in my communities and across the world once I return. We could all use more peace in our lives.