Two Westmont students from South Africa are nearing completion of the first semester of their four-year journey on the Santa Barbara campus. First-year students Luvuyo Magwaza and Mfolozi “Flo” Dlamini are the first to enjoy scholarships that will be given annually to two graduates of Michaelhouse, a Christian boarding school for boys in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The counselor of the school (Michaelhouse) came up to each of us at different times and asked if we would be interested in the opportunity of studying abroad,” Magwaza says. “It was so informal and casual, I thought it was a joke to be honest.”
A related program will offer each Michaelhouse Scholar who graduates from Westmont a full scholarship to graduate school in South Africa.
“There is a huge sense of responsibility and giving back is required of us since much has been given, obviously,” Dlamini says. “I’m looking forward to the challenge really. Westmont is distinctive in its approach and I hope to share that with my fellow countrymen and make South Africa a better place.”
The cultural transition has been relatively smooth for the two. At chapel, Magwaza has been enjoying the chapel band and free-flowing Christian service, while Dlamini, whose father is an Anglican minister, has found it less comfortable. “It’s been challenging adapting to the more open, free worship kind of church,” he says. “I am trying to get used to it, trying to find my feet.”
Since arriving in January, the two have enjoyed the sense of community at Westmont. “Most people are friendly, welcoming and have wanted to get to know who we are,” Dlamini says. “The hospitality, people, friendliness, this is the sort of culture in America that I really like. The warmth of the people here has been great.”
“Everyone on campus has been so willing to help us and is approachable,” Magwaza says. “One of my fears was the rigorous academics, and yes, you have a lot of reading, but the professors are always willing to help, always open, always available.”
The two teenage men are quick to talk about the cultural differences between South Africa and the U.S. in terms of food and sports.
“The food has been great, amazing,” Magwaza says. “Mfolozi, I think he has enjoyed it a bit too much. The cheeseburgers: He has a bit of an addiction.”
“On average, I eat three a day,” Dlamini admits. “I think I’ve gained like two kilo. I’ve gained a lot of weight.”
In South Africa, cricket, rugby and soccer are the focus of the sporting world. “Here in America we find that American Football is big, baseball is big and basketball is big,” Magwaza says. “It surprised me to find that Westmont has a rugby club.”
Next fall, when two more Michaelhouse students arrive, Magwaza and Dlamini are looking forward to helping them settle in. “I’ll be keen to show them the places, show them East Beach, Butterfly Beach, downtown, and I’ll take them to the Habit and In N Out,” Dlamini says.
(A generous and anonymous donor supports this scholarship program to provide an excellent education to black South African students and prepare them to return as leaders willing to serve others in their native country. An associate of the donor will fund graduate study in South Africa for the Michaelhouse scholars.)