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More than just a speech

Get to know Hamline’s first international student commencement speaker.

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Back to Article

More than just a speech

Senior Zinzile Sibanda posing for the camera.

Senior Zinzile Sibanda posing for the camera.

Photo courtesy of senior Zinzile Sibanda

Senior Zinzile Sibanda posing for the camera.

Photo courtesy of senior Zinzile Sibanda

Photo courtesy of senior Zinzile Sibanda

Senior Zinzile Sibanda posing for the camera.

Rose Marie Athiley, Senior Reporter

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Senior Zinzile Sibanda, better known as “Zinzi” to those who know her, will represent the class of 2018 as the first international student commencement speaker. Born in Badwe, Zimbabwe, Sibanda has also lived in Nigeria, South Africa and the United Kingdom. She came to the United States and Hamline as a first-year in 2014 to pursue her undergraduate degree in political science.

“I knew I wanted to go to the United States for my university degree,” Sibanda said, “so I ended up picking Hamline [because] I liked the way Hamline made it very personal, in terms of when they reached out to me. . .[they made it] known that they wanted me to come here which is what drew me to [Hamline].”

Since then Hamline has become home.

“As an international student . . .when I moved to Hamline, I didn’t know anyone from Minnesota, no one from the midwest,” Sibanda said. “Hamline is more than just a school to me . . . it’s been the place where I’ve found friends that became family.”

This sense of family and community heavily influenced the content of her speech.

“I think a huge part is [that] I want [my speech] to symbolize community,” Sibanda said. “As we leave, we’re all going to end up all around the world and it’s so important to take the lessons we have learned . . . and apply those to the communities we’re going to be in or that [we] ourselves are going to build.”

Sibanda had been pondering the idea of being commencement speaker and spreading her message about community since her junior year.

“I believe it was the beginning of my junior year, I had said a speech as a global mentor to the incoming international students. . .,” Sibanda said. “And Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Chaplain . . .asked me ‘are you graduating this year?’ and I was like ‘no’ and she was like ‘dang it I was going to tell you to audition to be a commencement speaker.”’

The interaction with Chaplain Vangerud stayed with her and when the time came she auditioned for it. Before that, though, she had to write the speech.

“It took me some time to write it because I said that if I’m to write this speech. . . I have to say what I believe,” Sibanda said. “[I] was careful in making sure that what I say is actually what I believe and . . . make it be my truth . . .that’s what kept it authentic.”

To Sibanda, it is more than a speech.

“I feel like it’s my way of showing appreciation to Hamline and . . . to my class for these past four years of my life and the growth that we’ve all gone through,” Sibanda said. “It’s a way to also celebrate us.”

During her four years here, like many, Sibanda has faced obstacles.

“In 2016, December, my Mom passed away,” Sinbada said.  “That was a really big thing because she was living in Zimbabwe at the time and . . . having to face that and then coming back here where I had [no blood-related] family was a very big adjustment because she was a very very very big and important part of my life.”

Regardless of the obstacles she has faced, she has had successes and great experiences.

“I think my greatest achievement has been being a part of the model United Nations program (Model UN) and seeing that program grow and the students that come in grow and be more confident in diplomacy . . .in public speaking and in what they want to do with their lives,” Sibanda said. “It’s helped me really develop my relationship with Prof. Leila DeVriese and she’s become one of the professors that I look up to and that I consider to be a mentor of mine.”

In the context of Model UN and her history with travel, it’s no surprise Sibanda’s next adventure takes her to another country. She will be moving to Amsterdam to pursue a masters in political science with a focus on international relations and transnational government at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

“I’m kind of plunging myself right back into school and being an academic,” Sibanda said,  “but I’m really excited for it. I’m excited to be in a new place, to meet new people and to have new experiences.”

She wants to leave us with her life philosophy: Do all you can.

“I’ve been very fortunate enough to have a lot of opportunities come my way and I never take likely the grace and the favour that I’ve come across from people,” Sibanda said. “I want to be able to do all I can . . . for the people that I interact with [and] the relationships that I build. If I can do it, I’m going to do it.”

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More than just a speech