Fadzai “Fuzzy” Kanyangarara ’16 might tell you that when he was growing up in Zimbabwe, he had a pet lion named Mufasa and a giraffe that eventually got too tall for the hut in which his family lived. But don’t believe him. His everyday life in Harare, the capital city, was pretty similar to that of most middle-class Americans growing up in the suburbs.
But Kanyangarara’s parents were aware of at least one significant difference between Zimbabwe and the U.S.—job opportunities. Decades of acute government corruption in Zimbabwe have contributed to serious economic problems. Kanyangarara’s mother, a manager in a telecommunications company, has employees working in her call center who have doctoral degrees. They can’t find better jobs that match their qualifications.
Kanyangarara says he was lucky that his parents could provide for him and his brother and sister. His parents sent all three children to private Catholic schools and then to universities in the U.S.
“There’s choice in America,” says Kanyangarara, who is majoring in Psychology at IU. “My friends back home don’t have that, because the economy is so bad.”
Kanyangarara and his older brother both attended Immaculata and found it relatively easy to transition to living and studying in the U.S.—except for the cold weather. “Snow is terrible!” Kanyangarara says.
Professors helped Kanyangarara learn APA and MLA style, which wasn’t taught in his school in Zimbabwe. Psychology Professor Peter Rondinaro, Ph.D., met with him one-on-one and helped him learn to study for tests, which were in a different style than he was used to. And Theology Professor Sister Peggy McDonald, IHM, S.T.D., is always happy, looking as if she’d had “three shots of espresso, with that smile,” Kanyangarara says.
Kanyangarara wants to stay in the U.S. after graduation, get a master’s degree in psychology, and work with autistic children. But he knows he will face the pressure of American workplace culture to work extra hours in order to “get ahead.” It will take some effort to go against the flow and spend not much more than 40 hours a week at work.
“If I can’t have that, then I’m probably going to go back home,” he says. He wants to follow the example of his parents, who worked 8-to-5 jobs and were available to their family in the evenings. “Back home, there’s always time for family. But the quality of life in America is very stressful.” Kanyangarara articulates one of the major choices available in America: “Work hard, have nice things. Don’t work hard, don’t have nice things.” This kind of opportunity does make you more competitive, he acknowledges. But is it worth it to work so long and only get to enjoy nice things occasionally—“just a sniff of them,” as Kanyangarara puts it?
In addition to feeling pressed for time, Americans feel pressed for money. “America is driven on debt,” he says. “You just keep swiping that credit card … you’re always paying someone back. Everything is so commercialized. America always wants you to have something that you don’t have.” In contrast, Kanyangarara’s culture values living within your means. “If you can’t afford it, don’t get it,” he says simply. He plans to pay for his next car in cash.
With one foot in third-world Zimbabwe and one foot in first-world America, Kanyangarara is working to blend the best of both cultures together. And he has been pleasantly surprised, when he has gone home for the summer, how much things have been developing there. New buildings are going up, and some major stores and malls now offer Wi-Fi. But you do have to pay for it—“first-world problems,” he laughs.