OC sends first international student on Study Abroad

Robert Rugamba (Photo by Henoc Kivuye)
Robert Rugamba (Photo by Henoc Kivuye)

By Jonathan Johnson
Courtesy of The Talon

Throughout Oklahoma Christian University’s history, hundreds of students have traveled abroad. Until this fall, an international student has not been among them.

Senior Robert Rugamba, a native Rwandan, is expanding his world travels by visiting Europe with 18 of his peers.

The students will be gone until the middle of December when they leave their temporary home in Vienna, Austria and return to the United States.

Rugamba was born in Uganda and later moved to Rwanda before stepping foot on United States soil for the first time in 2010.

“It was really great coming here to the U.S. and Oklahoma Christian,” Rugamba said. “I had a lot of expectations. I watched a lot of movies and I was anticipating those things that I saw in the movies. Many people made me feel welcome and special.”

Rugamba does not have a lot of expectations for his trip to Vienna. He does want to learn about more countries and different cultures outside of the United States and Rwanda.

Participating in Study Abroad was not a spur of the moment decision for him.

“I had the idea when I was still a freshman,” Rugamba said. “As a person who likes adventuring, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to spend a semester learning about Europe.”

Other students agreed with Rugamba on the benefits of studying abroad.

“Exploring outside of the U.S. opens your eyes to a whole new world,” junior Sean Bolin said. “I participated in the Pac Rim trip and I learned so much about other countries and their cultures; it was a truly valuable and rewarding experience.”

Oklahoma Christian’s European Studies Program offers opportunities for students to experience the different cultures and history Europe has to offer.

Rugamba and his group will spend a week in London before moving on to Vienna, where they plan to spend a majority of the remaining three months.

Also on the itinerary are trips to Croatia and Germany to do mission work, a field trip to Italy, and a retreat in the Austrian Alps.

“As a freshman, I was at a graduation ceremony and an OC alum said to travel as much as you can and experience different places, because after you get out of college you don’t have time for it,” Rugamba said. “Coming to the U.S. was good, but there was another chance for me to study abroad in Europe so I wanted to take that opportunity.”

Many students are interested in studying abroad but might be intimidated by the price tag that comes with such a trip.

“I made a plan freshman year to go on a study abroad trip, so I made it happen,” Rugamba said. “I had to save money and make sure my academics were in order to participate in the trip.”

Living in a foreign country comes with its share of challenges, and the Oklahoma Christian European Studies trip is no exception.

“The hardest thing about going to Europe was the language barrier,” Sarah Wheat, a senior who went on the Fall 2012 trip, said. “About a month in, most everyone was pretty homesick for all of our American favorites, friends and family.”

Because he has already adjusted to life abroad, Rugamba has a different view on the situation.

“I have been out of my home country for a while, so I am kind of used to adapting to different cultures,” Rugamba said. “I would say I am more prepared for this trip than American OC students. Most of them have never been away from home.”

Rugamba is used to waiting in airports, dealing with customs and being away from home. The challenge he anticipates is being away from Oklahoma Christian and the home he has found here.

“The community at OC is a good community; it is warm and welcoming,” Rugamba said. “Some would say that I am studying abroad for a second time, but I think this will be the first time. OC is home, so I am leaving home to study abroad.”