Studying Abroad While Studying Abroad: Zimbabwean International Student in the U.S Studying Abroad in London

Danai Mandebvu headshot
Danai Mandebvu
May 3, 2024
me standing in front of a poster for "The Homecoming" play at the Young Vic Theatre in London

I love experiencing new things! If I had to make a list of things I value - experiences would be in the top five. I believe in the power that experiences have to shape, grow and mold people and I also believe that experiences make excellent advisors for future decision-making versions of ourselves. That is why I decided to study abroad - to experience a different country, culture, and educational program. That is why I decided to study abroad in London despite already studying abroad as a Zimababwean international student at Hope College in Holland, Michigan in the United States. 

I can remember several instances when I mentioned that I was studying abroad in London as an international student in the U.S. and received quizzical looks back. The question that was often voiced and sometimes left hanging in their eyes was, “Why study abroad if you’re already an international student?” There are so many good reasons that I could give for studying abroad but if you’re reading this blog I imagine you already know a lot of them and are thinking about it yourself. So instead I’ll tell you how my experience as an international student in the U.S. helped me while studying abroad in London. 

There may be an international student also studying in the U.S. who is thinking about studying abroad somewhere else for a semester and exhausted by the thought of all the paperwork they will have to do or scared that the bumps they experienced as a first year  international student in the U.S. may be repeated just in a different location. To that person, I say, “Yes. The paperwork will be exhausting but the bumps from your time as an international student may be the reason your experience abroad becomes the experience of a lifetime."

My experience as an international student in the U.S. taught me to be adaptable. So much was new like adult responsibilities, cultural differences, college, on-campus work and being an ocean away from my family. The first year juggling all of this and learning to accept them while also rapidly changing as I grew into a new version of myself was overwhelming to say the least. However, surviving that experience taught me that I could do hard things and that I could make hard transitions. Doing that successfully and continuing to do it for every new semester gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could do it again somewhere like London. 

It also taught me that in a difficult transition I needed to be patient and compassionate with myself, take help when I needed it and not be afraid to mess up. When it came time to move to London for four months while studying abroad these things came quickly and easily to me. They were muscles I had exercised before that I knew how and when to use. I credit my experience as an international student for that and the ability  to cope with being away from the familiar. 

I had practiced being away from my home country, family and culture for extended periods of time at my college in the U.S. It was a difficult transition to make and a hard reality to get used to but it also taught me to be more independent and intentional about maintaining my relationships without relying on being in the same space as my loved ones. In London, I was able to rely on the patterns I had already built with my community to keep in touch and stay connected instead of figuring it out with them for the first time. 

My experience as an international student gifted me these transferable skills that helped me and that I used to help people in the program with me that were studying abroad for the first time. These hard won skills became a superpower that I could use to help myself and others so we could all have the best experiences possible abroad. 

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Danai Mandebvu headshot

Danai Mandebvu

The big words that are important pieces of my identity are family, creativity, and community. They describe the confidence I have in my roots, joy I find in the tribes I now belong to and my passion for storytelling as an actor, writer, and director.

2024 Spring
Home University:
Hope College
International Relations
Theatre Arts
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