Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College

From 'Zim' to Saratoga Springs: My unexpected journey to Skidmore College

by Anesu Mukombiwa '24

If you had told me six years ago that I would be sitting in an American café right now, a mile or so from the college where I am currently enrolled in a creative writing program — with additional educational experiences in China and Greece under my belt, I might have deeply frowned with genuine concern for your sanity.

In very “is this poor person out of their mind?” fashion, I would have politely smiled and recounted the ridiculous suggestion to my mother later that day, or called my best friend to laugh with her about it. I would have done a number of things really, except for believing you.

I say this in the most unembellished and earnest way — I am truly living a life that I did not have the aspirational capacity or the imagination to hope for just a few years ago.

But I’m here now — at Skidmore College — and some days I can hardly believe it.
Anesu Mukombiwa ’24

I grew up in tiny Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital), with purple jacaranda summers and fire-roasted peanut winters, the kind that forced us to huddle together in my family’s living room and watch reruns of “Generations” (a South African soap opera) because something about that was warm — something about that was heating.

I loved Zim — as we like to call our country — like a teenager loves their parents, with eye rolls and lots of silence. I loved it for granted; I know that now, but only because I’ve had nearly six years to miss it. 

A photo of me at the famous balancing rocks, just outside Harare, where I grew up.

A photo of me at the famous balancing rocks, just outside Harare, where I grew up.

I remember only a little bit of the first half of my 16th year, which mostly consisted of waiting impatiently to leave for China in late August to begin my United World Colleges experience. I think a part of me had already left by the time I was actually set to fly out. I was in the clouds somewhere, building and thickening my expectations, filling them with all sorts of hopes like seeing the Great Wall of China, or a really, really tall skyscraper.

What I never anticipated was actually getting to do all those things and more. It was a life-altering two years, filled with its share of troubles and joys. When I think back on this time of my life I usually land on two words: coming awake. I discovered many new things about myself, things that I might have never accessed without the challenges of my early departure from my home; things that were only the beginning of the full-fledged passions that would enrapture my college years at Skidmore.

I’ve always been a writer. From the moment I learned how to write, I wanted to tell stories. Before I could tell them, I listened to them intently at my grandmother’s feet, gasping at the rabbit that ate the baboon and growing this first love.

As soon as I saw Creative Thought Matters on the Skidmore website, as cheesy as this probably seems, I actually knew this was the school I wanted to go to. I applied Early Decision and got in. That’s it. That’s the application story. The marketing worked brilliantly on me, and I’m really not ashamed to admit it.

Coming to Skidmore was very, very weird. I was a first-year student in 2020 (the first year of the pandemic), which was a truly challenging year for a lot of people, myself included. It was hard, it was awkward, and I decided to leave campus for my sophomore year to seek out a different college experience in Europe through College Year in Athens, a Skidmore-approved study abroad program. It was truly the best decision of my life.

I dream of my time abroad often — that neighborhood specifically, with its sprawling Athenian cats and the bright-faced grocery store man whom I habitually waved at on my way back from school. It gave me the reset that I needed, a new environment, a fresh perspective, and a renewed sense of hope.

By the time I returned to the Skidmore campus for my junior year, I was feeling like a first-year student again — wide-eyed, seeking, and ready to try again.

A photo of Anesu in Athens, Greece

A study abroad program in Athens was one of the best decisions of my life.

Being an international student is searching for home in anyone and anything else because that is the one thing you miss the most. I remember meeting some of my closest friends now in the first week of my return and feeling that “home” feeling. And I would meet more and more of these kinds of people as the semester progressed.

My junior year was a year of rekindled things — home rekindled in friends; first love rekindled in creative writing workshops and English classes; song rekindled in a cappella rehearsals. I lathered myself in it — all the family dinners, musical performances, and essay writing I could get myself into.

With graduation on the horizon, when I really want to turn on the nostalgia, I think back to the first spring break I spent on campus, only sleeping and showering at home and doing the rest of my living in my friend’s apartment where we would watch movies and talk about nothing for hours, feeling suspended in time, in this foreign place that has somehow managed to become something of home.

For sending me away and welcoming me back, I’m thankful to this place. Three and a half years in, Skidmore owes me nothing.