Raica Kwizera, in the center, poses with her co-workers at the Office of Admissions. Kwizera said serving as a student tour guide is one of her favorite things at Pepperdine. Photo courtesy of Raica Kwizera
After receiving early action decisions from 13 schools in the U.S., senior Psychology major Raica Kwizera was unsure of where to commit.
“Nothing was striking to me,” Kwizera said.
Revisiting with her school counselor and re-evaluating her priorities, Kwizera said she ultimately sought two factors: a small school community aspect and warm weather.
Kwizera said she was not aware of Pepperdine but several Google searches later, she thought to herself, “There’s no way this is real.”
And so, Kwizera applied and Pepperdine accepted her application.
Despite not being able to physically visit the campus because of scheduling conflicts, Kwizera said her positive experiences with the student interns at the Office of Admissions was one of her deciding factors.
“Their personal life experiences, I think, really made it come to life for me,” Kwizera said. “What I did want was very much present.”
Applying to Pepperdine as an international student from Rwanda, Kwizera also sought a school with a strong international community presence and support system.
Reflecting on her time at Pepperdine as a senior, Kwizera said what drew her to Pepperdine — the community of people — was also what kept her at the University for all four years. That is why she serves on many organizations and departments on campus.
Kwizera said all her involvement on campus encompasses connecting students with each other. From being a Student Tour Guide for the Office of Admissions to serving the George Page residence halls as a Resident Advisor, Kwizera said she emphasizes the importance of representation.
Being a Black international student from Rwanda, Kwizera said some of her core identities can sometimes make her stand out at Pepperdine. She said, however, that these identities have helped many potential new students feel connected to the community.
“As a tour guide, if there’s a Black student there, you can tell they’ll come up to you and they’ll engage more,” Kwizera said.
Even in classrooms, Kwizera said representation matters. She said she noticed there were fewer female students in her Computer Science classes than in her Psychology classes.
“You don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue,” Kwizera said. “But really, unconsciously, in your mind, you can tell the difference.”
Ultimately for Kwizera, representation is not just about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives but more of a way to set a precedent for future students.
“The importance of representation is being able to set the stage for someone else,” Kwizera said. “It makes a world of a difference.”
When Kwizera first started at Pepperdine in fall 2018, she said Soni Rusagara (‘20) was her role model. Rusagara, an international student from Kenya and PGM’s advertising director in 2019-2020, was Kwizera’s regional international student mentor.
Following in her footsteps, Kwizera served as an international student ambassador for two years, from 2019 to 2021. Kwizera said she initially hesitated to become an ambassador herself.
“Considering the differences she made for me encouraged me to apply,” Kwizera said. “If she had this effect on me, I can have an effect on someone else.”
Kwizera said she took up different kinds of leadership opportunities to bridge communities together.
“The experience you’re going to have here is based on the people around you,” Kwizera said. “If I can make even a little bit of a difference by being in that position, then I feel like I’ve accomplished why I’m in that position.”
With graduation fast approaching, Kwizera said her Pepperdine experience was full of challenging opportunities. As a member of the minority, Kwizera said she always tries to be the first person to make a difference.
“In this space, I could be the first voice,” Kwizera said. “One voice is better than none.”
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