By Sarah Stark, Staff Writer
Second year international student Divin Gatera hopes that his upcoming service in the Student Senate General Assembly and his education and experience at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) will aid him in future leadership roles on international stages.Gatera is working toward a bachelor’s with a double major in political science and international and global studies and this week won his bid for a Student Senate seat.
Gatera is no stranger to international political issues. The oldest of four siblings, he was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo one week prior to the start of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. His family soon moved to the capital city of Kigali, Rwanda where the massacre of the minority Tutsi, Twa and moderate Hutu populations had begun.
Gatera’s parents had planned to send him to the U.S. for a college education, but in 2012, with the aid of a family friend he moved to Oakdale, Conn. where he completed his last year of high school. “Back home American diplomas are very valuable,” said Gatera. “If someone has a lot of experience and a degree from back home…and I have no experience with a degree from America…they will look at me.”
While he appreciates the transitions which have brought greater political, economic and social stability to Rwanda, Gatera has a partiality toward international issues and he doesn’t see himself going back home or staying in one place. “I’m hoping to be working in some multi-national international organization,” said Gatera. “I want to work in many places around the world.”
He has been exposed to many new and interesting people and ideas. “America is about exploring,” said Gatera. “In everything I do, I want to get the most out of it in terms of experience and helping me grow.”
He has been successful in this, trying new things and learning from them. UMF senior Kyle Manning describes Gatera as a motivated and energetic person. “He always wants to do well in school and understand things,” said Manning. “He does everything he can to get to that place.” Manning also added that Gatera is, “insanely polite in all things.”
Gatera appreciates how the UMF faculty has helped him gain an understanding of international issues and credits three instructors in particular; Linda Beck for her interest in Africa and Asia, Scott Erb for his knowledge about Europe and Jim Melcher for his expertise on United States politics.
In addition to Student Senate, Gatera currently serves as vice president of UMF’s Amnesty International and as a member of the Multicultural Club and the French Club. He mentions that growing up in Africa he was encouraged to learn as many languages as possible. For him, that push developed into what he called, “a growing want…and then a growing interest in languages.”
Kinyarwanda was Gatera’s first spoken language, but due to the German and later Belgian colonization of Rwanda, he learned to write French first in school. He also learned English because of its growing global prominence, and having Congolese heritage, speaks some Swahili, as well. Gatera said that his next language endeavor will be to learn Spanish.
He has also developed his own philosophies, believing that being objective in politics is a good platform with which to influence global political issues. “I don’t want to be judged because of my political direction,” said Gatera. “I want to be judged by the knowledge I am bringing to the community or country.”
He also values the good that comes from religious influences. “They teach how we should live together,” said Gatera. “Let’s just be people.” While learning and experiencing all he can Gatera is also making a contribution to the UMF community. “I like leadership. I’m a leadership guy…Hopefully I will make a difference,” said Gatera. “You never know with that experience…you might be able to apply it in a way you will never know.”
He looks to one of his heroes, Nelson Mandela, and describes him as a source of inspiration. “He was one of the few people who was able to unite two groups that were historically enemies and be able to bring them together,” said, Gatera. “He had trust from people and respect from all over. In short, I loved the way he spoke his mind.”