African Social Entrepreneur Chooses TAU
It’s the little things in Israel that excite Michelle Myambo.
The 21-year-old from Zimbabwe, who is studying in the international B.A. Program in Liberal Arts at Tel Aviv University, is astonished by the numerous mobility options available to her in Tel Aviv; she can get around the city by bike, scooter, taxi, or bus. This is one example of an infrastructural change she would like to export to her home country. In fact, her life dream is to make resources more accessible to underprivileged populations.
There is much work to do.
Myambo describes Zimbabwe as one of the world’s “most desperate countries.” Having been ruled by a dictator for decades, the country has experienced long-term economic stagnation and a general lack of progress.
An outstanding student, Michelle always had a heightened social conscience in the face of this reality. While in high school, she was recruited to the African Leadership Academy, a pre-university program training young change-makers in social innovation and entrepreneurship.
It was at the Academy that Michelle heard about TAU. The dean knew Prof. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, program head for the international B.A. in Liberal Arts at TAU, and thought the University’s reputation for innovation would be well-suited to Michelle. For her part, Michelle was impressed by TAU’s approach to liberal arts, a field not available in the Zimbabwean education system, and the high level of international studies offered in Israel, she says. Plus, at TAU International, she was able to study in English while being immersed in a non-Anglophone society.
Michelle applied and was awarded a full scholarship and living stipend by the IMARA Group to pursue a B.A. at TAU International, the University’s school for overseas students, including residency at the University dorms. The IMARA Group’s gift was facilitated by TAU Governor Edwin Wulfsohn. "The scholarship allowed me to pursue my dreams without having to worry about financial security," Myambo says.
The funding was especially welcome for Michelle because Zimbabwe’s economic situation has made the expatriation of foreign currencies virtually impossible for non-business related activities. As a result, parents struggle to fund international studies for their children.
A friendly, effervescent young woman, Michelle was “quite lost” at first. All she knew about Israel was one dimensional: what she saw on the news, narratives of war and conflict. Yet, the fact that she questioned the narrative compelled her to learn more.
Upon her arrival, she found Israelis to be direct and very helpful. This culture of mutual support strengthens Israel as a society and has boosted its rapid progress, Myambo says. Similarly, she appreciates the fact that TAU’s International B.A. program functions as a community, keeping tabs on students; “in a large institution, students can feel isolated.” This community helped her assimilate at TAU and in Israel, she says.
Now in her second year of the three-year program, she is majoring in digital culture in communication.
In addition to her studies, Michelle joined the Ambassadors’ Club, a campus group aiming to provide a nuanced portrayal of Israel through exposure to experts in different fields, including a senior news correspondent and a former diplomat.
“Their experiences caused me to be empathetic to the real people with real issues behind the news …It made me understand the complexity of world politics. It’s not as black and white as people make it out to be.”
Self-described as an “emerging social entrepreneur,” Michelle is constantly processing the big ideas and ingenuity she encounters at TAU to convert them into solutions to her home country’s deficiencies.
In disadvantaged societies, so prevalent in Africa, she explains, people often feel obliged to solve problems within existing systems, even though the systems are flawed. “In Israel, there is success because the country actively encourages the growth of entrepreneurial development” and out-of-the-box thinking.
After she graduates from TAU, Michelle hopes to pursue a graduate degree in either international relations and business administration or sustainability. She wants to study in a third country to benefit from different cultural “set-ups.”
Subsequently, she would like to work in the public or non-profit sector, wherever she could “make a positive impact on people’s lives.” She would like to convince governments to fund young people's initiatives to solve problems with everyday solutions. Specifically, she aspires to merge agro-innovation with social microfinancing in big agrarian communities.
Either way, she ultimately plans to return to Zimbabwe.
“I want to give back on the investment that was invested in me in whatever way possible."