Waterford Kamhlaba United World College Southern Africa - (WKUWCSA)

Sharon Martins (Swaziland, WK 01-07)

What years did you attend Waterford Kamhlaba? (What forms/year group?)

Form one –Form five: 2001-2005

IB: 2006-2007

Please tell us what you have done or are doing at the moment? (e.g.. what you studied and what field you are currently working in)

I work at the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland in the Senior Cultural Affairs position. I am also the EducationUSA advisor at post. Broadly, I work in the Public Diplomacy field. My work entails organizing U.S. visiting speaker programs in various thematic areas such as women and girl’s empowerment, public health (HIV/AIDS &TB), youth entrepreneurship and art and music programs. I enjoy working with the U.S. visitors and seeing the engagement and cultural exchange unfold as they interact with Swazi audiences. Additionally, I manage a few of the Embassy’s cultural and educational exchange programs such as:

  • Hubert Humphrey Fellowship for mid-career professionals,
  • Fulbright program that allows Swazis to pursue Master’s degree programs in the U.S. &
  • Pan African Youth Leadership program (PAYLP), designed for high school going Swazis to travel to the U.S. to sharpen their leadership skills.

I am also the EducationUSA Advisor at post. Through EducationUSA, we assist students wishing to pursue an undergraduate degree in the U.S. with the processes involved in applying for both admissions and financial aid. Lastly, in Public Affairs, we work with local organizations to award them grants for various projects. This work is extremely gratifying as we have the opportunity to assist Swazis organizations who are doing amazing work in key focus areas.

 

I have a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on development from Earlham College in Richmond, IN.

Could you tell us what inspired you to pursue your career path.

This is a deeply personal question because I was inspired by how cultural diversity, exposure to different ways of living, thinking and being really challenged me, in an almost uncomfortable way to grow and become very open minded. Growing up, I was very shy and came from a very strict Christian household, where there was a very clear set of rule of how to be and exist. I spent a lot of time in church were everything I knew and heard at home was reinforced. Studying at Waterford, especially during the IB period, is when I began to interact with people from diverse cultures and who think differently. Through the Davis Scholarship, I had the chance of going to the U.S. for college where, of course this shift was greater and I had to do some uncomfortable evaluation of certain things and beliefs that I had held growing up. However, this discomfort allowed very deep introspection about my own beliefs and allowed for very rich dialogue. I came to value rich dialogue relating to differences, contrasted against a judgmental attitude that I had once held. I came to truly appreciate diversity of thought as a conduit of growth and expansion. It is against that backdrop that I work in the international relations field. I believe very passionately that cultural exchange and a mutual respect for cultural diversity allows people, communities and countries to be better. The Embassy provides a space for me to work in that sphere and I am truly grateful for that.

 

Did Waterford in any way play a role in your career path choice?

 Refer to previous question

What advice would you have for aspiring students who would want to be involved in similar areas of expertise?

International Studies is a very broad and interdisciplinary field. Within my major, I had a focus on development, which channeled the coursework I did. Find a focus and find your specialty. I will caution though, that life, as a whole, will throw your plans off and that is ok. Stay focused yet flexible; be willing to learn as you go. I started of working at the Alliance Francaise in Swaziland as a receptionist, this after graduating college. It was slightly discouraging at the first yet I learnt so much working with diplomats and just observing protocols. The environment was very culturally diverse and I continued to learn and thrive until I got the chance to do what I love at my current job.

 

Do you have any fond memories of Waterford? Could you possibly share one with us and could we also ask you to send us one or two pictures of your time at WK?

Oh my! I might get in real trouble for this: a group of friends and I used to write letters to each other. Yes, hand written letters!!! We would write about everything: school, family, boys, crushes etc. and exchange them. I forget how frequently but it was a thing. In retrospect, it was such a beautiful exercise and truly special. Shout to Osaebea Amoako, Ohenewa Anno, Steven Patouris.

Most embarrassing moment at Waterford?

This is not embarrassing but I was a day student (or day bug rather) and I feel like we have never addressed why we were called “bugs”? hahahaha! Are day students still called “day bugs”? Imagine going through all of high school as a “bug”!

In addition, a person in my class in Form two maybe once said I had “nappy hair” and I stopped talking to him for like a year and he never knew what he did wrong! LOL

 

WK crush?

Gosh!!! Why this question? Hahaha.

Mbongeni Dlamini (Bongi) and in my defense he really was everybody’s crush. Hahaha!

Tai Ford

What’s your favorite ’90s jam?

*blank stare* I was too deep in the books!

Who was in your WK #squad (friend group)?

 

Osaebea Amoako, Ohenewa Anno, Steven Patouris (through high school)

Welile Ndlela and Banele Nkambule (through IB)

 

There are extended friend groups obviously and many names and faces that I still hold very dear to my heart.

Favorite teacher/Most hilarious teacher?

Mrs O’Connor-P’OC

Many people were terrified of her and I just loved her. A tough cookie but because I was a goody-two-shoes we never had any issues. I believe she liked me too

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