Westmont Magazine Being Open to Love

Adeline Ndacyayisenga

by Sydney Abraham ’23

Adeline Ndacyayisenga ’23, a data analytics major, first heard about Westmont through Bridge2Rwanda, a program that teaches English to high school graduates in Rwanda and helps them attend college. “Their mission is for all of us to get a good education and make an impact in our communities,” Adeline says.

By the time she started applying to college, Adeline knew she wanted to go to a Christian school. “Westmont was on the top of my list,” she says. “My college counselor told me about other students who went to Westmont and loved it. I was attracted to a Christian school because I’m still growing in faith.” Adeline thought Westmont would help her spiritually and provide the right environment for her to learn. Knowing about other Rwandan students at Westmont gave her comfort.

Getting into Westmont’s Augustinian program was a blessing, she says. Soon after, Adeline met Melinda Pullen Pierson ’92, a Westmont graduate from Orange County who learned about the Bridge2Rwanda program during a visit to Rwanda. “She was excited when she heard a student from Rwanda was attending Westmont,” Adeline says. “We got to meet. She told me all about her Westmont experience, how she loved it and that she met her husband, Mike Pierson ’93, there. They ended up being my host family. I have people who are excited for me and think Westmont is a good place for me.”

Adeline faces the challenge of being an international student in addition to just being a student. “It’s hard because most of the time you don’t have any close relatives who visit,” she says. “You’re in a new place, different from the culture you grew up in, and speaking another language. You face many challenges and have to get used to things quickly.” She found her English class especially difficult her first year, and she had to make time for extra office hours with professors and homework. “I translated all my readings in my mind,” she says. “I had to go through that every time I did an assignment. You have to get used to culture, language and even food.”

Unlike most students, Adeline doesn’t see her family during breaks. “It’s hard to express how much you miss your family,” she says. “It’s hard for others to understand what you’re going through, so you keep it to yourself — which is also hard.” Her loneliness initially increased when the pandemic started, but Westmont quickly provided for international students, who stayed on campus when everyone went home. “We didn’t have to pay for housing or food, which is one thing that kept us going because we knew people really cared about us — it brought hope and courage.” The pandemic also helped Adeline get to know people. “I now had a small community who remained on campus, including professors I’m grateful for. I got to build friendships during the first year of the pandemic.

“I’ve grown into someone independent, open to receiving love from others and open to loving others. God provided people who became my family here at Westmont.” Many students she got to know invited her into their homes during vacations. “It was a way of loving and appreciating me and trying to understand me,” she says.

Adeline says Westmont has helped her be more open and loving. “It’s a mutual interaction between me and others at Westmont,” she says. “I’ve learned about their culture and what they like, and I became vulnerable enough to accept that I don’t know everything.

“To paraphrase a Bible verse, ‘Those who are forgiven the most, love the most,’” she says. “I hope I can genuinely love other people who need that love the most. I genuinely thank every person who devotes their life to serve and help students at Westmont, especially international students.”