Stacy Ndlovu: 'In 10 years, I see myself as an expert in international law'

Stacy Ndlovu

Government & French

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I took a class called Introduction to International Relations in the fall of my freshman year and while it was a relatively big class, the professor – Peter Katzenstein – had a 10- to 15-minute discussion segment of the class that he entitled “What happened in the world?” The idea was for students to talk about any international relations “hot topics” at the beginning of lecture and discuss real-life events using the different theories we were learning in the class. I was terrified of speaking in this class – I never raised my hand because I didn’t want to say something silly and I was also self-conscious about having an accent – so I didn’t raise my hand for the first month or two. Then one day I raised my hand because I believed the professor had been looking right at me when he asked “What happened in the world?” and so I gave my thoughts about Iran, practically mumbling, incredibly nervous and almost in tears. The amazing thing was how kind the professor – and the class – was: no one sneered, no one laughed as I had feared and Professor Katzenstein was so encouraging that I think I managed to make a decent argument. In the next class, one of the first things he did was talk about how brave he thought I was for speaking in class because he could tell it was difficult for me. This experience encouraged me to take more chances, to be more confident about speaking my mind and also to realize that sometimes my fears about how people perceive me are far from reality. This realization was important in giving me the courage to talk to people, to participate in class, to join a theater troupe and also to apply to be a tour guide.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

I value the way the liberal arts encourage interdisciplinary exploration. This has enabled me to learn different things, from microfinance to international law to chimpanzee behavior to photography. This flexibility has been so important in teaching me how to think, how to adapt to different situations and how to think through and solve problems. I think this flexibility has been key to my success here because I have so many different intellectual and professional objectives, and Cornell afforded me the opportunities to explore all of them and also develop a solid understanding of different aspects of how the world functions.

What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?

After graduation I am taking a gap year to prepare for law school and also learn more about the state of Zimbabwean diplomatic missions around the world. In 10 years, I see myself as an expert in international law, working for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, helping to negotiate peace deals and advocating for better treatment of civilians in armed conflict.

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