Home » Uncategorized » A Harvard student`s experience in Kigali, Rwanda.

A Harvard student`s experience in Kigali, Rwanda.




Over the course of eight weeks, I came across a 20 year old computer science student from Harvard University. Stephen Turban is such a brilliant and hard working young man who would impress anyone who observes the way he works.

During the time he has been in Rwanda, the American young man spent most of his time at kLab which is an open space for IT entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate. He got funding from his school and came over for a social media health internship.

He had been working with a couple of students from the college of medicine and health at the University of Rwanda to create a template for making radio more interactive. His team was made up of two college students from Harvard and a couple of partner’s students from the University of Rwanda.

“We have been creating a health radio program that focuses on social media in a way that impact health”, said Stephen. How do you use social media in a way that impact health? “Ultimately the question comes back to how you use Face book, twitter, etc to make people take better healthcare decisions.

When he first come to Rwanda he started learning about media landscape and realized that the only way to communicate with people is through radio. About 90% of the population regularly listens to the radio. “So we realized that we have to use radio if we want to be relevant and in order to do something that can impact the community”, noted the Harvard Student.

He told me that the best way to make behavior change is to make a program that is interactive. “In that sense we were creating a radio program that is interactive through social media. The radio program is based at Radio Salus which is one of popular radio stations in Rwanda.

The health related program run every Thursday and Stephen`s team wanted to make it more interactive so that it can create a real behavior change in the community.

IT community at kLab

Stephen had no idea about Kigali and was expecting to find himself in a small city in east Africa. To his surprise he found a vibrant city that offered him a place where he had been interacting with young Rwandan IT entrepreneurs at kLab.

“As I am preparing myself to go back home, I will always remember the incredible people from kLab. I have been thinking a lot about my time in Rwanda and Klab always come in mind because that where I spent most of my time working on my project.

“This is a community of people who are always ready to help each other. They have such tenacity to build something new”.

Missouri and Kigali city

Stephen internship time gave him a chance to see the difference between Rwanda and his home region. I have been here for eight weeks and am about to head back home to the great city of Missouri in the mid west of the USA.

He said that Missouri is so different with the lands of thousand hills. “Rwanda in general is a land of hills but Missouri can be apply named the land of thousands fields of corns”.

“Missouri is pretty flat but not as other mid western states. There are lots agriculture fields and has many parts that are rural but also other that are urban. His home place has two large cities : St Louis and Kansas City. Stephen grew up in Missouri where his family have been staying since his childhood.

Family background

For the time I have been observing Stephen busy working and collaborating with young Rwandan IT entrepreneurs, I remarked that he is a hard working young man. I decided to find out his family background to know its impact on his behavior.

“My parents grew up focusing on learning and my dad favorite phrase is “developing as a person”. His mother was pushing him and his sister to work hard in school but she never told them what she expected from them.

“My parents made me see that learning is something cool to pursue and this is something we got from them.

Stephen`s dad, Daniel Turban is a professor of management studies at the University of Missouri. His mother is a real estate investor and owns a couple of rental properties.

He told me that his father is interested in issues such as happiness and productivity. “When I come home in the night from visiting my friends, I always find my dad reading magazines such as The Time, The Economist or National Geographic”.

“My mum on the other side is interested in subject such as plumbing, painting so they have different passions”. Stephen has one sibling which is his sister who just graduated from the University of Saint Louis in aviation management and has a pilot license.

His dreams

Stephen has got two huge dreams. In short term he want to become fully fluent in Chinese. “I want to be able to read and say anything in Chinese and that takes a lot of practice.”

“I love learning and there is so much fun in doing so”. He spent five years learning Spanish and speaks it pretty well.

Learning Spanish was easy for him as it is similar to English. “When you are learning it as someone who has an English background, you don`t really push yourself hard on how you think.” He said that you figure out easy formula and how to apply them well.

Stephen wanted to learn a language that challenges him to think in different way. “I am lucky because my parents grew up in Hawaii which has an Asia predominant culture”.

He thinks that in every place you find two main cultures. “In the South of the USA, we have the first US culture and the second culture is Mexican.”

The same apply in Hawaii where there is the first American culture then the Asia culture. “My parents come from there and when I was growing up I felt comfortable around Asia culture such as Asia food and people from there”. So that is why I became interested in learning Chinese.

Stephen said that he is lucky during this vacation as he was able to discover Rwanda and will also go to China after his reach home.”I will be back in Missouri for six days hanging out with my family and friends enjoying the beauty of Missouri”.

“Afterwards I am going to be in China for ten days. I am so excited by having been invited at the Youth Olympic in Nanjing which is in the Southern parts of China”. Though it is for a short stay, it will be an opportunity for him to develop Chinese language.

Stephen also dream to start a company with his friends within the next two years. “The company is about self improvement and that could be about a lot of things. It can be about productivity or learning . I really love becoming better at something.”

Rwanda is becoming a growing destination for internship students from the US and Stephen is one of them that I had an opportunity to personally know.

It was a pleasure knowing him and I wish him well in his future endeavors. I jokingly told him that he should not forget about me when he become the next Mark Zuckerberg as he has what it takes to be successful in his future career.


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