My Journey to Carnegie Mellon University Africa

Patrick Tumusiime
5 min readJul 17, 2021
CMU Africa Main Lobby: Photo by Philippe R.Nyirimihigo

Time to return from my self-imposed blogging sabbatical. it has been about 3 years since I last published content online — what better come back than through a celebration of my acceptance into the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University Africa (Yes even in Africa, ‘Prestigious’ qualifies is an accurate description of an academic institution).

In August 2019, I drafted my resignation notice with the intent to one day use it for the intended purpose i.e., notifying my employer that I would no longer work with them, however this was not relevant until May 2021. I drafted it at the time because I strongly felt unfulfilled, and I had started losing peace while at work so the resignation notice at the time was simply an act in faith.

During the same period, I aggressively sought for alternative opportunities in the same line of work but nothing seemed to come through, I sent more than 20 applications to different organizations- mainly Non-Governmental Organizations (I am yet to appreciate civil service) but none of them needed my skills or so I thought, if you have received rejection emails, you understand what I am referring to. Those emails that always start with an appreciation of your effort to apply and then the fact that you are not proceeding to the next level.

As a practical Christian, those were the times when I sought to understand exactly what I was not doing enough of for any of my application to be rejected. I even considered that probably my ‘calling’ could be in entrepreneurship but then I did not have enough risk appetite to venture into it, I later did venture into it but that will be the subject of another post coming up later this month.

Having parents that are both teachers has a way of painting a picture of education that can either attract you to pursue it further or hate it altogether, I was privileged to have veered towards the ‘Pursue further’ picture which is how my Journey to CMU Africa started. I had previously applied to CMU twice, but both attempts always ended prematurely until the 3rd time in 2020, after unsuccessful job hunt pushed me to try again.

Since I had attempted to apply previously, I had a good understanding of the preliminary requirements so applying was the easy part until I went through onto the technical test. After performing poorly on the technical test, I calculated the odds of me proceeding to the next stage and they were abundantly against me.

My usual morning routine involved checking my emails for any updates (especially those regarding my job application status). The morning of 30th March was not any different except that the update I received was that there was an update on my CMU application status page. My heart was racing because clearly, I was not sure what the update was and the Christian in me rose to the occasion and started confessing that this should be the expected update.

CMU Admission confirmation Email

I hurriedly browsed to the application portal and found out that I’d been admitted, that might have been nominated to be one of the best days in my life and indeed it was because I had finally received very good news regarding my application. I thanked God and then quickly shared the news with anyone that cared to listen.

Remember when I mentioned that this was a ‘prestigious’ university, indeed it was, and part of this prestige is the fact that it is very expensive for an ordinary student to afford unless they have someone bankrolling them. That marked the beginning of another process of looking for the funds, also known as scholarships.

With my admission, I could now start the scholarship hunt and consequently I needed to also have an exit strategy from my job. In my nature of work, one doesn’t wake up one morning and resign since part of the terms of my employment required me to give a 3 months’ notice before resignation. Meanwhile I was busy skimming through the internet for more scholarship opportunities and waiting on some the financial aid applications that I had also made to CMU.

There is something special about 30th because on April 30th I received another email update in which I had been awarded a partial scholarship. If the admission was exciting, this one for me was, in the words of my primary English teacher, “ecstatic” and like the reaction to the admission email, I still shared the good news with everyone, and this even motivated me to finally send in my earlier drafted resignation notice (I had always played out this part in my mind while clicking on send).

CMU Africa Scholarship Award Email

Since I had received a partial scholarship, I needed to find a way of covering the other expenses for accommodation, meals and transportation since the course is full time and would require me to relocate to Rwanda. I applied for yet another scholarship which interestingly had a rigorous process that involved a lot of essays but nonetheless I submitted the application.

On June 21st I received an email in which I was informed that my application was unsuccessful. The email came in a few minutes after 9:00pm which is the same time during which the main English news bulletins are broadcast in Uganda, but I doubt that I even remember what the news was about. That night I found it hard to reconcile the fact that the application was unsuccessful and yet also I had resigned from my Job.

MINDS Scholarship Feedback Email

Despite the unsuccessful MINDS scholarship application, I still made it to Rwanda and now proudly a #Tartan as we commence orientation on 19th July. The Journey has only just begun and while it will be a challenging one, I am confident that I will be back here to tell yet another story of ‘My Journey through CMU Africa.’

PS. The purpose of this long story is to encourage anyone reading this that you should not give up on the dreams that God has put on your heart irrespective of what the physical limitations may seem to be.