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Through the Global Campus Exchange program, engineering students have the opportunity to experience what it is like to be enrolled at another CMU location. This past spring, nine students from CMU-Africa spent the semester on the Pittsburgh campus, where they had the opportunity to take courses, participate in student activities, and broaden their career prospects while experiencing a new city and culture. For many students from Africa, participating in this program affords their first experience leaving the continent. The exposure to students from a different part of the world, as well as other cultures, enables the chance to learn about both others and themselves.

“Students learn both socially and academically from their interactions with students from the Pittsburgh campus,” said Ines Manzi, associate director of student affairs at CMU-Africa. “They are also exposed to more variety in classes and can come back and advised on what we can add to the curriculum here.”

Students have a broader range of courses to choose from during their time in Pittsburgh, particularly in regards to in-person instruction.

“The diverse courses I took in Pittsburgh were eye-opening and stimulating,” said CMU-Africa student Brice Muvunyi. “I thoroughly enjoyed the patents class, which provided a unique perspective on the intersection of technology and law.” Muvunyi also studied Spanish and web app development during his time in the U.S.

The opportunity to participate in student activities both on and off campus is another integral part of the exchange program experience. From shopping to skiing to visiting museums, the students are able to take advantage of being part of a larger student body than what they experience in Kigali. 

Johncliff Mutungwa Ndabunguye applied to spend the semester in Pittsburgh because of the city’s strong academic institutions and diverse cultural atmosphere, as well as the course and research opportunities offered. As his time in Pittsburgh progressed, he was impressed by the vibrant and close-knit community.

“I was amazed by how welcoming and friendly the people were, both within the university and the city as a whole,” he said. “The sense of camaraderie and support among students and faculty members made me feel instantly at home.”


As these students consider future careers, they also gain exposure to companies who may not typically recruit in Rwanda, as they have opportunities to interview for jobs with organizations with a presence in Africa or in the U.S. Some students were intrigued by the proximity of tech companies to Pittsburgh.

“I was amazed to find several leading tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta, have their offices there,” said Muvunyi. “This thriving tech ecosystem offers a unique opportunity to connect with professionals and understand the industry more practically.”

Mutungwa says that engaging with diverse perspectives made a significant impact on his future academic and career endeavors as he broadened his knowledge and enhanced his critical thinking skills.

“The program provided me with valuable networking opportunities, allowing me to connect with professionals and researchers in my field of study,” he said “These experiences and connections will undoubtedly contribute to my future academic pursuits and career prospects.”

The sense of camaraderie and support among students and faculty members made me feel instantly at home.

Johncliff Mutungwa Ndabunguye, MSIT student, CMU-Africa

Some students also decide to pursue a Ph.D. after their semester in Pittsburgh in order to continue with their research program alongside CMU faculty. Lynn Kirabo participated in the exchange program in 2015 and its impact has been clear through her decision to go on to enroll in Ph.D. program in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII).

“While in Pittsburgh, I got to take a number of human-computer interaction classes,” Kirabo says. “These classes introduced me to a field I was interested in and would often try to describe, but I didn’t fully have the vocabulary to express it.”

Chris Harrison, a professor in HCII, spoke with Kirabo about the doctoral program while she visited from CMU-Africa, encouraging her to apply. Earlier this year she successfully defended her dissertation.

As part of the exchange program, Haoxiang Dai, a student from CMU Silicon Valley, traveled to CMU-Africa to study this past semester. A student in electrical and computer engineering, he was initially interested in studying in Africa because of a family member working there, but he had never been to the continent before. Having been born in China, the experience added another dimension to his worldview.

“It’s really interesting to see the cultural difference between the Western and Eastern society, and now in Africa,” said Dai. “It has provided me a really unique perspective to observe how people cooperate and how their culture affects their working style. 

With an interest in blockchain business, Dai was also drawn to CMU-Africa because of the continent’s rapidly growing adoption of cryptocurrencies and because of trade connections between his hometown of Guangzhou with Africa.

“I’m curious about the business here (in Africa), and maybe I can make some meaningful impact,” he said.

Dai learned a great deal from his experience in Africa from the differences in interpersonal relations, to cuisine, to academic opportunities to work with students both in Pittsburgh and Africa. He was intrigued by the differences in interpersonal connections both in academic and social settings.

In previous iterations of this program, students from the U.S. have spent a semester in CMU-Africa, and Manzi hopes that this component of the exchange can be reinvigorated in the future.

“By sharing what our students are enjoying and what we have here, we hope that students in the U.S. will be interested in coming to spend a semester,” said Manzi.