Eight years ago, Bridge2Rwanda (B2R) Scholars Program started. The mission was to help Rwanda’s most talented high school graduates have a chance at a global, top tier education; to compete for scholarships at some of the world’s top education institutions—the likes of Harvard, Yale, Abilene Christian University, and so forth—and the students would make a commitment to return home upon graduation to help accelerate Rwanda’s economic growth.
But for this to happen, for scholars to return and launch their careers in Rwanda, they needed an on-the-ground support system: the B2R Career Development Team. Three years into the program, B2R realized that, while sending students to study abroad was starting to look feasible, helping them make successful return back home would be a different kind of challenge. We found that in order to make their transition back home seamless, we needed to address three fears the scholars faced: The feeling of uncertainty about where and what to do next; the lack of network in the countries they wish to return to; and the overall fear that comes with relocating, transitioning into the professional world, and the complexity of readjusting to the home culture.
To address these challenges, B2R created a career development team, responsible for helping scholars find meaningful summer internships and projects. One way to help scholars create a network of professionals in Rwanda was to facilitate their return back home for summer activities, mainly internships and projects. This would also help them identify strategic areas of impact that they would contribute to when they finished university. Still, with the culture of internships in Rwanda almost non-existent, B2R needed a network of partner employers who believed in our cause and would offer summer internships to our scholars.
As a result, our career development team set out to persuade employers about the importance and benefit of interns and their value to the company—i.e. how their exposure studying abroad would be a valuable addition to the company—and most importantly, how having access to such a rare talent pool would help them meet their employment needs. Fast-forward, in the last four summers, the Career Development team has placed over 300 scholars in different companies in Rwanda and the East African region.
In addition to helping scholars find internships, we organize weekly summer networking events for them and invite professionals in various career fields to share their experience and journey to success. This is one way we help students grow professionally as well as create a platform for them to grow a well-connected and prominent professional network.
Given our talent pool and the consistence with which we supply interns for our local partners, our efforts to find permanent jobs for our graduating scholars have been remarkably successful. Out of all the 20 companies where our B2R Fellows (scholars who have returned) are working, sixteen of them are regular hosts of B2R interns. At the moment, out of the 50 scholars that have graduated, 31 are back in Rwanda and working.
Going forward, the career development team is establishing itself as the most connected team in Rwanda. More crucially, we want to be a place where all Rwandans living or studying abroad find the support they need to make successful transition back to Rwanda. We want to help Rwandans and foreigners return home to make a big impact in the lives of Rwandans. We want to help them find the right employment and business opportunities.