Eric Muthondu

Eric Muthondu – Richmond, Texas

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

When Eric Muthondu arrived from Texas for three weeks at the Bovard Scholars program, it was a first for him. He’d never been to California, let alone Los Angeles. “I thought the whole experience, from getting to the airport, was breathtaking, to be honest,” he says. “A city like Los Angeles, so bustling, so full of vibrant cultures — everything about it grabbed my attention.”

Like a lot of Bovard scholars, Muthondu was somewhat apprehensive about who he’d meet, whether everyone would get along or be in competition with one another to get into the best schools in the country. But he connected quickly with fellow students, sharing their highs and lows and diverse experiences. He, for instance, had emigrated with his family from Kenya. “I felt, we’re in this together,” says Muthondu. “Despite a lot of us coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, there’s power that we as individuals have to go out into the real world and do well for ourselves and our families.”

In December of his senior year, Muthondu found out he had been accepted to Harvard University through the Early Action program — but wasn’t sure it was a fit. He applied elsewhere, and after acceptance letters from the likes of Yale, Princeton and Stanford came that March, he toured. In the end, Harvard was the most compelling — not just education or the vibe on campus, he says, but students and faculty he met. “Everyone was really real about their experience,” he says. “They didn’t sell me on it.” Now, as a freshman, he’s planning to do a concentration in African Studies, with a secondary degree in economics — with the long-term goal of a career in diplomacy and politics.

Despite a lot of us coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, there’s power that we as individuals have to go out into the real world and do well for ourselves and our families.”

Thus far, the transition has been smooth. “Just for myself, coming from a low-income, immigrant background, it’s hard to envision yourself at an institution like Harvard,” says Muthondo. “From being here, I know I’ve earned my place.”

He’s found his peers, upperclassmen and professors to be incredibly relatable and surprisingly down-to-earth. And he’s learned to seek out the help he needs. “There’s so much support here. There are peer mentors, peer tutors, a lot of people to help you with homework or understand the reading. It’s the resources, they’re definitely there. If you don’t look for resources, it can be challenging. You have to make a concerted effort to ask for support.”

To future Scholars: “It’s what you make out of it. If you come in with a positive attitude, learn as much as you can, get into friendships and relationships there, you’ll have a fantastic time.”