Student Stories

Linda Unwali Main

Living Her Dream: Linda Umwali '18

Undergraduate economics major Linda Umwali ‘18 traveled nearly 8,000 miles to pursue her college degree in a culture vastly different than what she’s used to and in a country she’d never been to before. Umwali is the first-ever recipient of a scholarship that was born out of a Hamline study abroad trip to her home country of Rwanda. As part of the trip, which focused on restorative justice following the Rwandan genocide, the Hamline students and professor visited Umwali’s high school, Gashora Girls Academy.

“They were all really friendly,” Umwali said. “They talked about how nice Hamline was, how friendly all the professors were, and how students are engaged in community service and other activities. I thought Hamline sounded interesting but I never expected myself to go to an American university. I talked about it with my parents and, because of the cost, it was out of the question.”

The students and sociology professor Melissa Sheridan Embser-Herbert were so moved by their experiences in Rwanda and at Umwali’s school that they wanted to do something more. Thanks to the work of Embser-Herbert, International and Off-Campus Programs director Kari Richmeister, and generous donations from Hamline alumni, faculty, staff, and students, Umwali started her first year at Hamline in the fall of 2014.

“I love the welcoming spirit of Hamline,” Umwali said, with a smile. “People on campus are so friendly and helpful. The professors are really great because they don’t just look at you as a number; they know you as a person. They are amazing. As an international student, I was a bit nervous because the education system is set up differently than what I’m used to, but I’m doing great in my classes because of the support I get from my professors.”

Umwali plans to learn the ins-and-outs of economics from an American perspective so she can take her knowledge back to Rwanda and help her country flourish. Her love of economics traces back to high school where a teacher explained to her some of the great things the Rwandan minister of finance was doing. The ability one person had to help an entire country grow inspires Umwali to do all she can to make a difference in Rwanda.

“Eventually, my goal is to become the minister of finance and economic planning for Rwanda,” Umwali said. “I know that it will be a long journey, but I want to continue the great work others have started, and continue to do for Rwanda. Progress has already been made by great people and I want to walk in their footsteps.”


As she works her way to that lofty goal, Umwali embraces both the academic and the host of extra-curricular opportunities at Hamline. She recently joined the gospel choir, enjoys attending events hosted by the Hamline African Student Association, and has joined a newly-created student group called the Hamline Peace Project, which works to raise awareness of genocides around the world and works to promote peace.

“I still sometimes feel that this is just a crazy dream. It’s amazing,” Umwali said. “I have really enjoyed my experience so far. I haven’t been here that long and I’ve already made lifelong friends. Each person I meet has taught me something new and has made a difference in my life. I am grateful for this opportunity and chance to be here at Hamline.”

Find out more about Hamline’s economics major on our website. You can also contact Hamline’s Undergraduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.