Surviving culture shock and leading by example
Born in South Sudan, Kom Bol moved with his family to Kenya when he was only ten years old. He saw and experienced firsthand how a general lack of government regulation on environmental issues affect the lives of people in East Africa. In high school, he began having aspirations of getting an education so he could work with local politicians towards protecting the environment.
“Pollution in the Nile River is very serious,” Bol says. “There is a lot of sewage in it, as well as microplastics and other garbage. Since many people depend on the river for drinking water, irrigation, and fishing, this is a great concern.”
Bol is graduating with his fellow Arts class of 2019 on June 5, 2019. A political studies major with an environmental studies minor, he hopes to attend graduate school in environmental law so that he can go back home to East Africa where he can work for an NGO and lobby for greater environmental protection laws and policies.
I attend school not just to acquire knowledge for myself but to inspire others and help them
He explains: “I attend school not just to acquire knowledge for myself but to inspire others and help them; especially my parents, siblings, and my country. I want to go back and lead by example; I want to show them the importance of education and the environment, as well as good leadership.”
He adds: “We can only live in a peaceful world if we do our duties starting from the individual level, then to the family level, and finally to the state and global level; that is the only way we can produce good leaders.”
Bol looks forward to the possibility of working with organizations such as the United Nations, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), or Greenpeace, which he says care about the environment, human rights, peace, and global security.
He notes: “Everyone’s contributions are required for us to live in a peaceful world. We have to support and help one another at local and international level.”
Bol is grateful for the opportunity to come to Canada and study at the U of M, although admits he faced some difficult challenges here.
“I went from 30 degrees Celsius in Nairobi to minus 30 degrees Celsius in Winnipeg,” he says. “And I had no family or friends here to help in my transition. I was really on my own.”
Since coming to Canada, he has enjoyed cheering for the Winnipeg Jets and other local teams, but he is more of a basketball fan: “I love basketball; I play the game and also watch the sport; LeBron James is my favourite player, but since LeBron James and my Lakers did not make the Playoffs, I am cheering for the Toronto Raptors.”
Bol credits the many resources for international students at the U of M for his success.
“The U of M community is friendly and supportive; the university campus is very safe and peaceful; that is why I have been living on university residence for the last four years. Also, the International Centre at the U of M has been very supportive to international students; they show us how to survive culture shock; they help us integrate to the university life, as well as living in Canada, especially through orientations and programs such as the intercultural leaders.”
He lauds the U of M for its international programs: “The U of M gave me the chance to be here and opened doors for myself and many other international students who have so much potential.”
“I am just happy to have survived the winter,” he adds.