Content Warning: This article contains references to domestic violence.  

A STEM major who does poetry, social justice work, and assists in the Resource Center, Alice Musabe ’22 was described in her nomination as  “a combination of grace, intelligence and fashion” and “a girl of energy, kindness, and passion.” Despite navigating all of her extracurriculars and job applications, Musabe still found time to sit down with The Argus to talk about life at Wesleyan and post-graduation.

c/o Lumen Constance

c/o Lumen Constance

The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated to be a WesCeleb?

Alice Musabe: I don’t even know, that’s a good question. I think because I’m involved in the Resource Center, I’m a Socioeconomic Status and Disability Intern, and I’ve been doing so many events around mental health, accessibility, how to access the Accessibility Office at Wesleyan. So maybe people who know me from the Resource Center. Also, my poems have been published in the Argus recently. I guess it’s a combination of all those different things that I’ve been doing.

A: What are your academic areas of interest and how did you get involved in those areas?

AM: I’m doing Neuroscience & Behavior and SISP (Science in Society Program). I’m an international student, so when I came, I knew that I wanted to go to med school, but then I didn’t know which major I really wanted to take. I feel I like Molecular Science more because it’s involved with mental health. I do mental health things and also some developmental disorders, so those are the main areas of my interest. And I’m thinking of SISP because I feel like it’s a nice way to combine the natural sciences with the social sciences because as a doctor and as a physician, you need to know your patient’s background history to actually be able to treat them well, especially in therapy. I want to become a psychiatrist, and I need to know how to combine both the natural and the social aspect of the profession to be able to treat people adequately.

A: In general, how are you feeling as a senior?

AM: I’m really excited to have my first job, but that also comes with the stress of applying, getting a job, getting recommendations and, because I’m mostly international, I need to relocate to someplace new. So it’s exciting, but also brings so much anxiety at the same time. I can’t even pinpoint who could have nominated me or anything, so I’m honored because we do so many things at the Resource Center and I’ve been putting so much time into writing poetry, so I guess it’s nice that people have acknowledged and have benefited from everything that I’ve been doing.

A: Can you talk a little bit about what you do at the Resource Center and also how you got involved?

AM: I’ve been working at the Resource Center since my sophomore year, so I’m part of the Socioeconomic Status and Disability Interns, and I really focused on the disability aspect because that connects more to my majors and career aspirations, so we do so many events. We also did the imposter syndrome event that would connect students and professors to talk about mental health because I feel like whenever you go to a professor and ask for an extension for x, y, or z, you need to find them in a place where they can understand where you’re coming from. I feel like having an event that connects professors and students is a good way for them to be able to accommodate students without being like “what’s happening, mental health, or I don’t know what Wesleyan says to say about accessibility.” We do so many events around academics, financial access, and disability.

A: Why did you decide that you wanted to work for the Resource Center?

AM: As a First Generation, Low-Income [FGLI] international student, the Resource Center has so many resources for us today, so going there every now and then as a freshman for free snacks, I got to talk to people, there was a very nice community that made me feel welcomed, and also many resources that I got there for free or easily. That inspired me to be part of that system, to work with them and provide more resources for others, especially because there’s always something to do to not only solve an issue but improve the quality of life at any place, I was like “Let me focus on, you know, disability. Let me focus on mental health.”

A: You mentioned your work with poetry, and I know it got published in the Argus. Could you talk more about poetry at Wesleyan?

AM: Coming in, I didn’t really see myself as a poet because I had so many poems made, but I never shared anything. So literally the first poem I ever shared on my social media when I came here was the second semester of freshman year, so I don’t really know so much about the Wesleyan poetry culture. I feel there’s been so many events like open mic where you go to recite poems or songs. I feel like the only way I know the poetry culture at Wesleyan is for those different open mic events, like at [Malcolm] X house, or at the Resource Center, or during orientation events. Of course, there’s so many people who write…there is so much talent at Wesleyan.

A: I know you mentioned performing at open mics and different events. How have you felt your poetry has evolved or grown?

AM: Coming to the US, it gave me ideas, my mind grew. The ideas that I can tackle in my poetry expanded. I guess in the structure of writing, it didn’t change that much, but it gave me the confidence, because with an open mic with my type of friends, there isn’t so much at stake, so having that exposure, reciting your poem, getting some feedback was really nice, it grew my confidence and it gives you more exposure. Also being a woman and a person of color, with the political aspect of the US, your mind really expands on how much you can tackle in your poetry, like the message behind every single word. However, being raised in Africa, I do not have the same experience with racism as African-Americans, so there is much I don’t know about racism, but I am learning day by day, and incorporating all those different aspects into my poetry. Though my poems are not politically focused, they are more about mental health, feminism, and love. That’s the main way that I grew up.

A: Another thing that was mentioned in your nomination, was your work with Domestic Violence Survivors. I was wondering if you were willing to share more about that, if you’re comfortable.

AM: For part of my SISP major, I’m taking this class called “The Health of Communities,” and my project is about domestic violence. So if a victim calls in and there’s a protection order, how do people follow up on those cases to actually make sure that the victim is safe in their place, in their home, and that the offender is like, I guess not necessarily getting punished, but taken care of in a way. I got involved especially because I’m a feminist, I really believe in women empowerment, and I feel like being abused by your intimate partner is one of the worst things that can happen, especially because all of us want to feel loved. Experiencing violence firsthand with an intimate partner is [something] that troubled me, so that’s why I really wanted to work on that project. I work with the Connecticut Coalition of Domestic Violence Agency. I don’t think I can say that much because it’s a whole ongoing project, but that’s briefly what we do.

A: Something that I was wondering was, how has being an international student shaped your experience at Wesleyan directly or indirectly? I know this is a really big question so please take it as you may. 

AM: Yeah, that’s a huge question. Coming into the academic system is really different in a way. I feel one of the common shocks that international students have is the way you can be friendly or familiar with your professor. There isn’t so much a power dynamic… Being able to close that barrier in your own mind [and accepting] that professors are easy to approach and to befriend them is something that we need…to succeed academically. Another thing is coming in as an international student, you don’t know so many people. You know one or two people from the same country. Whereas for domestic students, 90% of you guys are from the same country or the same state. It’s kind of extra hard to make friends because it’s different people, different cultures, different languages. When English is not your first language, sometimes you need to make the transition in your mind, or you don’t know some slang, or movies. I think there are so many cultural contexts you have to learn to actually get comfortable in the social aspect of the US… If you’re international, you have to put in extra steps to get familiar with life, with the system, with people and then you can flourish afterward. It’s also been fun when people are curious in a good way about your culture and your background, just bringing in that new perspective is nice when it’s not abused.

A: Something that you raised was student-professor dynamics. I was wondering if you would like to elaborate on that a little bit or if you’d like to highlight any professors or Wesleyan faculty that have been integral in your trajectory or “career” at Wesleyan.

AM: I don’t want to generalize, but in my country, I’m from Rwanda, there’s a sort of respect to give your professors. They have to be more intimidating to you, so the respect comes from an aspect of fear, which is different here in the US. I feared them because they know more than me in a way, but you can still have personal relationships with professors, which is different at school. Also office hours. We did not have office hours in my high school, so there was no time to talk one-on-one or to talk about anything beyond class content, and it was a waste. [At Wesleyan] Professor [Laura Ann] Twagira has been really amazing to me. I also love my advisor, Professor Aaron Gloster, and Professor Helen Treolar.

A: What has been one highlight of your time at Wesleyan or what have been some prominent memories that come to mind?

AM: I can just say like my whole junior year in general. For me, freshman year was really hard. I didn’t do so well academically and there was so much going on: transition, adjusting to life, making friends, or the crazy things. Sophomore year I did not know what happened, but junior year, that’s really when I found my circle of friends. I knew my major and I liked all of my elective classes. I feel like that really helps, being a junior and taking elective classes, because I could take classes that I really wanted and am interested in. Also, getting a summer internship. I just feel like junior year was a highlight of the three years so far. I feel more confident, with more concrete friends, and I did succeed more academically than my previous two years.

A: Do you have any advice for first-year students or upcoming first years?

AM: My family wanted me to do biochemistry because you know, it’s heavy science or whatever, but I really wanted to become a psychiatrist. At the end of the day, I tried my first year to follow their dream, but I was miserable to some degree. I was like, “you know what, maybe neuroscience, whatever happens, happens.” That’s very controversial, but I feel like trying to find your own voice, regardless of what your family or peer pressure wants you to be or do. It takes time and so much courage, but I feel until you find it, until you’re actually sure, then it’s always going to be very stressful. You’re not going to be happy. My [classes] are really hard, but the fact that I chose them and I’m enjoying the content makes it doable. So I guess finding the confidence to be themselves early on. That’s really hard or vague, but whatever that means to every incoming freshman: find yourself early on, don’t fight to be who you are because it comes out eventually.

A: Not to stress you out, and I know it’s still early, but what are your tentative plans moving forward after Wesleyan?

AM: I’m pre-med so I’m planning to go to med school. I want to take a gap year, so I’m applying for jobs for a one or two-year commitment. No job search is the easiest, but we are navigating that system. I’m hopeful because I go to Wesleyan, which is a good school. This thing is going to make it all happen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Oliver Cope can be reached at

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