Imagine living in the national political spotlight and losing a father during the times of the Rwandan genocide all at the age of 3.
Senior Eric Gisa does not remember much from the events of 1990, but his life changed forever when his father, Fred Gisa, the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was killed during the RPF's invasion of Rwanda.
Although it may sound like the storyline of a Hollywood movie, it was and still is reality for the political science major.
Fred was the deputy minister of defense and army commander in Uganda, the country that he and his family had been exiled to since he was two years old. Fred later rose to the rank of major general in the Ugandan army and dreamed to unite his homeland of Rwanda. However, on Oct. 2, 1990, a week after Eric’s sister, Teta, was born, Fred was killed at war.
Now, 20 years later, Eric plans on continuing his father’s mission of peace and freedom.
“At this point, I don’t see anything else to do but follow in my father’s footsteps and make him proud,” Eric said.
Before arriving in the United States, Eric attended school in Rwanda from Grade 2 through Grade 9 and then moved to South Africa for boarding school at Michaelhouse.
After graduation, Eric looked to diversify his life even more by traveling to America.
“I wanted to see something different, so I decided to come to the States,” Eric said. “I’m glad I’ve seen different parts of the world because it opens your eyes and helps you understand life and others that much better.”
Eric first enrolled at Shorter College in Rome, Ga., but after a year, transferred.
While searching for a new academic change, Eric caught wind of Kent State University’s political science program from his uncle, who worked for General Electric in Twinsburg.
Eric’s sister followed her big brother to Kent State, where she is also pursuing a degree in political science.
Since arriving in the United States four years ago, Eric has learned to adapt to the American culture.
“The biggest adjustment for me was learning to balance my life,” Eric said. “It’s very easy to lose yourself in the environment here. In Rwanda, it’s very secluded, so it’s like living two separate lives.”
Even though the cultures may differ, Eric’s vision has stayed clear and focused throughout his journey.
Prior to graduation, Eric hopes to obtain a minor in economics or military science. After receiving his diploma, Eric plans on attending graduate school either in America or the United Kingdom where he will study international relations.
When Eric finally closes the books for good, he will move back to Rwanda and work toward the goal that meant so much to his father.
But above all else, Eric plans on taking the lessons he has learned and using them as the driving force to reach the finish line.
“Through my experiences, I’ve heard new things and learned new things that pretty much shape who I am today,” Eric said. “My journey has showed me to appreciate who I am, which has led me to get involved with politics to finish my father’s dream.”
However, Eric credits his internal burning fire to his mother for motivation to achieve his dreams.
“Even though I aspire to be like my father, my mother is my true inspiration to reach those goals,” he said. “She raised my sister and me by herself after his death; so without her, I would not be where I am or even be who I am today.”