Make Your Mark

Make Your Mark

Blessing Tupiri '14: From Zimbabwe to McKendree

By Nick Watt '13    

During the soccer season you can see Blessing Tupiri '14 dribbling down Leemon Athletic Field shouting out plays and words of encouragement to others. What he is saying is understandable but his accent is unique. That’s because he has traveled nearly 8,650 miles from Harare, Zimbabwe to attend McKendree University.

The 24-year-old senior forward came to McKendree to pursue his education, play soccer and experience living the American lifestyle.

“I thought I’d hung up my soccer boots after high school, but the chance of getting a soccer scholarship to aid in my studies gave me the courage to do something different,” he said. “I got recruited by Tim Strange, who is now the women’s head coach, and I was more than willing to take on the challenge and start a new life chapter.”

However, before coming to the U.S., Blessing decided to take some time off after high school to travel and spend quality time with his family. He describes life as tough in Zimbabwe. The country “has been facing many challenges in the last decade, mostly political,” he said. “For the longest time Zimbabweans have had to ‘make a plan’ on how to make it through each day. Hopefully something better is over the horizon."

“Being out of school and without a job makes a good combination to be your family’s ‘go-to guy.’ Often times I found myself in queues for scarce basic commodities and services like gasoline, corn meal (a Zimbabwean staple), even the bank to withdraw money. Times were hard and I was just trying to play my part in helping my family.”

Once Blessing finally made his way overseas, he admits that it took him a while to adjust to life in the U.S. Coming from Zimbabwe, there were a few things that “baffled” him. “Everywhere I looked there was human development; I was used to the open African savannas,” he said. “I remember thinking to myself one day after I had gotten to see more of the U.S., being a developed country must require that you have ‘drive-through’ everything!”

As he settled in however, Blessing discovered that McKendree was a learning environment in which he could certainly flourish. “McKendree has given me more than I could have ever imagined,” he said. “The professors are friendly, involved people and playing intercollegiate soccer has been a dream come true.”

Blessing has not only been involved with soccer but also is a member of the International Student Association, has volunteered for service projects with the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service, and participated in mission trips through Campus Ministries. He is adamant that “the new friendships I built in classes and through the International Student Organization made the transition easier.”

The honors student is majoring in pre-professional biology with a minor in sports performance. “I have always enjoyed science because it is never stagnant, there’s always a new discovery around the corner,” he said. He is currently utilizing what he has learned about rural health in a summer internship at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia, Ill.

After graduation Blessing plans to continue studying medicine in graduate school. He eventually wants to return to Zimbabwe to practice sports medicine or rural health. “I see just how much Zimbabwe needs graduate students like me to help rebuild and reinstate it into its rightful place,” he noted.

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