It’s been a long and astonishing road for the Zimbabwe-born Kudzai Tunduwani.
The 21-year-old, who currently lives in Bay Ridge and attends the Grove School of Engineering at City College, can do it all. Not only is he in his final year studying mechanical engineering, he also has the desire to use his skills for good after he graduates this year.
“I was born in Zimbabwe and I moved to Brooklyn in 2006. I was in Seattle the year before,” Tunduwani said. “Things in Zimbabwe went south right as we were leaving. I learned a lot of values there. I learned to be polite and treat people with respect. I always remember where I came from and value the importance of my heritage.”
Tunduwani admits that the transition to the U.S. wasn’t an easy one. “The biggest adjustment has been limiting myself. There are so many opportunities and choices here,” he said. “You meet the best people in every field in the U.S. Focusing and making sure I’m not spread out too thin is my biggest challenge.”
It’s a tall order for a student who interns with the UN’s Department of Public Information and the NYC School Construction Authority. “The UN has a lot of potential for collaboration. I’m getting to work with people all over the world. It’s eye-opening to experience different cultures,” he added. “It is important to understand different points of view and how they feel about certain issues.”
Tunduwani ‘s love for mechanical engineering came at a young age. “I had a strong interest in airplanes, and the mechanics and dynamics that underlie the principles of flight so it was really airplanes that got me interested in engineering and my parents sort of pushed me even when I faltered a bit with the math,” he said.
He believes that, shortly after graduation, he will get involved in a construction-related field. “It will allow me to go back to Zimbabwe, rebuild the country, and build a skill set to contribute something that is vital to the country,” he said, adding that most of his family still lives there. “My dad emphasized the importance of culture and keeping traditions alive and remembering where I came from.”
During his academic career, Tunduwani has received many accolades, including recently winning third prize overall in CUNY’s citywide Nobel Science Competition. “It was great. I was waiting on results for a while so it was nice to finally get the email,” said Tunduwani, who was also recognized for starting a new club and student government.
“A club that I started this semester, Skywatch Astronomy, won New Club of the Year,” he said. “That was nice to get. During my freshman year, I joined student government and the first semester I was there I won senator of the year.” To help pay for school, he has also won a few scholarships from different organizations, including the New York Urban League.
Tunduwani’s versatility is also what makes him unique. He is minoring in economics, has a passion for astrology, is currently writing a book about a Libyan boy who loses his family in an airstrike, and learned to be a skilled golf player during his time at Brooklyn Tech.
Tunduwani’s inspirations through the hard times have been his parents. “My dad was the biggest inspiration with engineering because he was able as a teenager to come to the United States by himself to study engineering. My mom was also an inspiration, just with sticking to what I said I’m going to do,” he said.