Vongai Vanessa Mahamba

Vongai is from Zimbabwe. She is at UC studying towards a Master of Engineering Studies in Renewable Energy. 

In Zimbabwe there is a lot of energy poverty. Only about 40% of households are connected to electricity. The rest have to use wood for cooking. We need to use renewable sources to generate more electricity, because the lack of electricity supply is slowing down the development of the country. 

Vongai chose to study at UC because of the engineering skills it would give her.

UC has a very strong reputation in engineering. I chose to come here because I knew I would get the skills and knowledge to design and model renewable energy systems. It enables me to go back home and help to develop the country.

She says she has learned a lot already that she will be able to apply back in Zimbabwe.

Before I came to UC, I used to see people installing solar panels on their roofs but I didn't really know how it worked. Now I know everything, from how to do the resource assessments to how to analyse the potential energy production. In Zimbabwe there’s a lot of potential for hydropower as well as solar, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn about hydro systems as well. 

While Vongai has found the workload fairly high, she says the support system for students is very good.

There was a time last semester when I was quite stressed so I went to talk to the advisors in the Student Care office. They really helped. I shared my challenges with them and they helped me come up with a plan. It feels really great to have that support.

It's a well developed campus too. There are so many computers. Back home we were always having to share but here it is much more efficient! When I need to get some work done I know that I can always come to campus and there will be a free computer for me to use.

Aside from her studies, she’s enjoyed making friends and experiencing life in a new place.

This is my first time away from home. It's been very exciting. I've had a chance to make friends and experience different foods from different countries. There’s a lot of cultural diversity here.

She has new learned skills through the clubs she’s joined as well.

I’ve been to two events with the Investment Society. They had professional organisations come in give talks about finance. Most people who are doing engineering don't have financial skills, so if you're looking at doing business ventures it's a really great way to learn.


She says a lot of her learning has been hands-on, which has helped her accelerate her understanding of the course material.

From second semester all of my courses have hands-on exercises. For example, if we’re modelling wind systems we get to use MATLAB, so we actually see how to place the equipment and use GIS mapping. It's both fun and helpful because it helps me understand better. A theory can be quite complicated but when you start putting it into practice it becomes much clearer.

She says UC has been a great choice for her, and recommends it for its style of teaching.

They take a lot of time to explain concepts and you get a lot of practical exposure which has been quite different from my experience back in Zimbabwe. They also help us to know what's been used in industry. That's really important especially for energy development, because it’s essential to be up-to-date with current technology.

Vongai has already lined up potential job opportunities for when she returns home, thanks in part to help from the UC Careers team.

At UC they have a careers service that helps you with employment. They showed me how to set up a LinkedIn profile, so I did that and started following renewable energy companies in Zimbabwe. A CEO from one of the companies approached me and said he wanted to discuss opportunities when I get back. It feels great to know those things are in place. There is huge potential for renewable energy in Zimbabwe and harnessing it can make a difference for everybody.