Reine, Chayma and Benigne : « There are obstacles, but they can be overcome! »
13 Jun 2023
Bénigne, Chayma and Reine are 4th and 5th year students at Icam, Strasbourg-Europe site. They share with us their unique experience as young women coming from abroad or from modest backgrounds.
How did you come to study at Icam, Strasbourg-Europe?
Reine: I’m originally from Rwanda, and arrived in France in 2018 to study. I took a science course, maths-physics-chemistry. When I finished high school, I wanted to study engineering abroad. Then an opportunity arose: on the occasion of the commemoration of 100 years of evangelization in Rwanda, my school set up a scholarship with ECAM (now Icam) and Secours Catholique (Caritas Alsace). Thanks to this scholarship, I joined the CPII. I was the first to get it, and being the first was like a responsibility I had to shoulder.
Benigne: I share the same background as Reine, since I also come from Rwanda and I’m the second student to have benefited from this scholarship. In Rwanda, all courses are in English. And even though I spoke a little French, I had my doubts, especially about the language. As it was a scholarship covering all my studies, I wanted to seize this opportunity to go abroad.
Chayma: I was born and raised in Saint-Etienne. I discovered the CPGE in my final year. And because I like a challenge, I decided to take it on. I then took the competitive exams and interviews for the schools. When I came here, I really liked it. I found out more about the school and its “Heart, Mind, Future” values spoke to me. In fact, I was able to get the Heart scholarship. It helps me finance my studies every year.
Reine: Like Chayma, I’ve been researching the spirit of the school, which promotes student projects. There’s a real sense of collaboration.
Was being an engineer, studying engineering, something you always wanted to do?
Benigne: Ever since I was a little girl, I felt I wanted to be an engineer. I’m very curious by nature, and I was interested in airplanes, for example, not to be a pilot, but to understand how they worked, how they could fly.
Reine: I’ve always been inspired by my family, especially my brother, who’s an engineer. I found his studies fascinating, which led me to follow the same path. I was particularly interested in automation.
Chayma: Like Bénigne, I’m curious and interested in everything: science, history, literature and languages. This prompted me to explore the initiatives around me. In my home town, I was able to benefit from the Réussir Aujourd’hui association at the Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne. It helps high school students from modest backgrounds to open up to higher education. It showed me that it was possible to go further and dream big. To do that, I had to break down certain mental barriers. In Strasbourg, the TESS Lab association helped me a lot in this respect. It helps young people to reveal their potential by giving them the keys to facilitate their professional integration. This has enabled me to develop and meet people who share the same aspirations as me. We can pull each other up together.
Reine: I agree with Chayma about breaking down mental barriers. Specifically about the illegitimacy felt as a foreign student. I had my moments of doubt, and it was a challenge. And I’d say that my second year abroad enabled me to see things differently.
Benigne: I also had a lot of questions. But my desire to explore the fields that interest me was stronger than anything else. I kept at it until I succeeded in surpassing myself. It gave me self-confidence and showed me that I could go even further.
Chayma: There’s something to be deconstructed, something that’s ingrained. But little by little, this feeling is beginning to disappear, and time will do the rest. I hope that graduating will help too. And to counteract it, to somehow accelerate this process of legitimacy, I’m trying to be proactive on subjects that are close to my heart. So I’ve created a podcast to help (future) students find their way in higher education by sharing testimonials and advice. Yes, there are obstacles, but they can be overcome!
How do you feel at Icam? What stimulates you?
Chayma: Meeting new people, without a doubt. Coming to Icam and meeting people like Reine and Benigne is inspiring. I was able to have some fascinating conversations and it opened up new perspectives for me.
Reine: My studies at Icam helped me to strengthen my perseverance. Then I met people like Chayma and Benigne. I already knew Benigne, and seeing her develop, advising her, was a source of motivation. Today, I see more and more international students coming to Icam Strasbourg-Europe. I find it interesting to share my experience, and I hope it encourages other students to come.
Benigne: There are indeed more and more international students, and I’m delighted to see more diversity at Icam. It’s important to be able to support each other. Because we all share common realities. Today I can say that I feel really good at Icam. I’ve found my place here.
Chayma: I had a bit more trouble at first. It has to be said that I’m basically very shy. I took it upon myself to reach out to others. It took me a while, but in the end I managed to find my place.
Reine: I understand and share a little of what Chayma is saying. In 4th year, I was able to work at the Icam reception desk and that really helped me. It enabled me to talk to students and teachers, and to contribute to the life of the school. You can also have your own apprehensions, and I managed to overcome them.
What have you gained from Icam and these years of training?
Reine: The School gave me a lot in terms of my professional life, but even more in terms of my personal development. I learned a lot from others. And it also helped me develop my interpersonal skills.
Chayma: At Icam, I discovered that I loved industrial engineering, and during my training I realized that I’m passionate about education. I give private lessons and I’m involved in several projects around this cause. I’m convinced that by giving everyone the chance to realize their potential, we can achieve incredible things. Icam also enabled me to take the initiative and be daring.
Benigne: I actually appreciate the generalist aspect of the school, because I’m curious. It allows me to explore all fields and that’s great. I’ve learned that we shouldn’t wait for someone to give us our place, but rather create it. And that applies to everyone. We’re all trying to grow and find our own way at Icam.