SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Two students from the south African nation of Zambia have began their studies at SUNY Schenectady this semester. The opportunity is part of a new partnership between the university and international institutions in several foreign countries.

Ngambela Zulu and Maureen Mbanga traveled thousands of miles from the Kafue District of Zambia to Schenectady to study.

“Being here is an amazing feeling. A dream come true for me,” said Zulu.

Zulu is studying Culinary Arts at the college, with hopes to become a professional chef in the future. He says cooking has been his passion since he was a child. While in Africa, he volunteered at the Amos Youth Centre, cooking lunch for hundreds of students in Zambia.

“That motivated me and makes me happy because I love serving and I enjoy being around kids and giving them food. Some of the children would have maybe a single meal at home,” he said.

With his experiences at SUNY Schenectady, Zulu hopes to open a restaurant and culinary academy in his home country.

Meanwhile Mbanga is a math and science major who hopes her experiences in the United States will help lead her to a career in electrical engineering.

She says she previously wanted to become a soldier before switching career ambitions, “I also love to fix things, that motivated me to change my course from becoming a soldier into electrical engineering.”

Mbanga sees the opportunity in Schenectady as a gateway to achieving her dream of bringing accessible electricity to her Zambian village at home.

“It’s really hard for people to communicate in terms of network. At least if I can apply electricity and also apply some network systems, that will really really help my community,” she explained.

The opportunity for these students was made possible through partnerships with institutions in Zambia, as well as in India and Indonesia.

“We are really trying to diversify and go global in creating these partnerships,” SUNY Schenectady President Dr. Steady Moono said.

For Moono, that push to go global also has a personal connection. Through the partnership with Zambian institutions, he’s helping change the lives of young students from his home country.

“It’s a highlight, it is really a highlight. Growing up in Zambia, being born in Zambia and going back and partnering with the country. It’s a dream come true,” he said.

Moono says these partnerships also provide an opportunity for Schenectady students to study abroad in these countries.

As part of the celebration to welcome these students to Schenectady, Dr. Chola Milambo, the Zambian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, was on campus earlier this week to wish the students well in their studies. It was a meeting both say was an unbelievable opportunity.