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Alumna - Kanza, Rocio - Alumni Corner

Rocia G. Kanza


Class of: 2014
Degree Program: Associate of Arts - Liberal Arts

What factors led you to decide to attend Hudson County Community College?
Multiple factors led me to decide to attend HCCC. The first being economic, the second was the college’s proximity to home and the third was the capacity to couple both classes and a side job.

What is your favorite memory of the College, in or out of the classroom?
My favorite memory of the College in the classroom was attending Prof. Javedd Khan’s courses. He always pushed us to look at an issue with a different perspective, forcing us outside of our comfort zones. My favorite memories outside of the classroom are related to taking part to the College’s student activity opportunities. I had the chance to partake in the LEGO - leadership program which strongly forged me as a young adult. I also created the HCCC MUN club with which I was able to attend the Harvard National Model United Nations conference in 2014, an experience which opened numerous doors for me afterwards.

How did you become interested in your major?
My initial interest in my current study track was sparked by a Model United Nations Conference at Saint Peter’s University as a senior in high school. Model United Nations is a simulation of the United Nations which gathers students from different universities around the world to debate in a UN style about current international relations issues. I made the choice to return to Europe and further my studies at a French institute of international relations, ILERI Paris, in order to acquire a more international exposure.

How did your time at HCCC prepare you for your career/ life now?
Attending a community college can sometimes be seen as a stigma by high school seniors, but I believe that it gave me a certain maturity right out of high school. Thus, HCCC taught me that persistence was the key to success in everything you do no matter the age or path you take.

What is a typical work day for you?
I am currently acquiring my master’s degree in International Relations with a specialization in conflict studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Thus, a typical day for me consist of a lot of self-study in order to finish my master’s thesis on the peacebuilding architecture in Ghana, for which I am trying to identify the elements which allowed the country to become a successful peace model in its region.

What has been the most memorable project/case you have worked on?
The most memorable experience I have had in my current masters’ program was to have the ability to intern at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, a leading European think tank in field of security and defense. This experience allowed me to acquire the experience to be surrounded by some of the best analysts in their respective field of research and to witness how research could influence policy making in the Netherlands.

Who are your biggest inspirations that have impacted your work in some way?
My mother is a hairdresser and has always pushed me to be the best version of myself at anything I do. She always says, “Do your work well, even if it is cleaning a toilet. Because people do notice when a job is well done.” As a hairdresser she managed to pay for all my tuition in HCCC, ILERI PARIS, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Leiden University. I have attended four higher education institutions in four different countries and I have no debts. She taught me the meaning of hard work and what it can produce. So she is my daily inspiration and the well in which I draw my strength.

What advice would you give to recent HCCC graduates?
Do not limit yourself to the United States, there are so many opportunities outside of U.S. frontiers. Do not be afraid of the world, by leaving you will expose yourself to so many people and opportunities which will make you a more resilient individual. Do not be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone, that is where you grow the most. The growth may come with pain, but if there is no pain it means that you are not growing.

What advice do you have for those students who are just starting their college careers?
Make use of every opportunity the university offers, specifically student activities. The most forging experiences you will receive from university often happen outside the classroom. My extra curricular experience at HCCC opened doors for me that I could have never imagined. So take part to events, invest yourself in a board and if nothing interests you, do like I did create an organization which suits where you want to go in life.