People of OU: International Student Ayman Ishimwe


Sophie Hume

International student Ayman Ishimwe standing outside of Elliott Tower. A man of varied interests and talents, Ishimwe hopes to continue connecting with people and learning more about OU this school year.

International student, computer scientist, photographer extraordinaire — Ayman Ishimwe, a graduate student studying software engineering and information technology, left his home in Africa in pursuit of an education and for his chance to make a positive impact on the world.

Born and raised in Rwanda, Ishimwe went first to Tanzania to earn his undergrad degree at Zanzabar University. After studying there, he took time to get job experience working as a software engineer, carefully laying out a plan for his future. Plans changed, however, and despite COVID-19, he found himself making arrangements to travel to the United States.

“My plan was to initially work for at least two years and get that work experience before I started thinking about masters or anything,” Ishimwe said. “Then things happened so fast that the opportunity presented itself one year after [finishing my undergraduate education.] I was initially supposed to come and start last fall, but because of [COVID-19 restrictions I deferred to] the winter semester … Traveling was really tough … When things started easing up towards the end of last year I realized that [I needed to come then].”

As some may expect, Ishimwe’s biggest shock when arriving in Detroit last January was the weather.

“I still can’t even find words … It’s something that people tell you that have been in America from Rwanda, they tell you that it’s cold … It’s something you can’t prepare for,” Ishimwe said. “The first day when I landed in Chicago, O’Hare Airport. And then [we got] a local flight to Detroit. We got outside to get on this bus and go to another terminal. And that’s when I experienced [the cold] for the first time, and I didn’t know what happened … I realized that I couldn’t feel my fingers … I couldn’t feel my toes. I couldn’t even grab in my bag to get my documents … I had to go to the sink, water in the bathrooms, hot water and try to get that heat so I could feel my fingers again.”

Ishimwe got a winter coat and settled into life as a student at OU. In a new country, the isolation of remote instruction was difficult for him. Following the winter semester he began searching for ways to connect with people on campus. One of those ways was becoming a photographer for The Oakland Post. A photography enthusiast with experience behind the lens, Ishimwe saw working for The Post as an opportunity to see more people and places in America. 

“I was impressed that The Post is managed by students,” Ishimwe said “It gave me motivation … knowing that it’s entirely managed and run by my fellow students. I felt like this is the place I want to be, because it gives us the room to be ourselves … It’s like there are no restrictions. That [freedom] is what photography means to me. Another thing is that it gives [me] access to all these amazing events that are happening. I feel like it’s really amazing that I get to experience all those doing my job. Getting paid … but enjoying myself and learning the experience in America.”

As a photographer for The Post, Ishimwe attended his first ever baseball game last May when the Golden Grizzlies closed their season against Purdue-Fort Wayne. One of the photos he took was featured on the cover of the May 26 issue of The Post. He’s had his photos published online and in print ever since.

To gain more experience in his field, Ishimwe began working on campus at Classroom Support and Instructional Technical Services (CSITS) in July. As a computer scientist he’s interested in the future of the internet and working to create a web that is decentralized so data can’t be controlled by a single governing entity. His main interest at the moment is creating apps that run on Blockchain. He’s also fascinated by cryptocurrency and American sporting events like the Superbowl and the NBA finals.