More than nine thousand miles, 9,245 to be exact, separate Idaho and Tanzania.

That is how far BYU-Idaho senior, Candy Zillale, traveled to study in Rexburg. Although Zillale has roots in Tanzania, she did not always live there.

“When I was five months, my parents came to the U.S., so I grew up in Rexburg a little bit because my dad went to BYU-Idaho,” Zillale said. “Then after he graduated, we stayed in Idaho Falls for a little bit, then Utah a little bit, but ultimately, we just ended up moving to Texas.”

When she was 13, the family moved back to Tanzania. Zillale feels that the move was the best thing her father could have done for her growth.

“I knew I was African. I knew I was from Tanzania,” Zillale said. “But as bad as it sounds, I kind of just didn’t care. I think just, like, actually being there and experiencing (it). I’m obsessed. I think about Tanzania every day, every night.”

Zillale performing at Cultural Night.

Zillale performing at Cultural Night. Photo credit: Chester Chan

While living in Tanzania, Zillale recognized a big difference between Tanzania and the United States: the school system.

“Right before you go into university, you go into this thing called A-level,” Zillale said. “Most of the time, most people prefer to go to government schools for their A-level, and the government kind of just randomly selects a school for you.”

She did not want to go, but looking back, she recognized that her time in boarding school prepared her for college life.

Zillale says that in general, Tanzania is a very religious country. Going to school with so many people of different faiths bolstered her testimony of the truths that she held close.

Tanzania is located on the southeastern coast of Africa.

Tanzania is located on the southeastern coast of Africa. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

“I felt like I would go to churches, and it would be great services,” Zillale said. “I had a good time. I feel like that just gave myself reassurance, like, ‘Okay, where I’m praying, that’s what works for me. That’s good enough for me.’ But it was really nice, and I’m actually glad that I got to religion hop between all these different Christian faiths.”

Zillale is collecting some of her favorite and most interesting memories from boarding school in a book titled, “Confessions of a Boarding School Sinner.”

“It was actually for a class assignment for Editing Essentials,” Zillale said. “(Stephen) Henderson was like, ‘Oh, you need to write something that’s nonfiction.’ I was like, ‘Oh, well, now what?’”

That is when thoughts of her boarding school, half a world away, rushed to her mind.

“Here we are, stuck in this random school in this random village that’s so, so cold,” Zillale said. “But then, yeah, we ended up having a really good time, and I miss them every day. I hope they’re having a good time out there. A lot of weird and funny, interesting things used to happen at school.

Candy Zilale poses for a picture

Candy Zillale poses for a picture. Photo credit: Chandler Guadagnin

Now, here in Idaho, it is still cold, but Zillale believes it was her destiny to come to BYU-I. She originally planned to study chemistry but realized that her passion resided in communication. She looks back on her time at college with fondness and appreciation for the relationships she has built and all of the experiences she had.

“I feel like they’ve just impacted me in a really positive way,” Zillale said. “There are people that I’ve grown to just really love being around, and I feel like I can have good conversations with them.”

As she prepares to take another step into the unknown, Zillale plans to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

“I’m really just waiting to see what opportunities are waiting for me out there,” Zillale said. “I just hope that that same energy leaves with me out of college and so I can continue to do these cute little side quests that just make me feel so good.”