Ozzie Buhendwa, first-year law student at BYU Law, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but when he was a young child, civil war forced his family to seek refuge in Nairobi, Kenya. “That’s where my memories and my schooling begin,” he says. During high school, Ozzie enjoyed sports, especially soccer, more than academics. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to college,” he says, “but there was social pressure to go.” When he received a scholarship to the University of Waterloo in Canada, Ozzie accepted—a decision that would impact his life in more ways than one. Studying abroad was a positive experience, but not without its challenges; living so far from his home and family took a toll. “Two years into my program, things weren’t working out great for me,” Ozzie says. “I decided to take a year off from my studies to get my mind straight.”
During that year, Ozzie met two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who introduced him to the Book of Mormon. A few months later, he started attending Church. “At first it was hard,” he recalls, “I was aloof. But I stuck with it, attended the activities, and started liking it.” Ozzie says that reading the Book of Mormon was a turning point for him. “It wasn’t until I seriously delved into the Book of Mormon, a year after my baptism, that I decided to stay in the Church.” Ozzie was raised in the Protestant faith and did not have the support of his family when he chose to be baptized. “When I joined the church, the opposition from my family was very intense, but I was an adult, and I felt like I could take that step,” he says.
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Ozzie was torn between law school and entering the workforce. When he found out that BYU had a law school, he applied and was admitted to the class of 2022. However, complications with his student visa forced him to defer to the following year. “At that time, I couldn’t afford law school, but there was someone in my family that was willing to help pay for my education,” Ozzie says. “When COVID-19 struck, that financial assistance fell through. I thought I might have to give up on my dream.” After talking to Stacie Stewart, assistant dean of admissions, about his situation, he learned that he qualified for financial assistance through BYU. Ozzie, who is interested in immigration law, is quick to express gratitude for the opportunity he has to study at BYU. “The process of getting here for me personally is a big deal,” he says. “If I hadn’t met the missionaries, joined the Church and decided to stick with it, this wouldn’t have happened.” He adds, “My family is a very big deal to me, and they have softened to the Church during this experience. Years ago I wouldn’t have imagined that was possible. Getting here took a whole community. I want to take the opportunity to say ‘thank you.’”