Senior Tarryn Rennie swimming the butterfly stroke at Fresno State’s Aquatics Center. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

African student chooses Fresno State to pursue higher education

A Fresno State student is working to prove where one comes from does not determine where one is going.

Tarryn Rennie, a senior from Zimbabwe, Africa, is a swimmer on the Fresno State swim team majoring in media, communication and journalism. Rennie is a member of the College of Arts and Humanities honors program and is working on a research paper to compare and analyze American and British media portrayals of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

Her ultimate goal: help improve her troubled homeland.

Zimbabwe, once known as Rhodesia, has lived under the presidency of Mugabe for 30 years. The nation continues to wrestle with the ramifications of its colonial past.  

Rennie said she has witnessed a lot of poverty and homelessness and has seen too many children who should have been in school, but weren’t. There were times where she walked into a grocery store that had completely empty shelves.

“You picture somewhere like FoodMaxx, and it’s completely empty,” Rennie said. “And we used to sort of park our cars outside the gas station and leave them for three days in the hopes that gas would come by at some point.”

Rennie’s boyfriend, Blake Costalupes, a Fresno State student pursuing a graduate degree in sport psychology, said Rennie is proud of where she comes from.

“Although Zimbabwe is in economic turmoil and is struggling politically, she sees the beauty in it and always has faith that things will get better there,” Costalupes said.

She began swimming at 6 years old and came to the U.S. on a swimming scholarship to pursue a better life. Since then, Rennie has broken many records at Fresno State.  

Although swimming is a passion, her journey to Fresno State wasn’t easy. She misses her family and friends, who are more than 8,000 miles away.

Kim Rennie, Tarryn’s mother, said it was tough letting her daughter go.

“I grieved like I had lost a child, literally,” Kim said.

There are times when it gets tough. Sometimes, Tarryn doesn’t feel at home. But despite the hard goodbyes, there are more good times than bad.

Being part of a team with passionate teammates has made Rennie grateful for the opportunity to expand her education.

“I’m not the sort of person who likes to just make use of something. I want to expand it as much as possible. I want to get as much use out of it as possible, and I’ve been able to really do that.” Rennie said. “So I think just being able to have that vision and be challenged and stimulated is probably the best thing that’s happened, along with my friends.”

Rennie expects to graduate in May and wherever life may take her after graduation, she wants to make a change in her native country.

“Ultimately, I think could see myself going back home. But that’s sort of way down the line, a couple of decades I would say,” Rennie said.