Nila “Kidege” Uthayakumar was born in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu in India. In 1992, at the tender age of four, she along with her parents moved to Bozeman, Montana. She did not speak a word of English. Upon arrival in the U.S., Nila was sorely disappointed that she was too young to start her schooling, so she spent her time making mud pies on her stoop, and yelling “friends!” at any children who passed by her house. ‘Friend’ was the first word she learned in English, and coincidentally, one of the first words she learned in Swahili was ‘rafiki,’ which means friend.
In 1994, she and her family moved to Thousand Oaks, California, a beautiful little town in the south of the state. Some her fondest childhood memories are of weekends spent hiking in the surrounding mountains. One day, after having lived for ten years as an only child, Nila’s parents surprised her with a baby sister. In 1999, the family of four moved to the sunshine state, Florida, which they have called home ever since.
Nila graduated from the University of Florida with her BS in business administration, and a minor in African studies in April 2010. She studied Swahili at UF for the past two years with the hope of becoming fluent within a few months of her arrival in East Africa. Upon graduating, she will spend roughly two years in East Africa. From May to December 2010, she will be a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar studying Swahili at the Institute of Swahili and Foreign Languages in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and will be conducting field research on the Tanzanian mainland. The following year, in 2011, she will work in Uganda and Kenya in microfinance as a Kiva Fellow.
Nila considers these two years spent in East Africa as a continuing “practical education.” Among other things, she hopes to discover where and how she can be of use in this world, and hopes to perfect the art of living.
She also is seriously considering making Kidege, (or ‘Little Bird’) her legal middle name since her parents failed to give her one.