Taylor Thornton


The Mbaki brothers: Studying abroad in Utah


When I was in elementary school, my mother set up different “stations” in the basement with posters and infographics about countries worldwide. I was so intrigued by the differences I found there that it led me to look for international opportunities later on in life.

One of those opportunities was an evangelical trip to South Africa. There I was exposed to such a rich culture and history that I was overwhelmed. I came to make several friends and connections that will last a lifetime.

Several of my friends in South Africa have migrated to America. As I pondered what I could report on, I began to question the immigration process my friends went through, especially during the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

I immediately called my friend, Lawrence Mbaki, and asked him about his experiences coming to America. I was intrigued by his story, and I knew I had found my enterprise story lead.

He referred me to the departments that helped him move to America and find educational opportunities. I spoke with Jamie Orton of the International Scholar and Student Services Office at Southern Utah University. I gathered much information and began my writing process.

This process involved several phone calls to my friend Lawrence and his brother Kevin. We had many conversations about their experiences and the setbacks they’ve encountered. Many of our discussions led me to research more about national and state policies regarding international students.

My research presented me with a lot of material that became hard to narrow down into an intriguing story. Much of the material was factual and could be interpreted as dull if I didn’t present it correctly. My challenge became articulating the information I had found into a story that compelled readers to keep reading.

Through many silent sessions at my desk, I gained inspiration about how to voice the story I had gathered. After a few drafts, I finished putting together the story of Lawrence and Kevin Mbaki and their experience coming to America.


I grew up in Salt Lake City. As the second to last child, I had a lot of freedom to express my creativity since my mother had gotten used to three high energy children by the time I was born. 

When I was young, I was always finding something creative to do. Whether I was painting the old computer in the basement, rearranging the living room furniture into a fort, or taking pictures of my little sister in front of my neighbors’ garage doors, I was always busy. My favorite creative pursuit, however, was writing. 

My passion for communication and creative writing led me to an opportunity to attend college full time after my sophomore year. I left my high school world behind and began my pursuit of higher education.

I am currently in my junior year studying strategic communication at the University of Utah. I am employed as an office assistant for Berkshire Hathaway Homes in Salt Lake City.