Now Reading: From small town to Netflix, how one student is reaching for the stars

From small town to Netflix, how one student is reaching for the stars

From the small town of Tarime on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, to being cast in Netflix TV show, Stateless (2020), Calvin Mwita’s own life journey feels veritably cinematic. It is your quintessential story of humble beginnings. But let’s be clear, there’s nothing typical about Calvin Mwita. As a newly minted actor and a Master of Business Information Systems student, Calvin is an extraordinary example of how education changes lives.

From the outset, Calvin’s story is one of boldness, empowerment, diligence, and how education delivered him potent tools for his future – the power of choice and opportunity. It ultimately helped to pave the way for him to pursue his dreams in acting.

At Torrens University and Think Education, as an international university growing through a pandemic, we believe in the transformative power of education – and Calvin’s story sees this truly come to life.

And not just that. His studies connected him to the world beyond – one presenting up to intercultural people, situations and perspectives.

But to really understand Calvin, we’ve got to take you back to when he was just 10 years old.

A journey from across the globe

Calvin was born in a rural village called Tarime on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. His love for the stage sparked from the young age of 10 as he dove headfirst into the world of talent shows, debating, public speaking, student governance whilst at school, and even dabbling in hip hop. It was obvious that creativity and performance were at his core. It was in his bones.

But his life was not without its challenges.

Calvin was thrust into a new world after being sent to a boarding school away from his family and friends. Although it was difficult, Calvin reflects on this time fondly. In fact, he celebrates it as a milestone that taught him independence, helped him grow in confidence and shaped who he is today.

Calvin on stage at school

After finishing his studies, he spent months industriously working on his side hustle as an enterprising (and fledgling) entrepreneur to make a living. It taught him grit, and it solidified his steely determination and resilience.

It’s with this courageous attitude that he took a bold new step, changing the trajectory of his life for good.

A turning point

For Calvin, 2018 was a year of big change, and even bigger opportunity.

It was the year Calvin came to Australia after winning a scholarship with us here at Torrens University Australia. It followed years of dreaming of life overseas. Calvin says the scholarship changed everything. “It was life-saving,” he reflects.

It lightened the financial burden and stress that inevitably comes with being an international student, motivating him to work hard in his studies. And importantly, it gave him the freedom to pursue his dreams in acting.

“If you get someone supporting you, or you win a scholarship, you feel like your dreams and your doors are opening. It just gives you the morale of going to school and the motivation of working hard.”

Each year, at Torrens University, we give away approximately 21 million dollars in scholarships, giving students like Calvin access to pursue further education. It’s part of our commitment to increasing access to education around the world.

Stepping into the spotlight

“It’s something I’ll never forget.”

This is how Calvin expresses how he felt when he stepped out onto set for his first scene of Stateless, one that will stay with him for years to come.

“I felt more than blessed,” he adds.

In short, Calvin was over the moon. He’d always dreamt big, aiming for the stars. He was determined to make his dreams come true. After many failed auditions, the opportunity to make those dreams a reality finally arrived.

Calvin was cast to play the character Taifa Duale in TV series Stateless (2020). The gripping ABC television serial, which was later picked up by Netflix, focusses on the lives of detainees in an Australian immigration detention center. It stars big names like Cate Blanchett, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic West, and Asher Keddie.

On the set of Netflix series Stateless

Calvin found it awe-inspiring to be surrounded by a star-studded cast and of course being able to draw inspiration from them.

“You learn from the legends. You see how a legend does something. You copy what he does. Then you modify it, practice and you’ll see how much better you become.” he says.

For Calvin, everyone around inspires and every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow.

“[It] gave me more experience and more skills on how to improve my acting career.”

He is also proud to be able to represent his culture and ethnicity in the entertainment industry. He is passionate about being able to do good in the community, and to be a positive role model to other little boys or girls with big dreams like he did.

“You can be anything you want to be in Australia,” Calvin boldly declares.

Indeed, how he has navigated his journey tells it all.

The confluence of acting and business studies

Whilst acting and studying a Master of Business Information Systems seems worlds apart, Calvin sees the value his education brings into the equation and how it has enriched his life.

“It’s this knowledge regarding business that frames me and instructs me how to market myself. I’m a brand,” he asserts.

He brings the same thirst and hunger for knowledge into his acting, learning from others on set in any way he could, leaning into the real migrant stories, which emerged.

It was akin to being in a classroom teaming with students from all over the world in his studies. Learning from their lived experiences and being shaped by the intercultural perspectives.

All of these experiences come together, shaping Calvin’s global mindset.

Empowered to change the world

To get to where he is today, Calvin has pushed through many challenges – and he did all this with a smile. It seems to almost energise him. But it’s Calvin’s unwavering positivity and deep desire to do good in the world that truly stay with you.

From the stories on-set of Stateless to an international classroom, these seeds of perspective, wisdom, knowledge now colour Calvin. But he doesn’t want to keep it to himself. He wants to harness it for the good of his community, and to change the world.

“You’d be a role model, you’d be a mentor. Having studied here and transferring it back to your community,” he says.

“Due to my knowledge I can help [people] be better and to get back on [their] path.”

Calvin leads in many ways. In his attitude, in his values and vision for the future. He is unafraid of hard work and is driven by an unshakeable strength, seeing every challenge as an opportunity.

“Being challenged is being taught,” he remarks.

Calvin shares these words of wisdom when we ask him to reflect on those who may be experiencing a difficult time.

“If you [look at] the seasons, there is always summer, there’s always winter, there’s always spring. So hard times are normal. It doesn’t tell you when it’s coming.”

Calvin has come a long way (in distance and in life) from the little boy in rural Tanzania but he is still hungry for more and continues to work hard towards his dreams. What is different is that he feels truly empowered with the tools he needs to succeed.

Calvin’s story is not unlike many other international student stories (sans being on a Netflix TV show, of course). It is one that exemplifies how education empowers individuals with choice, unlocking untold opportunities that may not have been an option for them otherwise.

For Calvin, the future is ripe with opportunity, hope, and possibilities. It is with this spirit that he hopes to inspire others to be global, to be good, and to be unapologetically bold.

“Don’t fear, never be afraid of failure. Be humble and you will get there.”

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