KENT, Ohio-- While the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, many South Africans feel the loss in deep and personal ways.
"I'm very sad," said Nhlalala Mavundza, a South African who is studying at Kent State. "And I wish I were home. I'm very, very sad, heartbroken."
Mavundza, whose friends call her "Lala," grew up in a free South Africa, thanks in large part to Mandela's achievements.
She says she remembers how, as president, he always emphasized education as a pathway to success.
Today, Lala a Fulbright scholar studying for her doctorate in neuroscience at Kent State.
"He brought people together," she says. "And he gave us hope. And he taught us how to forgive."
Mandela forgave those who imprisoned him for 27 years for opposing apartheid.
One expert at Kent State said his nation followed Mandela's example.
"He was able to hold the country together at a time when blacks might have sought revenge," said Dr. Christopher Williams who teaches Pan-African studies.
"They listened to him because he was a leader, a first-class leader," Dr. Williams said.
Mandela was an icon, but was also known as a man who enjoyed the small pleasures of life.
"His love for children, his dance," said Lala. "He was always happy in public, always."
And Mandela seemed to know his destiny at a young age.
Dr. Williams said Mandela predicted he would be South Africa's first black president.
And he made that prediction in 1952.
Read much more on Nelson Mandela HERE.