During Zimbabwe's struggle for national liberation, thousands of black African students fled Rhodesia to universities across the world on refugee scholarship schemes. To these young people, university student activism had historically provided a stable route into political relevance and nationalist leadership. But at foreign universities, many of which were vibrant centres for student mobilisations in the 1960s and 1970s and located far from Zimbabwean liberation movements’ organising structures, student refugees were confronted with the dilemma of what their role and future in the liberation struggle was. Through the concept of the ‘frontier’, this article compares the experiences of student activists at universities in Uganda, West Africa, and the UK as they figured out who they were as political agents. For these refugees, I show how political geography mattered. Campus frontiers could lead young people both to the military fronts of Mozambique and Zambia as well as to the highest circles of government in independent Zimbabwe. As such, campus frontiers were central to the history of Zimbabwe's liberation movements and the development of the postcolonial state.