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Studying abroad

Posted by Administrator on February 1, 2011

Every year international colleges hold career fairs in a bid to tap into the Kenyan student market attracted to the glamour of overseas study. SHIRLEY GENGA finds out the real life experience of Kenyan students abroad.

Martha Maneno

Martha Maneno

Martha Maneno

University of Warwick, UK.

Did you experience a cultural shock?

Yes. People are polite unlike Kenyans who are aggressive and courtesy words such as ‘yes please’ and ‘no thank you’ are commonly used. The transport system is also highly organised and precise, so if I miss one train, the entire day’s schedule changes.

Is the cost of school and living expensive?

Very expensive. I would receive a monthly stipend of £825 (Sh103,950). About £494(Sh62,244) catered for accommodation and the remaining was hardly enough for food, transport, laundry and other necessities. The tuition fee was £10,900 (Sh1.7m) annually, which is very expensive.

Other challenges?

It was very lonely especially during Christmas. It is winter around this time and everyone is home with their families. There are also no trains operating and we were stuck in the hostels with no TV to watch because we could not afford the license required to own it. The license is more expensive than the TV.

What did you like about studying there?

Shopping in the UK is memorable. The standards of education are also very high. It taught us to be creative and to think outside the box.

What advice would you give someone intending to study in the UK?

You need to be focused, disciplined and remember why you are there.

Alvin Okello

Alvin Okello

Alvin Okello

University of Maryland, US

How was your experience?

It was very different from what I was used to. Although my parents are US citizens, I studied in Kenya. What I loved about the university was the forum they created to enable people of different cultures to express themselves and to interact. There was a Black Student Association, which enabled Africans from all over the world to meet, organise festivals, eat African food and other activities.

Is it costly to live and study in the US?

Very costly, especially if you are an international or out of state student. Citizen students paid US$16,000 (Sh1.3m) while the rest paid US$56, 000 (ShSh4.5m) annually. Only in private universities like Harvard does everyone pay the same amount.

What do you love about it?

I did electrical engineering and my university was among the top 15 engineering universities in the US, so it was a plus. The social life was wonderful. The university was also keen on promoting heritage and sports and there would always be basketball and football matches where the whole campus gathered to cheer.

Advice for those hoping to study in the US?

Take advantage of the activities because they are avenues not only to connect with others, but also to get scholarships. You must also maintain an average of grade C or above otherwise you are put on academic probation (suspension), which requires reapplication. Also, do not work more than the hours required for an international student because it can land you in trouble. The Kenyan Embassy on the East Coast is also very helpful especially if you want to extend your visa or meet other Kenyans.

Wendy Macodawa

Deakin University , Melbourne, Australia.

How was it when you got there?

I experienced slight culture shock, but managed to quickly adapt, thanks to my previous exposure to different cultures.

How is it different from Kenya?

Melbourne is a metropolitan city that is spread out hence one requires a bus or taxi to move from one point to another. Melbourne is also located along the coast and a trip to the beach is less than 20 minutes. If you don’t want to go to the beach, you can enjoy the many beautiful shops, cafÈs, museums and restaurants.

What are some of the challenges?

Adjusting to the different seasons, especially winter.

What do you love about Melbourne?

I love the fact that it is a multicultural city and the residents are friendly. The city is also famous for its art, festivals, musicals and exhibitions throughout the year.

What would you tell someone aspiring to study in Melbourne?

Research will reduce the culture shock. Get information from the Australian Embassy in Kenya or from the Aussie Institution in Westlands. When you get to Melbourne, pick the leaflets distributed in most public places because they contain maps, important numbers and locations of social amenities. Though I have been there for one year, I still carry my information guide everyday.

Agnes Okello

Nagpur University, India.

Did you experience a cultural shock?

Totally! There would be crazy traffic jams not because the president was passing, but because a “revered” cow (a qualified cow) had decided to nap in the middle of a highway and police had to divert traffic!

The food, dining habits, fashion, etiquette and religion are so different from Kenya’s.

How is the cost of living and education?

The cost of tuition was lower compared to Kenyan universities. Basic needs are affordable and available.

Any other challenges you faced?

Coping in a new environment was hard and the weather did not help. I experienced the hottest summers of up to 50 _C. Language was a problem, as very few locals speak English.

What did you love about it?

The whole experience made me who I am today. I’m self-reliant, go-getter, hardworking, and flexible. It also improved my perspective of life. I began to appreciate the things we take for granted like being born a Kenyan!

Also, India truly is a developing country and for the five years I was there, I saw gradual improvement in the infrastructure, economy and service delivery.

What advice would you give someone intending to study there?

Go with an open mind and study the environment before letting lose or curling up into a tight ball in a corner. Focus on your mission to ensure you achieve it.


Jackie Wasonga

Natal University and University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Was the culture there different?

Yes. I had never experienced racism. There were no rooms on campus for white South African students. White students got rooms only during summer break when the university hosted exchange students. The South African blacks were not very friendly to foreign blacks because they felt we were taking over their opportunities.

What are some of the challenges?

Dealing with racism among the black, especially in Durban. There was also a lot of crime in Durban. I once saw a man being knifed and robbed near the beach. On many occasions, people assumed I was a local, but when they realised I don’t speak the local language, they insulted me. This forced me transfer to Cape Town, which was more cosmopolitan and friendly.

What advice would you give someone wanting to study in South Africa?

Try to connect with Kenyans living or studying there and get information about the university, particularly those who have been there. Have an open mind and enjoy the beauty and fun, especially in Cape Town, but don’t forget what took you there.

Alma Midega,

Kuban State Medical University, Russia.

How is it different from Kenya?

Many times I had to stop myself from gaping because of the cultural shock. I felt like the true African. I was also amazed at how they loved and invested in their country. Another thing is the absence of street urchins only gypsies once in a while during summer. There is racism in a few areas, but it was mostly fun. I made close friends and many contacts, which are still beneficial.


Communication was a big problem, as most people speak Russian. Oh, and the first winter is the true meaning of “baptism by fire.”

What do you love about it?

The people, the food and the fast life. The streets are also very beautiful. A walk at the end of a long day is just what anyone needs to unwind.

What advice would you give someone interested in studying in Russia?

Be focused because it is easy to lose to be derailed, but have fun.

Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/sports/InsidePage.php?id=2000028001&cid=616


One Response to “Studying abroad”

  1. Sam said

    Good analysis that will help anyone coming to the west. The guy from Maryland is not a good example of what to expect. His parents are US citizens so i bet you he did not pay the hefty fees or work the crazy jobs. He had access to school loans and all the benefits. Otherwise, studying in the states in not only expensive but stress full from fees, immigration and jobs. Its survival all the way!

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