I am where I am because of my hard work, perseverance and most importantly the generosity of people. People have played a key role in my success and for that reason the best gift to give them back is to put a smile on other people’s faces. I consider myself a success to this point but my success will only be full (successful) if I create a success in another person’s life. Though I cannot count on the instances I have helped people of my age or even older in one way of other, helping students with their college applications and mentoring has been so far. One of the student that I have helped with their applications is now studying in the US. Providing that opportunity for people to advance their goals is key to me.
I do not have to wait to finish my schooling and get a job for me to start helping people. While I am on the wait, I delay the other person’s time in achieving their dreams. I always yearn to help people in the areas that I can. For applications, I did not have anyone that helped me in editing my application essays or to closely guide through TOEFL examination revisions. Maybe if I did, the process could have been much easier. This is why I thrive to help students with their essay writing and also giving some insights into examination preparation techniques.
In the near future I look forward to being a mentor in the areas of career and development among the youth in my community. I hope to start a program that will offer education and career advice for the youths. As a student from Kenya, such resources are not available especially when you are from the rural areas.
What has been the most unexpected part of my experience as an African woman/student in the United States?
The question on gender inequality is predominantly narrowed down to the cultural aspect of African womanhood. Africa is the land where everyone know that women do not have control over their lives and the only role bestowed upon them is being a motherhood. Even beyond this huge responsibility, they still possess a lot of physical and emotional abuse. Even though some of this perceptions on women still exist in certain places, there has been a lot of development in Africa in terms of women advancement. I did not expect to see the same notions in America. There is still a huge insecurity among women in their potentials and abilities especially in the industry level.
I am working in a team of six students this summer as a software developer and it is really exciting. Within this team of six students, we are only two girls. The rest are men. I had not thought that one day I will be intimidated by the ego of men at a work place. While growing up in Kenya, I have never experienced an outright underestimation of a woman’s intellectual ability. In most high schools, even if they are mixed schools, girls always competed with boys in a fair ground without any degrading of a girl's potential. There are often girls who are smart in sciences and mathematics and I was a good example.
Women are not only less represented in the technological or any industry but are paid less compared to their male coworkers as studies has shown. In spite of hearing this in the news and social media, I had not fully grasped its reality. It only dawned on me during this summer internship. For instance, in most cases my male college are always hesitant team up with the two of us. Mainly because we are women.
I was quick to notice such a behavior because it was a shock to me. It was beyond my expectations as an international student. I am not implying that this crushed me as a woman. It was a wake-up call. To be a voice for other women. It does not matter whether I am a woman or a man, knowledge is to all. This had just happened after I attended a Women Undergraduate Summit with McKinsey Company and on that day I could see through the speakers that there is a huge leap that women have to take to ensure that they achieve their career dreams. On the their book, "How Remarkable Women Lead," Joanna and Susie shows that women two "could stand down their fears and gain the confidence, and single-mindedness to lead, without losing their warmth personal authenticity or creativity."
In summary, it was quite ironical that a lot has been achieved in the issue of gender discrimination but there is still a lot to accomplish starting from America.
Saying goodbye to the people I love and taking the last bite of the food that I have grown up eating was an incredible step. On the other hand, while I took a quick glimpse on what the future holds, made me pour out tears of joy while saying goodbye to my family. I wondered, how am I going to survive without Ugali (the African cake, like corn bread) for more than a month? No rice no githeri (Mixture of maize and beans, so good!) Thanks goodness, rice is a global food. I was thrilled and relieved after seeing the plenty rice in America. At first, it was hard to get used to the food, especially cheese which I am actually a fan now. The principle of not sticking to my comfort zone has given me that ability to try new stuff, new food and new things. There are great American dishes that I love now.
It has been a journey of personal growth. I have been able to meet students from different places: Africa, Asia, South America, and many other places. I have been able to learn about the world in short period of time and I want to travel places. United States is a place full of diversity in all aspects of life, be it religion, politics, culture and many others. In the midst of all these diversity, sticking to my principles and knowing who I am as believer in Christ has made this journey an awesome experience.