“Why are you leaving The University of Nairobi for Ukraine? This is the country’s best, many have wished to get that chance but have never succeeded…” An immigration officer asked at the JKIA minutes before I took off to study in Ukraine. He had a point, I thought, but it was too late to reconsider. His remarks are still appreciated, though.
Studying abroad, in a foreign land, is an opportunity many covet. Regardless of the continent, the thought of it alone is exciting. It is a beautiful thing. If you have dreams, it gives you the feeling that they have started coming true. Those without dreams start dreaming. Life never remains the same. It either gets better, or sadly worse.
Using Ukraine as a point of reference, many are the expectations of one when leaving home for study. The imagined picture is that of a perfect environment, good people, a better life, the list is endless. The anticipation is normally of great intensity. The reality, however, is something less, in most cases.
Arriving in a foreign land, it is normal to automatically appreciate what was left behind. All of a sudden, one’s eye open to the fact that home is always the best. For those who were always dependent on parents and guardians, it becomes clear that they are on their own. Some level of responsibility gets installed by default.
A new culture, a different people, an inevitable encounter. A majority only saw the mzungu from a distance, once in a blue moon. Being surrounded by them instills some warmth in the inside. Meeting people from all walks of life leaves one with no other option but to appreciate diversity. Learning a new language, though not easy, is a pleasant adventure.
So learning does not start in the classroom, not at all. From the moment one alights from the plane, he/she starts learning that he is different. One’s complexion becomes more obvious than it was while at home. The stares make you a walking museum. It is easy to lose your steps. This where one learns to accept who they are.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett
Borrowing some inspiration from Terry Pratchett, life as a student abroad helps one grow. It exposes. Technically, technologically, morally and even spiritually. The wise grow in their wisdom. It opens doors to even greater opportunities if well seized. It is better than staying home forever, in a way or two.
Don’t be left out as I share on the benefits of studying abroad in the next article. Who knows, you may consider giving it a try.