Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and wonderful experience, but at some point it might feel like a nightmare especially if you are not psychologically prepared for it. At first, you might fall in love with Kenya; Beautiful scenery, friendly people and a relatively good education system. But it soon sinks in that you are not home, where everything is familiar. You might make statements such as: “I feel like my life has stopped”.
Culture chock is a natural emotional reaction to the change of cultural settings and it is characterized by confusing and nervous feelings such as excitement, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and desire to go home. I had these mixed feelings when I came to Kenya. Not just me, but many international students went through this difficult initial process of adjusting to a new cultural environment and sometimes, like myself, new language.
Take the case of Patricia, an Angolan living in Kenya for the past one year. She has taken the required entrance exam several times without success mainly because the English language is totally foreign to her. She chose to come to Kenya because that’s what she had agreed with her parents. At first she liked Kenya and she had a passion for the English language but at some point she had loathed the country because of the exam frustration and all she wanted was to go back home. Now she understands that nothing is easy and that she has to keep on doing her best to achieve her goals.
My experience is not very different from Patricia’s and many more foreigners that have given up and gone back to their home land. A few of us are determined to finish our studies, so we consider ourselves “survivors”.
However, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are a few things you can do as a foreign to make your stay in Kenya more comfortable:
Do background research
You need to plan and choose carefully about the country you are going to. Find out the similarities and differences between your home country and ‘abroad’. This is very important because if you move to a country that you know nothing about, you will have a hard time in your social integration process like I did when I moved to Kenya with my parents. Well, its not I had a choice but some online research would have helped me know a few things about the country.
Get to know some things about the country like names of the main cities, type of food, artists, entertainment etc. so that it gives you some excitement and curiosity about the country. In my case I didn’t have the opportunity to do all this. I didn’t even know that I had to start all over again in campus. So it was hard for me to get used to the idea of staying here for four years. Every time I failed the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination (All non-speakers of English are required to do that exam to join any American University or Organization) I used to get depressed because I had never failed in my life. I hated the language. I hated Kenya. I didn’t have friends simply because I wasn’t ready for it.
After your research, you just have to have the right frame of mind and enjoy most of the things about the country that is going to host you for four or more years, make friends, and learn with the citizens. This is going to make your life a lot easier and fun.
Last but not least if you are going to a country with a different official language from what you are used to, you just have to understand that the fact that you speak a different language doesn’t make you any stupid. Be open minded about it, speak their language, make friends don’t be afraid to make mistakes that’s how you learn. It’s ok not to be ok. You can’t learn a foreign language and get to write and speak it fluently in seven months, it takes years.
Studying abroad is not easy but you can make it the best experience of your life. You just have to be patient, open minded, love learning and most important it must be a decision that you have chosen to make.
Are you a foreign student in Kenya or a Kenyan studying abroad? share with us your experience by sending to [email protected]