Studying abroad in Kenya was the most challenging task I’ve approached as a student. I felt I mentally prepared well by leaving as many expectations and preconceived notions behind. There will always be some notions you can’t drop, but those seem to be the talking points upon return. For example, I felt I would experience traffic being slowed by passing wild animals blocking the street. On our return drive from safari at Maasi Mara, we had to sit and wait for giraffes to cross the road! While on safari, coming within feet of a pride of lions laying their afternoon away had to be the happiest moment of my trip. A light bulb clicked with the sight of how human and wild can cohabitate and enjoy one another without infringing.
Finding the cultural similarities often allows me to better understand the differences in a new place. Income inequality is a growing and serious threat to the American economy and its people. In America, it is often overlooked by those who don’t search for it or aren’t exposed to it. In Nairobi, the inequality is blaring and rampant. I had a conversation with a fellow student while sitting atop a highway over looking Kiberra, one of the largest slums in Africa. Our conversation noted how perception changes with income and height alike. The scene in front of us was a large valley consisting of shanty homes, storefronts, and restaurants from rift to peak. Just over the peak was Nairobi city with its thirty-story skyscrapers towering high. We agreed it was likely the people living in the clouds had no idea how this seemingly foreign world works. And vice versa, Kiberrans likely hadn’t traveled to the city often.
Meanwhile, we were fortunate enough to be shown Kiberra by a local female-owned empowerment group. While we only know bits of how the people in either live, we are privileged enough to sit atop a highway just high enough to frame both the worlds together. During our orientation early in the trip, one of the guides suggested that Africa had a lot to teach the world. I departed hoping I would be able to share some of the techniques and processes I’ve learned at UTC with my entrepreneur. I can only hope I was able to share an inch compared to the miles I was able to grow with him and the group around me.
Andrew Cox is majoring in Entrepreneurship and Economics. He participated in a faculty-led trip to Kenya through the College of Business and Honors College in May, 2018. Andrew had the following to share with students thinking about studying abroad, “The best way to understand yourself and your current environment is to get out of it! Challenge yourself and do something outside your comfort zone. Studying abroad challenges you physically, emotionally, and academically. You’ll always look back and regret not taking the leap!”
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