African students adjust to life in KSU environment

Amadeus Smith

Dan Teng’o misses his home.

So does Barika, who asked her real name not to be used because she worried about her job and safety.

They miss farmer’s markets that stood just a few miles from Nairobi, with fresh fruits such as mrenda, a fruit native to Kenya, and where a dollar buys a month’s supply of oranges. They remember someone could just go to the tree in his or her backyard and pick the fruit.

They miss the fresh fish from the lake that is caught the day it is sold.

But mainly, they miss the low prices.

“When you come here and realize the cost of living … I find it a bit exorbitant,” said Teng’o, shaking his head and laughing to himself.

Barika said renting a three-bedroom house for $300 is considered expensive in Nairobi.

Teng’o and Barika are graduate students at Kent State. Teng’o studies journalism and Barika studies education.

Cost was among the differences both had to adjust to when they came to the United States. Kenya uses the Kenyan schilling as currency. One U.S. dollar is equal to about 70 schillings. Barika used a gallon of milk to show the difference in living costs.

“I go to Giant Eagle and buy a gallon of milk for something like $3,” she said. “In Nairobi you pay 25 schillings (less than 50 cents) for milk.”

They were also surprised at typical childhood activities here compared to their childhood.

“Almost every boy plays football, soccer in Kenya,” Teng’o said.

Kenyans also played net ball, a game like basketball. It involves, however, a ring with no backboard and a softer ball. Players also don’t dribble the ball.

Barika said she notices many times kids in the United States will stay in and play video games. In Kenya, children just want to go outside and play. The neighborhoods act like families and the kids, in turn, go outside and interact with each other regularly.

There is also a difference in how much stress gets placed on ownership when you’re young.

“Here, kids have my room, my toy … it’s communal in Kenya,” she said. ” I hear kids say ‘My house’ and I think ‘You’re a kid … you don’t have a house.'”

Kent’s public transportation system also makes them miss home. They said they are worried about it closing over the holidays.

“If you’re an international student and don’t have a car, it’s going to be hard,” she said.

But the biggest change they have had to endure is the recognition of race.

“You learn you’re black,” said Teng’o describing his initial arrival at a U.S. airport.

Both said they had never experienced anything like it and that “it was weird.”

Overall, they are glad to be completing their studies but can’t wait to go home for some fresh mrenda and low cost housing.

Contact School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].