Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, located in Juja, has turned out to be a hub for international students. The students have different experiences in issues such as housing, academic programs and culture shock among others.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FACE ?
Most international students within the university have experienced culture shock when they arrived. Apart from figuring out the new academic programs, those students had to navigate a whole new host of social norms.
Despite being oriented, these international students meet different challenges from languages barriers to food issues; Dr. Churchill Saoke the current the director of ALISO, said that a guide has been made to give an overview of what they should expect as they travel to Kenya. All international students have embraced this guide.
Daniel Ayuen, a third year pursuing Agricultural Engineering and who is currently serving as the representative for the South Sudanese and a voice of reason for all international students said, “ I have lived in Kenya for six years and have adapted to the food and the language. This is because I lived in Kenya three years before joining JKUAT, three years ago, therefore I did not experience challenges when I joined as an international student.”
Joshua Oluwaremi, a student from Nigeria experienced culture shock since he was used to eating all foods back in Nigeria spiced with chilly (pepe). Coming to Kenya he was forced to adjust to food without chilly until after sometime. This second year student pursuing Finance and Accounting also knew no Swahili and found it irritating when some students and lecturers spoke in Swahili.
Chef Jean, a second year student pursuing Bachelor of Science in Economics from Rwanda experienced challenges when he first arrived in Kenya two years ago. He reckoned, “ Travelling to Kenya from Rwanda was quite tiresome since I used a bus, after his arrival to Kenya he also found it challenging to access the Rwandese embassy in Kenya since he had no one to guide him.’ Having been used to French for so long, he was forced to adjust to the English language since majority of Kenyans speak in English.
The first semester at JKUAT is an exciting time for international students but there are some challenges that arise in the new country and academic environment.
When it comes to intakes, international students undergo the normal university intakes although students on exchange program who come for a short period of six months and below depending on their different projects have different intakes.
Dr. Churchill Saoke (the director of ALISO) reaffirmed that some international students come on the basis of work and study programs; the short term exchange program students.
On online university admission, Daniel said, ‘the online application need to be revised and it should ensure that once students have uploaded their documents online incase one has been forgotten, the students should be allowed to upload the documents without physically moving from their respective countries to bring the document to Kenya without even being admitted.”
As it is a social norm in most universities where students have representation through the campus leadership. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology also have students who are being elected to the Jomo Kenyatta University Student Association (JKUSA) and they basically champion for the welfare of the students.
Previously, JKUSA incorporated the position of international students where they had one representative nominated to represent and champion for the welfare of international students within the institution.
“ When I first came to JKUAT, I was nominated to represent international students at JKUSA which made me to interact and meet many people, unfortunately, when the Duale bill on university election of 2016 was passed in parliament to become a law; the law brought a setback in international leadership as the position had to be struck since the law facilitated for four positions i.e. the position of a chairperson, vice-chairperson, treasurer and secretary general, fretted Daniel.”
Dr. Churchill said, “ When I came the director of ALISO last year, I found that only one country especially South Sudanese which had more students as compared to other countries had their own representing all international students. I embarked on ensuring we have one person representing all nationalities at JKUSA and also individual national representatives who coordinates with the one person who has been nominated to champion for the welfare of international students at JKUSA. I have affirmed the matter to the senate and hopefully 2018 it shall be fully implemented.”
On matters of Housing and Accommodation, could also be challenging for new students who arrive in Kenya especially when they know nobody to assist and guide them.
Joshua, from Nigeria did not struggle so much when he landed in Kenya, he narrated, ” my friends from Nigeria picked me up from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and hosted me for a period of two weeks before I moved to my own apartment. I knew the cost of the houses in Juja since they oriented me about the cost of houses so I did not struggle much.”
But, “ one of my biggest challenges when I came to JKUAT was finding an accommodation and even when I found one, I had to share a room with a person whom I did not know and I have never seen,” said Chef Jean, how disoriented I was since I did not know how to relate with the person.
“We provide accommodation and housing basically for post graduate students ; those on exchange programs and those whose term is short within the institution but still we guide the international students on places where they can rent houses outside the institution; said, Dr. Churchill Saoke (In his office)
On new assignment and new professors, in universities one is likely to be graded in many ways: on test papers and class participation. Chef Jean, who was used to the French system of education found it challenging at his first glance.
“ When I first came to JKUAT, I had a problem with writing numbers like other normal students as I was used to the French system; I was not familiar with the Kenyan numbering format and it took me a month after one of the lecturer followed me and explained to me the difference.
The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology administration and the ALISO have received an overwhelming endorsement from the international students since they have ensured they have well coordinated with the international students especially in ensuring the students have permits on time and in case their passports are about to expire they facilitate transport to their respective embassies.
In spite of all the challenges, life is all about taking risks and these students have stood firm to ensure they meet up their goals as they study in a new environment which majority have turned out to love and call a second home. Dr. Churchill Saoke mentions that ALISO is focusing on ensuring they foster collaboration between Pan African University and the international students within the institution.
He said, “ International students are the people who facilitate the marketing of Jomo Kenyatta University to the outside world; he hoped that soon the JKUAT community would be attending education expos and workshops in other countries to facilitate the marketing of the University.”