Cultural differences do not damper students’ hope for success

February 17, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Two international Daystar students share their struggles adjusting to Kenyan culture

Culture | Tim Ness and Matt Johnson for The Clarion

The transition to college is difficult for a lot of students. Leaving home for the first time, living with a floor of strangers, making new friends and struggling through university curriculum are all significant challenges. This transition can be even more difficult when it’s compounded with the cultural barrier that comes with studying abroad.

Daystar student Blake de Jong nearly finished his undergraduate degree from Calvin College in Michigan in 2012. His degree in international development required him to study abroad for one semester, but he opted to take two years off and work instead. Now 25, de Jong is finishing his degree at Daystar University.

During his childhood, de Jong went to Christian schools that had low diversity rates. Outside of school, however, he lived in a cultured neighborhood and attended a diverse church, so when he decided to attend Daystar, he was already somewhat accustomed to a variety of cultures.

After arriving in Kenya, de Jong quickly realized that studying in Africa would be tougher than he had imagined. Since his arrival at the beginning of January, he has already been confronted with certain cultural barriers that are difficult to overcome. The language, the food and the culture are things that take time to adjust to, but de Jong has made a friend that is positively breaking through barriers.

De Jong’s friend Iragai has offered to hang out with him and help him through his first couple of weeks. Iragai has been there to describe cultural differences and to translate when his friends are speaking Swahili. Blake is looking forward to the semester and learning more about the Kenyan culture.

May Moinkett, a first year student at Daystar, is also dealing with a cultural barrier, but her situation is different from de Jong's experience. Moinkett spent the first five years of her life in Kajaido, Kenya but moved to Maryland when she was six, because her dad's job working with an immigration department in Washington, D.C. required her family to move to the United States.

Moinkett’s early years in the United States were filled with struggles. She had learned the basics of English during her time in Kenya, but she realized she had a large amount of catching up to do compared to her classmates. Being away from her extended family was also a struggle for Moinkett.

“It was difficult at first because I missed my family,” she said. “I always wanted to go home.”

When the time came to decide where to attend college, Moinkett knew that it was time to return to Kenya. Family was a big factor in her decision to leave the U.S. and return to her first home.

“I realized that I didn’t know my family,” Moinkett said. “I hadn’t seen them for nine years so it was kind of difficult to just hear stories about my cousins over the phone. I thought it was time to come back and meet everyone as well as learn my culture.”

Moinkett said that adjusting to Kenyan culture has been one of the biggest challenges in her time at Daystar thus far. Even though her family did their best to hold on to Kenyan culture in the States, Moinkett still feels as if her time in Kenya has all just been one big dream.

She has heard the stories and has vague memories from when she was a child, but even these could not prepare her for living on her own at Daystar.

De Jong and Moinkett are both facing similar struggles, but as time goes on they are both hoping that they will find success at Daystar University and in the future.


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