Research Coordinator for University Utrecht Research project Maasailand Kenya
UCU: Bachelor of Social Science (Anthropology, Human Geography)
After UCU: Utrecht University; MSc (Sustainable Development)
Where were you raised? "I was born and brought up in a small village at the foot of Mount Kenya. Most people in the region are subsistence farmers, including my mom. I attended a day primary and secondary school in the village where during the weekends and holidays, I assisted my mom with the farm work.
What made you decide to go to UCU? Joining UCU was never an opportunity I dreamt of, especially being from a rural community where information on studying abroad is non-existent. It was a lucky coincidence. I first learnt about UCU in 2007, a few months after completing my secondary school, while working as a research assistant in the village for Canadian University researchers who also happened to work as directors for the UCU in Africa programme. From them, my colleague Evans Kirigia and I informed them of our interest to study abroad.
How would you describe your experience at UCU? I would describe my experience at UCU as both mixed: challenging but rewarding. Coming from different cultural background and education system, it took time for me to get things used to things at UCU. The Dutch meals, particularly bread for lunch was not familiar. Class participation and regular presentation were quite challenging at the beginning, especially because I was not used speaking English habitually during my secondary school. In fact, this is what led me to taking the performing arts courses to improve my personal presentation. My life at UCU got easier by the year as I gradually got integrated into the campus system and the great social life at UCU. I left UCU strong academically, and rich socio-culturally.
What work experience and skills have you built up? Participation in three successful research internship projects at different non-governmental ‘development’ organizations in Kenya and Tanzania (within the past four years) has exposed me to various critical development issues in Africa.
Through the internship research processes I have also been able to develop a strong set of analytical skills: preparing proposal, data collection and analysis, and final reports/theses writing.
Having lived and studied in an international setting, where I also worked as a Kiswahili Teacher at UCU, I have a gained strong multicultural skills and international working experience. Presently, I am working as an independent consultant: research coordinator for a research fellow at Utrecht University who has a research project in Maasailand, Kenya. I coordinate research activities on the ground - managing a small team of three local people, engage in some field activities, develop databases, keep financial records among other tasks.
What are your plans for the future? About future plans, I would very much like to enroll in a PhD programme if an opportunity presents itself. I am also actively searching for job opportunities with international institutions and organizations engaged in international development, particularly those that an environmental oriented – climate change related.
What has the impact of UCU been on your personal and professional life? An opportunity to study at UCU has had great impact on my personal and professional life. A combination of having studied at UCU and living Netherlands, has significantly changed how I perceive society. I have learnt to be open, yet critical about various aspects in life especially on contentious issues such as abortion, religion, sexuality, politics, drugs (particularly alcohol) et cetera. Before UCU, I learnt to view these issues from a single direction that limited the way engage in topics, debates, or even personal involvement in the actual issues. The Liberal Arts and Sciences programme offered at UCU whereby one combines various disciplines taught to me approach nearly all matters from a multidisciplinary angle. This was a very important tool for my Master studies. I am very glad I did my bachelors at UCU.
How would you like to stay connected to UCU? As an alumnus I would be very happy to contribute to UCU as a mentor for other African students. Often, such students are afraid or not sure how to approach the college hall or even tutors about issues. Also, in terms of school work, it takes time to get in to the system. Having someone who has already gone through the process can be really helpful."