My American Story by Joyce Gathirimu Cont...

Adjusting to life in Kenya after USA

I have often being asked why I made the decision to come back home, and I will try to give my reasons here. Remember the American dream I held? After graduation, I was confident that having been given the power to read and to do all that a pertains to the degree, I could start on a promising career with an American company.

I soon realized that positions were highly competitive and usually required time and a lot of legal work. US employers need to obtain a H1-B Visa for an international student or other foreigner, which allows them to work for one to six additional years.

The process is complicated and less familiar to many employer as it involves petitioning the government for an H1-B Visa, obtaining approval from the Labor Department, hiring a lawyer and absorbing some fees. For these reasons, most employers will not even interview, let alone hire an international student.

Animosity is another reason. Some Americans feel that by living and working in the US, international students are taking the jobs away from Americans. Employers also fear that the international student will eventually return to their home country thus it would be a waste of resources in hiring them.

At one point, I had to make a choice, either remain in the US illegally (since in two months time, my student status would expire) and be stuck in my nurses aide job, or come back home where I stood higher chances of finding employment in my field of training as a legal Kenyan citizen or find a business venture with the savings that I had managed to get. I chose to come back home.

Challenges I have faced since coming back home

After nine months of job hunting in Kenya, the results were two job interviews and no job offer. It again dawned on me that it was not going to be much easier finding a job here in Kenya than it would have been in the US.

Still, I was optimistic and positive that I had made the right choice. I later learnt that during the election campaigns in December 2002, the president of our country had promised 500,000 jobs to the youth of this country and so I remained optimistic that that promise would be fulfilled.


Poor Infrastructure in the country is something else I have had to contend with .Majority of our roads are in dire need of repairs/ renovations, the congestions in the city due to non-working traffic lights and poor planning, and the frequent breaking of traffic rules witnessed on our roads by the drivers, is very frustrating.

I have found that communication services in our country are very expensive. Even when there are many companies offering wireless phone services, the rates are still way too expensive. Wireless phone services in USA have plans that give free minutes after 9 pm on weekdays and on weekends.

Back home, I have had to learn to use the cell phone to communicate the very necessary information and in the least amount of time possible instead of using it for chatting and catching up purposes.

Am sure Kenyans look forward to the day when the phone tariffs will be lower. The American banking systems is efficiently run with all the financial institutions being networked in a way that its possible to cash a cheque immediately without having to wait for 4 days for it to clear, and you can make cash withdrawals at any ATM even if you don’t have account with that particular bank, (of course at a fee, but that’s what I call convenience. I think “Pata Pesa” in Kenya, is on the right track and I commend them highly).

Long queues at banking halls would be strange in US, loans and credit are easily accessible and there are bank driveways much like a MacDonald Drive way, and you can make any transaction from your car without having to get inside the bank.

As the most powerful nations in the world, America has excellent infrastructure. Tax money has been put into the development of roads, hospitals, amenities like electricity, water, communication etc.

Though I have seen some improvements in our country since 2002 when I left for US, we are still a long way off, but every long journey starts with a few steps.

For More of Joyce Gathirimu's "My American Dream Story", Click on the links below.

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