My American Story by Joyce Gathirimu Cont...


I soon realized that I could not find employment like I had anticipated and when I finally did find one in-campus, it paid the minimum wage of $5.04 and I barely worked 20 hours in a week. I was now in a big financial problem.

I had to find ways to survive, like skipping meals, renting books instead of buying new ones, and cutting out all extra costs like entertainment, buying new clothing etc. .Five months down the line, I could not make ends meet and I knew I had to get a better paying job, since I was in no way going to write back home and ask for more money.

With the help of one African student, I was able to obtain employment off-campus, where I could now earn between $10-$15 dollars per hour and work as many hours as I wanted. I had to survive despite what the immigration laws said about employment for international student.

In case you want to know, I did not find a job as a customer service executive or project manager in a company, but I found myself working in nursing homes as a nurse aide. Most Kenyans in US shy off from telling people what kind of jobs they are doing because in most cases they are degrading jobs.

Other jobs that are common with Kenyans are cashiers, packers in industries, waiters, waitresses, gas station attendants etc. Please note that there is a small percentage of Kenyans in USA that have been able to secure meaningful employment often in fields such as IT ( System Analysis & Programming), electrical engineering, Accountants and related occupations.

It was not easy having to work during the night and attend classes in the morning. Many are the time; I would attend class and instead of listening to the lecturer, take a nap after working through the previous night. With a better paying job now, I still depended on others to give me a ride to work and school, help me in opening a bank account, learn to drive and obtain a drivers license.

And finally, after being in the US for about 10 months, out of necessity not luxury, I was able to buy my own car on credit and rent my own apartment off-campus Other challenges I faced were adjusting to the American social life where everyone minds their own life. If someone is not going to class, they are going to work.

At the end of the day, one feels lonely, and isolated among the crowd. There is a large Kenyan community living in USA and especially in the University I was attending, but due to the numerous cases of Kenyans back-stabbing each other, one has to be cautious on who they associate themselves with.

Kenyans have been known to report to the immigration authorities their fellow Kenyan that have fallen out of student status or broken some other immigration law. Thus, suspicion looms large among this community.

Cost of living

The cost of living is high. There was the $400 per month rent, $250 per month car payments, $300-$400 per month for bills (electricity, water, phone, gas, cable, internet etc) and other expenses like food, clothing, fuel est.


I was looking forward to the winter season and so around January 2003 I woke up one morning to find the grounds all covered up with white substance and I realized it was snow.

Though the first weeks of winter were exciting, the excitement turned to annoyance due to the bitter cold, and difficulty when driving. I had to endure the whole 3 months of the winter.

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

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