My American Story by Joyce Gathirimu

Like every young Kenyan, or should I say majority of Kenyans, I always had a desire to one day travel to America. After all, the United States of America has long been known as a land of opportunity and I wanted that opportunity for my family and myself.

The "American Dream" of success, fame and wealth through hard work and determination was my very own dream.

It is a country known for its superior standard of living, is one of the most powerful nations in the world, has a democratic government and a strong commitment to freedom for all its residents.

Who, coming from a developing country like Kenya wouldn’t want to go to such a country? I had read and heard of many rugs to riches story of people that had found their way there and a few months later, had started sending money back home to their families, money that had tremendously changed their lifestyle.

I was looking for every chance that could get me there. So after graduating with my first degree from Egerton University, Kenya, the best option to get to America was to go for further studies.

In 2002, a University in Missouri USA accepted my application for admission into a Masters Degree program. Armed with my admission letter (I-20), it was now time to apply for a Visa at the American Embassy. Again, I had heard numerous stories of people that had been denied the USA Visa but that did not deter me from making the application.

I didn’t see any reason why I could be denied. On the day of the interview, I was at the embassy at 5.00 am (never mind that the offices didn’t open till 8.30 am) with a loadful of all supporting documents that I could find from my parents; bank statements, affidavit of support letter, title deeds, car log books, property documents etc. After a few minutes of questioning and document verification by the embassy official, I was overly excited when I was asked to collect my visa later in the afternoon.

That marked the beginning of the long journey to my dream destination. It was then time to make all the final arrangements like buying the flight ticket and informing my relatives and friends that I was going to America. I immediately resigned from my job and bid my colleagues kwaheri!

On Aug 11 2002, with all my relatives from upcountry, family and friends in the city, we departed in a convoy to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport amidst a lot of excitement from everyone.

I guess this was because I was the first in my family and probably the first lady from our village that was going to a foreign land. And you know according to the African tradition, a child belongs to the society! The only person I remember that was sad and emotional at that time was my mother, I guess for the fact that being her first born daughter, she could not imagine that I was going to be away from her for God knows how long.

But the time had come to depart and for me, there was no turning back at this moment.

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

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