My American Story by Joyce Gathirimu Cont...

Spiritual Life

Back home, I had enjoyed a good relationship with the Lord and was active in my church. Whenever there was a mission activity, I tried to involve myself actively. This was not going to be the case here in America.

Most of the jobs offered bonuses and double pay during the weekend when there is shortage of staff and it becomes hard to resist the temptation to cancel going to church and go to work. Again, as a student, it becomes convenient to work over the weekends when one is not attending lectures.

Discrimination The government of US has made a lot of effort to ensure that each individual is allowed his/ her rights as outlined in it’s constitution. There is a lot of legislation and memoranda against discrimination and racism and affirmative action has gone a long way in ensuring that individuals are given equal opportunity for employment, housing and other types of advancement.

In my experience and opinion, I saw no open display of racism manifested by discriminatory or abusive behaviour and practices towards me or my fellow students. However, I found majority of Americans I interacted with, very ignorant of other cultures.

They hold stereotypes about the foreigners they meet largely because of what they have seen/ read on media, which in most cases are stories of famine, HIV/AIDS, poverty and other calamities. It was not unusual for an American to ask you if back home, you lived on trees, or if you wore shoes and clothes.

This kind of ignorance was at times exaggerated to the point where it became repulsive or ridiculous. The problem with stereotypes is that they can also often be used in a negative or prejudicial sense and be frequently used to justify certain discriminatory behaviours.

A final note on the many challenges I faced, on April, I received a message from home that my dear father had passed on after a short illness. This was barely 3 weeks to my graduation and it has remained one of the most painful moments in my life.

Here I was, thousands and thousands of miles from home, and this message got to me. Two days later, I got all the required travel documents, and boarded a plane home for his burial. What is sad about majority of Kenyans in US is that they have gone out of status meaning they would not be able to re-enter the US once they travel home should such an unfortunate thing happen.

Some have remained in the US and missed the burial of their family members or dear friends. Despite everything, on May, I was awarded in absentia a Masters degree in Management.

International students are allowed to stay an extra year after graduation for what they call, Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is intended to help the students find employment with an American company and so gain some practical skills in their field of study. I took the option and after completing one year, I decided to come back home on Aug 26th.

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

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