International Perspectives: An Interview With Angela Kamau
International students are a vital part of the Cairn community. Their presence shows the unity we share in Christ as Christians. We can come together from across the world as a single body and learn alongside one another. Together we learn more than just how to comprehend lectures and textbooks, but how to relate to one another and grow together.
Angela Kamau, an international student from Kenya, studies business here at Cairn. As a freshman, she has quickly become involved in campus activities. She is filled with wisdom and understanding, and she shared with me her thoughts on how culture has shaped her perspective as a Cairn student.
How did you find out about Cairn and what ultimately drew you here?
A: I found out about it through my Mom. She worked at the school I went to, and the school got an email about Cairn University and the scholarship it offers international students. She saw it as a good opportunity financially. As I looked further into the school, I liked the size of it. It was small enough that you can develop close relationships with your professors and your classmates. You can know a large group of people without it being overwhelming, and it was not too small that it was restricting. Of course, there is also the Christian aspect of it. You want to be in a community that helps you grow.
Did you have any expectations about studying in the U.S., and if so, how have they unfolded?
A: I expected the community to be Christian-based, and that it would be something to encourage me to be a better person. Those expectations went beyond what I expected. I came from a Christian school but it did not centralize Christ as much as this school does. That is something I have really enjoyed about Cairn.
Did culture shock influence your transition to school? If so, how?
A: I’ve grown up since I was seven very accustomed to the American way, but there was still a culture shock because regardless of growing up with Americans, I come from an African home. The way people relate to one another and the atmosphere, in general, are very different. One of the biggest culture shocks for me was church. Church here and church back home are very different, almost contrasting each other. The churches back home are very energetic, very full of life, in a way that I have yet to see in American churches and I think that is very cultural. I do notice that both worship God, but in different ways. It’s something I wasn’t really expecting.
The way people relate changes across cultures too. The difference that I didn’t realize was knowing the Americans in my country at my school. I didn’t realize that they weren’t typical Americans. They were TCK’s and they also see the world in a very different way from Americans. So coming in and having to interact with Americans who think like Americans was different. Learning that I didn’t understand, and learning that some stereotypes we put up need further investigation. I needed to be open to discovering who people actually were and how the culture is run instead of have these preset ideas of how a country is going to be.
How do you see Cairn as equipping you to return to your community and make an impact as you utilize your degree?
A: I come from a third world country. A country that needs honest individuals in the business place, and people who are educated well. For someone in my position, I am considered privileged because I can learn abroad in a country that has the logistics down. I’m expected not just by my parents but by my country to go back and make a difference because of the perspective I can provide as coming from a country that already has what my country is aiming for. I want to utilize my degree to the best of my abilities and make a difference in the workplace.
Since you can look at our culture and life style through a fresh lens, do you have any advice to give fellow students who seek to better understand and relate to various cultures?
A: Something I have learned about is not just how I view people, but how they view me. I’ve learned through how people view me, with the questions and comments I’ve gotten, is to not be fixed on what the world has told you about someone. Be willing to experience it yourself, be willing to discover for yourself, instead of being quick to accept what society might tell you about a group of people. I had heard about conservative Christians, knowing that I’m coming to a more conservative Christian school. Now that I’m here, and I hear the professor’s perspective, I realize they have something that goes beyond what people have rolled their eyes at and said “Oh those people think this way.”
Be open. That goes without being said, but it still needs to be said. People need to be more adaptable and have that desire to learn about others with an open mind and a fresh mind. You can’t come into the conversation with your own arguments that you know better.