You have probably heard many stories highlighting challenges that Kenyan students in the Diaspora go through for instance; adjusting to the different education systems and financial struggles in the effort of paying tuition fees and the cost of living. Although this could be frustrating, some Kenyans have beaten all odds to thrive in the foreign market.
3 Kenyans, Herman Mutiso, Jessy Mbagara, and James Rotich share a similar story of hard work and perseverance that led them to become among the A-List engineers in the United States of America.
The trio was among the top students in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam over 10 years ago and their success saw them to being enrolled into the top-ranked engineering college in the US, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they studied different fields of engineering.
After completion of their studies, they got jobs at one the most established technology and innovation firm at Silicon Valley in California.
At some point we might have been curious on the whereabouts of the top students in the national examination and the story of these three men is not any disappointing.
Herman Mutiso- Software Engineer At Google
Herman Mutiso who is currently working as a software engineer revealed that his passion for this particular field goes way back to his high school days in Alliance. Mutiso says that he sought guidance from his headmaster and he was able to get information that helped him work his way to his dream college.
Although it was challenging to adjust to the education system and he was forced to do part-time jobs to finance his basic needs.
“Transitioning from an 8-4-4 system to an American engineering curriculum was challenging. The US uses different metrics and I struggled for a while in mathematics before getting used to it
“Tuition in the US engineering colleges is probably the most expensive in the world. Although I was on a scholarship, I still had to take part-time jobs in school to complement money for food and clothing.” He says
Mutiso who has now been in the US for 14 years was able to complete his bachelor and masters studies and last year landed a software engineering job at Google.
Jessy Mbagara- hardware engineer at Google
32-year-old engineer Jessy Mbagara also shared his experience on how he got to live his dream in the US.
Just like Herman, his interest in engines and machines traces back to his childhood. However, his journey was not easy. Mbagara’s application to join MIT was rejected and he was forced to try out his luck a year later when his parents relocated to the US.
“I desired to study at MIT, but they rejected my application twice. When my parents moved to the US, I knew I was closer to my dreams. I resat the SAT exams, maintained an above-average GPA, and gave MIT one last shot and got in as a transfer student in 2009.” He stated
According to Mbagara, his major frustration during his days as a foreign student is the US immigration policies. After a process that took him 10 years, he is currently a legal permanent resident and does not have to worry about visa expiry.
The Google hardware engineer says that in the future, he plans on using his acquired skills to impact the lives of people from his native country.
James Rotich -Software engineer
Like the two other Kenyans, Rotich says that from a tender age, he knew that he wanted to pursue engineering although his father wanted him to be a doctor.
Rotich had to beat his father in their deal before he got enrolled in an engineering course to MIT after his KCSE exam where he ranked as the top student in the country back in 2005.
“I did not want to disappoint him, so we struck a deal that if I got to study in Kenya, I would study medicine, but if I got admitted to a US university, I would pursue engineering.” He said
According to James, his major struggle in college was to keep at the top.
“It was hard to adjust from being among the best students in Kenya to sometimes struggling to get a good grade.”
Over the years after his graduation, Rotich earned experience after working for Oracle as an application engineer and later worked for a software company Nunatix.
As for advice to fellow Kenyans students who aspire to study abroad or pursue their desired passion, the trio agrees that people should not be afraid to work hard towards their goals, reach out whenever they need help, apply for the courses they wish to pursue and have mentors that will serve as their support system.