By Elise Crosley | Reporter
Sophomore Shiro Bachia came to Waco all the way from Nairobi, Kenya to be a part of the Baylor community … almost by accident.
Bachia’s high school English teacher had each student apply to a college as an assignment. Bachia applied to Baylor, thinking nothing of it and doing the bare minimum on the application. When she realized Baylor was actually a school she was interested in, she went back to enrich her application but noticed she was already accepted.
Bachia’s family is all Kenyan or Somali. Her grandfathers come from the Kikuyu tribe, making her Kikuyu as well. According to Bachia, Kikuyu is the majority tribe in Kenya, making up 48 percent of the tribal population. There are 42 tribes in Kenya, which shows how prominent the Kikuyu are.
Bachia and her sister were born in Dallas, but they later moved back to Kenya because her mother felt “the Lord was calling them there again.” She lived there for 15 years before coming back to America for college. Fortunately, her mother and sister aren’t far away, as her mother decided “God was calling them back to America” right when Bachia was about to start at Baylor.
“I’m even going home this weekend for my mom’s birthday,” Bachia said. “The fact that I can even do that, versus if they were still in Kenya, is amazing.”
Unfortunately, her father was left behind.
“My dad is still in Kenya finishing up getting his visa and selling the house. My mom came with me because she already had her visa, and I needed someone to help me move in,” Bachia said. “He got left behind. After we came, that’s when Trump made it harder for people from third-world countries to come here. That’s been the biggest challenge. Fortunately, the process has been going well for him. In a month or two he should be here, so that’s exciting. He’ll finally be able to come over and join the rest of us.”
Bachia shared how each country has its differences, even in the small things.
“We’re just all in each other’s business, shamelessly in each other’s business. Here you can get away with so much. People are out here really going to the store in their pajamas. You would never, ever do that in Kenya. You would become the clown of the whole city,” Bachia said.
Bachia said Kenya provides many benefits that America doesn’t, so it took a while getting used to.
“We had tiny stores, called kiosks, everywhere. If we needed bread and milk, we could walk a minute down the road and just get it. We didn’t have to drive super far to a supermarket because the kiosks were so convenient. I loved the convenience of getting stuff in Nairobi,” Bachia said.
When adjusting to a new culture, negative changes are evident as well.
“The second thing [that’s different about America than Kenya] is body image culture. It’s crazy. In Kenya, it’s all about ‘the bigger, the better.’ Obviously, there are girls who struggle with body image in Kenya, but, here, there’s an obsession with being fit and exercising,” Bachia said. “My sister and I were driving here from Dallas, and we heard around 10 commercials on the radio about getting slim and losing 10 pounds in two weeks. It’s so toxic. I understand wanting to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle, but the way it’s presented is saying ‘thinner is better.’ My struggle was the complete opposite because I didn’t think I was big enough in Kenya. They would always say, ‘You don’t even eat.’ Here it’s completely different.”
According to Bachia, being an international student has its ups and downs. Many students struggle to even have conversations with Bachia, not knowing what to say to someone from a different culture.
“We’re not that different. At some point during my freshman year, I stopped telling people I was from Kenya,” Bachia said. “I told them I was from Dallas, which was true, since I was born there. The minute I would say I was from Kenya, they wouldn’t even know how to talk to me. They wouldn’t know how to have a simple conversation. It’s a trend that most international students hang out with other international students.”
Bachia explained how Kenya is always about community. She said it can be frustrating at times because everyone’s constantly in your business, but it’s sweet most of the time because neighbors and family members are consistently checking in on you to make sure you’re doing alright. She said the idea of retirement homes are nonexistent because when parents get old, their children take them in and care for them.
While Bachia said she misses Kenya all the time, she has found things about America she appreciates.
“In Kenya, corruption is so real. I have so many friends who have been arrested for the dumbest reasons, like walking on the street at night,” Bachia said. “They see you, they think you have money, so they arrest you knowing you will probably offer them something so you don’t have to spend the night in jail for something you did not do. One of my least favorite things about Kenya is the corruption and how it’s taken over.”
According to Bachia, Kenya is often portrayed through media as a place of struggle and oppression. However, she shares of the true beauty of Kenya and its people.
“We’re not just a third-world country. There is more to Kenya than people dying of hunger and thirst. I mean, there are people dying of hunger and thirst here in Waco,” Bachia said. “It kind of annoys me when that’s all people see Kenya as. They don’t bother to see the beauty of it, the culture…obviously, there’s horrible stuff going on, but it’s not just in Kenya. It’s not just in Africa. It goes on everywhere. It just so happens that ours is severely maximized by media. Kenya is not a dump. Kenya is beautiful. Our culture is beautiful. We’re not just all violent monsters who go around killing each other. We’re not all on the streets. We’re intelligent.”
Baylor students have the opportunity, through BearsAbroad, to visit Kenya. Sulfur Springs junior Sidney Dietze went on the Women’s Leadership mission trip to Nairobi over summer and was able to experience the country firsthand.
“The people are so much closer relationally … they rely on each other a lot. They’re a culture that wants to serve you. They’re very proud of their country,” Dietze said.