I stepped into my alma mater 10 years after graduation into what is now an oasis of learning and opportunity, and a breeding ground for success.
I followed the paved, flower lined - path to the Admissions Office, a walk I had done by rote so many days over my four years.
This time, though, I wasn’t running to print in the library or trying to cram a meal in as I ran from the basketball court to class.
I was with my younger brother, heading to check him into the Admissions Office to begin his orientation. This was my school, but it was his visit.
My day on campus was a sort of a time-warp. As I walked, I felt like I was on my own first orientation tour 10 years earlier and in my own memories of my time at school.
When I first visited the school 10 years earlier, I was an anxious teenager who couldn’t picture leaving home to go to school, and crisscrossing to another country to do so.
This education was already taking me places. My family and I trekked from college visit to college visit, we heard the same 'shpiel' about meal plans and coursework and libraries, and I would zone out, thinking about what it would feel like to live with a roommate, to be without my parents, to choose a major.
The whole thing felt so big to me that it was hard for me to conceive of it.
As I walked around my campus with my brother, I took in a whole new experience. I had a day off from my current job you see, what many would call a high powered job with people who answered to me and whom I guided and led.
They told me they saw management qualities in me when I sat for the interview just four years before when I joined as a trainee.
I now sat in management, and I could pick distinct lessons from my twice weekly business management classes, years ago, just a stone throw from where we sat today. This place peppered my life then and helped me create the flavour I live off today.
During the Information Session, I thought of all the things I didn’t think about or know to ask when it was me sitting where my brother sat.
I arrived here an empty canvas and the next three years would craft a narrative that would touch lives in ripples, years later.
Coming from a country where national university strikes were normal, my parents didn’t want a situation where it would take seven or eight years to complete a four-year university education.
Tucked away in Kenya’s capital, I would gain some of the most valuable lessons for life.
I was positive I wanted to study International Relations from the handsome offering on the Major list. The great thing was that I had a whole year to decide exactly which direction I was going to go in.
The first year consisted of life courses, introductions to concepts, opening my mind to options and opportunities, tilling the land for a full-fledged influence in theory and practice.
I stayed on with my major in International Relations, but I was able to minor in concentrations of Journalism and Marketing. It compounded my work load, but what it did for my future? I continue to reap the benefits to date.
As I listened to this new Admissions counsellor tell my brother about all of the clubs he might join and share anecdotes about how deeply the professors actually care about their students, these decisions ran through my head — I had picked it for its community, for its character, for the personality and warmth of the place, but there were so many things I realised, over the course of my time at school, that I just didn’t know would be so important to me at the time.
I wanted to tell my brother, to tell other prospective students who sat near us— ask more questions, really think about what matters to you!
At lunch after the tour, I really took in what the campus and its inhabitants offered. Years ago, expanses of land were overbearing as to what would occupy these spaces to enhance the student experience.
Today, ultra-modern buildings that house the departments of arts and that of sciences stand inviting and not overbearing.
The office therein are occupied by professors, career advisers, and heads whose goal and priority is to ensure excellence for the students who walk through those doors and sit in their classes.
A glance to the left now sits the student center where important extra-curricular activities that work in tandem with the curriculum.
Here students get vital information about what else they can do, what else they can take part in aside from the books, adding to their university experience.
I believed the Lilian Beam Library in my day was quite adequate, but today, a facility that invites you to study and research and learn is what greets my brother his colleagues who will make this home for the next four years.
The latest and necessary books alongside research material of manual and digital nature, going with our times I wished I could come back to school again, but work beckons.
This is an institution with options. After my first year here, my parents could not afford to keep up with my tuition fees.
As I heard the Admissions officers talk about the Financial Aid office earlier, I remembered how I played basketball for the school team under which we would compete nationally and internationally; and this scholarship covered part of my fees.
In addition, I worked under lecturers for the remaining one and half years I had there, in the work-study program.
I had options – and my fees were paid. The great thing is that it taught me so much more than getting through a semester in terms of money. I earned the discipline of training on a sports team and that of working under authority that inevitably prepared me for where I am today.
It helped also when I would come back after my Masters studies and teach for a semester. The people I met, the experiences I encountered – nothing would have prepared me better.
One of the most important parts of my time in college was discovering that some of the things I had been so certain about weren’t necessarily true — I joined clubs that exposed to many things and people, gems that I hold till now, I changed my mind about what I wanted to study and where I wanted to spend time abroad.
I couldn’t have known all the “right” questions back then; I hadn’t yet had the experiences that made me want to ask them.
The magic I felt back on campus is, in large part, the magic of all the lives I was able to lead in one place — all of the many iterations of college I experienced over the course of time, as I got my feet wet and found who and what really mattered to me – the ideologies of this institution allowed me to do this.
As we drove away from the Thika Road campus I had called home for just under four years, and two years a little while later, I was struck by how little all of those questions actually matter.
How lucky I was to have found a college that grew with me, a place that wasn’t just right for the 18-year-old who picked it, but also for the 21-year-old who emerged from it after four years – going places.