Why It Was Good I Didn't Study Abroad
A True Story
on Jan 23, 2020
In my previous story on this lovely blog of mine, I narrated how I was unable to matriculate at a Canadian university in 2006 and how I was rejected by several top American colleges in the three times I applied for admission. The feelings of disappointment that I had when I was rejected by the American colleges still linger in my memory. It really was disappointing.
Over the last ten years, I have had recurring dreams in my sleep of myself re-applying and enrolling at top American colleges. Like last year, I had two such dreams which I managed to remember after I woke up from slumber. That tells of how deeply I desired to study in America, doesn't it?
Instead of forgetting the disappointments and focussing on future achievements, I have to confess that I have at times found myself reflecting on why I was rejected by the American colleges while some of my schoolmates in high school were accepted. (Yes, there were schoolmates of mine in high school who attended such prestigious universities as MIT, UPenn, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and West Point. And some of them didn't do so well in their final high school exams as I did in mine.)
To be honest, there were times I felt that those schoolmates of mine who made it to top American colleges got good breaks they didn't deserve while I was denied opportunities that I deserved. (Whoever said life is unfair had a point.) Then there have been other times I thought that I would probably have been accepted by the American colleges if I had had a professional counsellor guide me through the applications - a counsellor who understood the ins and outs of the admission process.
Coming to think of it, I now firmly believe I didn't deserve to get into the colleges I applied for admission. Why? Because I got average scores in the SAT exams and I did a lot of lying, exaggeration and plagiarism in the essays and recommendation letters I sent to the colleges. Imagine I extracted one recommendation letter from a book on how to get into top American colleges and sent it to the universities. I was such a fool.
Besides getting mediocre SAT scores and submitting untruthful essays and recommendation letters, another reason that makes me think I didn't deserve to get into the colleges was the low self-esteem and poor social skills that I had in my late teens and early twenties. Believe me, I used to sometimes feel inadequate and view some people as superior to me, especially those with a white complexion. That low self-esteem affected my social life because I would at times feel lonely in social gatherings and awkward when striking a conversation with the girls I admired.
Probably as a result of that low self-esteem, I would sometimes make excessive class contributions during school lessons, a habit that I began at Starehe Institute in 2006 and perfected at the University of Nairobi in 2011. One time when I was in Starehe Institute in 2007, a classmate of mine called Kennedy Munene became so pissed off with my excessive chatter during class that he urged me to keep my mouth shut.
Despite my outspokenness during class lessons, the truth is that I was not such a brilliant person, if my mediocre SAT scores were anything to go by. It must have been my way of making up for my lack of good self-esteem. And I wonder what would have happened to me if I had taken such kind of foolishness to America. So in a sense, it was good that I didn't study abroad.
RECOMMENDATION If you've enjoyed the above story on why it was good I didn't study abroad, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Building Self-esteem". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Re-telling a Failure
A True Story
on Jan 21, 2020
Okay, okay, for regular readers of this blog, I know you are already familiar with what I am about to say today. But please allow me to tell you again about a failure I had a decade ago so as to put my next story in context.
Back in January 2002 after I learnt I had been accepted at Starehe Boys' Centre for my high school education, I informed one of my neighbour's sons we used to call Divah about it when I met him on my way home from my hometown of Kiserian. Divah proceeded to engage me in a conversation about how learning at Starehe would improve my chances of getting admitted into such highly esteemed universities as Harvard. I found his conversation somewhat inspiring.
Despite that inspiring conversation I had with Divah in 2002, I never gave much thought about pursuing my university education overseas in my first three years at Starehe. Instead, I focused my attention on doing well in academics. But when I got into Form Four in 2005, I began to consider flying overseas for further studies. So I attended two talks we had at school that year.
The first talk was by an alumnus of Harvard University who praised our high school curriculum for being rigorous. I asked him during the talk the difference between MIT and Harvard. He told us that those are two completely different schools in the state of Massachusetts, something I knew, which makes me wonder why I raised the question.
The other talk I attended at Starehe in 2005 was one conducted by representatives of several American colleges, including St. Lawrence University. I can't recollect what the representatives said. All I remember was how happy and clear-headed I felt as I walked to my dormitory after the talk. Theirs must have been an enlightening and inspiring talk for it to have made me happy and clear-headed. For some reason though, I didn't apply to any of the American colleges the representatives had come to tell us about.
It was not until I was in Starehe Institute in 2006 that I began to take my desire to study abroad seriously. That desire led me to apply to a Canadian university where I was accepted but was unable to report simply because my family couldn't afford airfare to Canada, let alone tuition and accommodation fees. While searching for scholarships on the internet that could help me cover my fees in the Canadian university, I remember realizing how most of the scholarships I came across were only open to American citizens. Eventually, I gave up my plans of matriculating at the university.
Around that time I gave up matriculating at the Canadian university, I started hearing and reading about top American colleges that meet the full financial need of admitted students. A former schoolmate of mine at Starehe named Joseph Mugisha, who had been accepted at MIT that year, was among the first guys to direct my attention to top American colleges when he came to Starehe to tell us about his success in getting into MIT.
What I heard and read about top American colleges made me want to apply to them for admission. And when I told my father about my desire to apply to top American colleges, he encouraged me to do so - citing that I was a person favoured by luck because I had made it to Starehe when nobody expected me to and went on to score an 'A' in KCSE exams.
Encouraged by my father, I went ahead and applied to four top American colleges, including MIT. I put in a lot of effort in crafting what I thought was a strong application to each of the four colleges. And after I submitted the applications, I was sure I would be accepted into them. I recall vividly of me telling a schoolmate of mine in Starehe Institute that getting into Starehe was much harder than getting into MIT. Do you know why I thought so?
Well, back in January 2002 during my first days at Starehe, a priest in the school called Joseph Carriere beseeched us first-formers to be grateful that we were among about 200 pupils who had made it to Starehe in an applicant pool of over 18,000 candidates. And then in 2006 when I was applying to MIT, I got to know that I was in a pool of about 13,000 applicants, from which about 1,500 would be admitted. Hence why I thought getting into Starehe was a lot harder than getting into MIT.
How mistaken I was! Come March 2007, I was heartbroken to receive a rejection letter from MIT. The following day after receiving the letter, I spent much time in a cyber cafe where I sent an email of complaint to MIT that it had been unfair for me to be rejected because I had completed the entire application process all by myself while other applicants had been assisted by professionals. My complaint fell on deaf ears as I can't recall receiving a reply to the email.
A week or so after receiving the rejection letter from MIT in March 2007, I began to cool down as I hang on to hopes that I could get into any of the three remaining colleges where I had applied for admission. But alas! They also didn't accept me.
Having been rejected by all the four colleges, I had no choice but to enrol in May 2007 at a local university called JKUAT where I had been admitted to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering. But guess what! Applying to top American colleges the previous year had aroused in me a burning desire to study in the United States. I really craved to school with students of other races, under a renowned faculty. That desire is what led me to apply again to top American colleges when I was a first-year student at JKUAT. Sadly, I was again not accepted into any of the colleges.
I am sure I had the brainpower to successfully complete the engineering course I enrolled at JKUAT to pursue, but my burning desire to study in America kept me from giving the engineering course the attention it deserved. Little wonder that I failed one subject in the engineering course during my first year. And when I moved to second year, I went astray by not attending classes at the university so that I could fully concentrate on applying to American colleges for the third time. I wasn't accepted in my third time of applying either.
In my next story on this blog, God willing, I will tell you why I think it was good that I didn't study in America. So stay tuned to this blog. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on a failure I have re-told, you might also enjoy another one I wrote some time back on "My First Major Setback". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.