Nerima Wako is a political analyst, founder and CEO of Siasa Place.
Which campus did go to?
I went to Jacksonville State University, United States, where I majored in Broadcast Journalism and Sociology.
What did you want to be growing up?
Growing up, I wanted to do medicine and become a doctor. In high school, I did a job shadow with a doctor and I could not stand the sight of blood or just dealing with sick patients. I knew I couldn’t be a doctor.
One of my hobbies is reading so I believe I am very good at English. When I joined campus, I was confident I was going to do well in that subject. Shock on me! I started scoring Ds in English but I finally caught up. The challenge was that in Kenya, we use British English while they use American English.
Any side hustles you took while in campus?
My first job on campus was working in the cafeteria. I lasted three days. It was tough. By the third day, I couldn’t take it anymore so I just didn’t show up at work. I later worked as a waitress at a restaurant off campus. There were no breaks. I was not allowed to eat at work. I would work for nine hours a day without eating. After my shift, I would prop my legs on my bedroom wall because they would hurt so badly. I liked cleaning the restaurant before the guests came in. I would vacuum the carpets or even clean the bathrooms. Most people hated that job, but for me it was the only place I could work without being bothered.
Did you ever date while in campus?
Yes, I did. However, my first relationship on campus was eventful. My boyfriend was an American who was into drugs and very controlling. He wasn’t too pleased about the activities I was involved in. I became a member of a sorority - Sigma Gamma Rho - and he never wanted me to be involved in student politics. It was as though he wanted me to be someone I was not. I was so glad when we broke up; it made me learn more about my likes and my personality.
Your best moment in campus?
My best moment was serving as International Student Organisation President. I worked so hard to bring new programmes and also highlight African countries. It was tough work but it taught me about hard work and perseverance.
How was it like being away from home?
I got my scholarship and left the country at only 17 years. The culture shock was real. Being young and in a new environment wasn’t easy, especially the first year. There were not many people from Kenya so making friends wasn’t easy. When summer came, I broke down and cried. I couldn’t cope with the weather. I missed home.
Lessons learnt from studying abroad?
Being away from family, you have to grow up quickly and make your own decisions. Even though sometimes people would ‘skive’ classes, you had to think twice about joining them. I was there because of the opportunity, not just to have a good time, so I always measured my actions.
Most memorable moment in campus
One time in December we were doing exams and my friends knew I had been studying a lot. So they planned to sit behind me and copy my work. I felt pressured to allow them.
Before the exam, I went and spoke with my professor. He told me that I would take the exam separately and cleverly mentioned to the class that December 12 was a holiday in Kenya so I was permitted to skip the exam. I still remember the shock on my friends’ faces when they found out they wouldn’t be able to cheat off me.
What would you do differently if you went back to college today?
I would avoid dating my first boyfriend by all costs. Looking back, I really don’t know how I survived that relationship.