World view: Conversations with our international students

World view: Conversations with our international students

By Kalsey Larson '08
News intern

Last fall, the University of St. Thomas enrolled 258 graduate students and 63 undergraduates from countries outside the United States. To help you get to know some of them, Bulletin Today presents a weekly column, "World view."

This week, we profile two African countries, Kenya and Uganda.

Kenya, which gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, borders the Indian Ocean and is situated between Somalia and Tanzania in eastern Africa.

Here are a few facts to familiarize you with Kenya:

  • Total area: 582,650 sq. km, over twice the size of Nevada
  • Capital: Nairobi
  • Currency: Kenyan shilling
  • Official languages: English and Kiswahili
  • Population: 34,707,817 (July 2006)
  • Government type: Republic
  • Literacy Rate: 85.1 percent
  • Religion: Protestant, 45 percent; Roman Catholic, 33 percent; Muslim, 10 percent; indigenous beliefs 10 percent; and other, 2 percent.  

You might not know:

  • The life expectancy of Kenyans at birth is 48.93 years, compared to 77.85 years in the United States. The lower life expectancy can be attributed to the country's high mortality rate from the AIDS epidemic.
  • Kenya has revised its constitution 11 times, most recently in 2005, since gaining its independence in 1963.
  • The Great Rift Valley is a major archeological site in Kenya; remains of the earliest known humans were found there.

Ten graduate and two undergraduate Kenyan students are studying at St. Thomas. Gabriel Waweru is completing his fourth and final year at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Communal prayer and Mass are among Waweru's favorite activities at St. Thomas. “We also have house parties with a variety of themes each semester,” he said, but noted that seminary students also enjoy "spontaneous events where we just gather to watch the news and talk world issues." Waweru enjoys going to movies and tried skiing and skating over the winter.

While he has enjoyed the Twin Cities, Waweru has found it challenging to express his Kenyan culture here. He said he often jokes with his family, telling them that in America, to have a car is like having a pair of shoes back home.

“What would be considered a luxury in my home country … is almost like a necessity here,” he said.

Waweru misses the slower pace and greater spontaneity of home but enjoys a cup of a Minnesota classic – chicken-wild rice soup – and said he has had a very pleasant experience at St. Thomas.

Situated directly west of Kenya is Uganda, which is about half Kenya's size. Each country shares part of its border with Lake Victoria. Kenya received its independence a little more than a year before Kenya, on October 9, 1962.

Here are a few facts to familiarize you with Uganda:

  • Total area: 236,040 sq. km, slightly smaller than Oregon
  • Capital: Kampala
  • Currency: Ugandan shilling
  • Official language: English
  • Population: 28,195,754 (July 2006)
  • Government type: Republic
  • Literacy Rate: 69.9 percent
  • Religion: Roman Catholic, 33 percent; Protestant, 33 percent; Muslim, 16 percent; indigenous beliefs, 18 percent

You might not know:

  • Uganda includes elevated plains, vast forests, low swamps and the highest peak in southwest Africa, Mount Margherita, rising 16,795 feet.
  • The population of Uganda is predominantly rural. Only one in 10 Ugandans lives in urban settings.
  • The staple food is matoke, green bananas that are peeled, steamed in banana leaves and mashed.

Currently, St. Thomas enrolls eight graduate and six undergraduate students from Uganda, the fifth most-represented international country at St. Thomas.

In September, Olivia Lunkuse began the first of three years in the St. Thomas' graduate School of Social Work program.

“I heard from my brother that UST has a wonderful social work program and most importantly, UST provided me with a scholarship for which I am very grateful,” Lunkuse said.   “I have learned so much and the professors are wonderful and they take time to find out each individual’s needs, which has helped me easily adapt to the hectic school environment.”

Lunkuse was challenged by Minnesota's weather at first, but has begun getting used to it. Still, Lunkuse says, “Uganda has the best weather all year round!”

Although she misses her country's warm weather and friends and family at home, she has enjoyed watching the Timberwolves, salsa dancing and snowboarding.

Lunkuse said she felt blessed to have this study-abroad opportunity. “I will do everything in my power to make UST proud,” she added.