From Kilifi to Vancouver

In August 2011 we wrote about Johnston (Blog August 2011): “He will spend the next 2 years at the Aga Khan and then take up his place at a Kenyan University in 2013 (unless he gets a scholarship to a university overseas in the mean time – it wouldn’t surprise us!).”

And here we are; Johnston is studying in Canada. After being accepted at Agakhan and on completion he got an offer to study commerce at the Sauder School of Business at UBC (University of British Columbia) in Vancouver, with a full scholarship from the MasterCard Foundation. He studies B.Com, specializing in Business Technology Management and Accounting. Let’s hear from him on how he is doing on the other side of the world.


How does a typical day in your life look like?

I get up at 7am, eat breakfast and by 8:30 am, I am in class. I usually have between two to three classes in a day at different times. I use the breaks between class to study, complete assignments or group projects. However sometimes my days are busier since recently I have been working as a Sales representative for a telecommunications company. That income assists me to cover personal expenses and partly I support my family too.

Have you experienced a ‘culture shock’ when you went to Canada? What were the challenges and how have you overcome them?

People here appear to be very friendly and sweet at the beginning. Sometimes it was hard to tell if someone likes you or that they’re just being nice.

Another thing is that people here are obsessed about living healthy. They eat a lot of vegetables, they hate red meat and exercise a lot. Strange enough they put cheese in almost everything they eat. Also, most foods are either too sweet or too salty. After making friends and living here for a while, these things are now normal.

What are the main learning points when living in a different culture?

To always have an open mind and make meaningful relationships with as many people as possible

What do you miss most about Kenya?

My family, friends and the food. Living in Canada has kept me away from my friends in Kenya, and although I’ve settled down, it is becoming harder and harder to stay up to date with what is going on with friends as I used to. Ugali is still my favorite and I can’t have it over here.

What is your best memory with Kesho?

There are lots of great moments from Kesho, it’s kind of hard to pick one. Maybe when Lemic and I were practicing for interviews and trying to improvise answers on the spot. I remember Mack, Beatrice and Ambrose would always tell when we were not sure of what to say, and then everyone would start laughing and the whole experience was just so much fun. Also, it was the moment when I got so much encouragement and support to believe in myself, and I think that process gave me the confidence and mental strength to push forward in tough times. I had always been a pessimist, but that process gave me a completely different perspective on life. Now I look at challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.

What kind of advice would you give children and youth from Kilifi County?

To work hard and make the best of every opportunity available. Above all, have fun at every moment in life.

What kind of advise would you give Kesho?

To keep looking for more opportunities outside of Kenya for students. Living and studying in a different continent or country provides a very unique experience that cannot be obtained anywhere in one’s home country.

What are your plans after you finish university?

I plan to work here in Canada for about two years, and then go back to school to do an MBA. Afterwards, I would like to come back to Kenya and work there.


Johnston, thank you for this interview. It was good to hear from you and that you are doing well. All the best and let’s keep in touch.



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