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Kenya native hopes to inspire change in hometown

By Haleigh Zueger, Staff Writer

Agnes Mathenge is a sophomore Math and Business Economics major who is working hard in the final weeks of this semester and looking forward to summer break. She will pack her bags and begin a seventeen-hour trip that spans three continents—just to get home. Agnes is native to Nairobi, Kenya, a bustling city at the center of Kenya's economy and lively culture. "Nairobi is a busy place, but you can't compare it to New York City" said Agnes, "Kenya is really chill."

Agnes has had to absorb new things like food, language and culture; it has been a challenge but also an enjoyable experience for Agnes.  She is fluent in English, Swahili, and Kikuyu, the native language of her tribe in Kenya. Agnes strives to understand American culture while sharing some of her own culture with others. "You find yourself in the middle, trying to mold these two worlds together so that you can fit in both places." Agnes misses the family-oriented nature of her hometown in Kenya. "I appreciate the strong sense of family in Kenya" said Agnes. "It is very different in the United States."

Motivation to study in the United States comes easily for Agnes because she feels a sense of responsibility to excel not only for herself but for Kenya. "You kind of have a vision for your country. I hope to go back sometime because it's almost like you are indebted to help Kenya, to help people get the experiences that you got." Although she gets homesick at times, Agnes knows that her studies in the United States will greatly benefit her home country. "When you think of the circumstances waiting for you at home, you can't afford to give up and get tired of the experiences here."

In addition to being a full-time student, Agnes works at the Language Learning Center, interns for the Center for Civic Engagement and participates in the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Hofstra African Students Association. After graduation, Agnes hopes to pursue graduate school to continue her studies of Developmental Economics—a subject she feels will greatly affect her future policymaking career in Kenya. "When you study Developmental Economics, you try to understand why countries like Kenya, that have huge resources and a lot of potential, are not moving forward."

Agnes' passion for her home country shows in her dedication to debunking common misconceptions about Africa. "I wish the media would give the other side of Africa too. Rarely do you see success stories in Africa. They focus on all the bad things going on, because that sells. I wish that Africa would get a fair chance to show success stories of countries that have developed or the potential that is in Africa. I wish for people to see this other side of the story because Africans are trying."

Agnes has big goals for her home country and hopes that she will one day be able to impact public policy that will help the Kenyan people. "I'd like Kenya to be wonderfully efficient. I'd like good schools to be in Kenya for intelligent people to be able to study." Agnes hopes to use the education that she gains in the United States to model a better life for the Kenyan people. "Eventually, I know I'll go back," Agnes said. "My education is an opportunity for me to have an impact on my home," she added.

Agnes Mathenge is determined to go back to Kenya and reveal the country’s true potential. (Photo Courtesy of Agenes Mathenge)

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