Strathmore’s International Student Breaking Barriers in a European Ivy League university – KTH
For five to six months, students across the world get an opportunity to be part of the Global Development Hub, an exchange program at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology Open Lab, in Stockholm, Sweden. The Hub focuses on developing coordinated education and innovation activities for global development. Through partnerships between KTH and selected Sub-Saharan African universities, such as Strathmore University, students collaborate in tackling local challenges and researching for global solutions.
In August 2021, Ashuza Romuald, Betty Kyalo, Kennedy Musembi and Laureen Toroitich, students in the School of Computing and Engineering Sciences, set out on this exciting trip to represent the University in the 2021 KTH Global Development Hub.
The creation of STiiNG
Betty and I were among three other Swedish students who were assigned to work in project class where we developed a start-up company known as STiiNG.
The project focused on making workable solution to a ‘challenge driven education’. The vision of the project was creating a digital connection between students and companies in the job market, and in specific students who have not yet graduated so as to ensure inclusion in the value chain. Our project sought to bridge the digital gap. This platform would allow students to get access to careers that they would like to venture into.
The company is yet to be launched but plans are underway.
STiiNg Vs LinkedIn
The main role of LinkedIn is to connect professionals, people who have already graduated, to the workplace. STiiNG aims at connecting Bachelor and Masters students, in need not of a job but a project, to collaborate with a company for their thesis. After several interviews with students, teacher and company representatives, we concluded that these entities are not well connected and there is a market that LinkedIn has not yet explored.
It’s a cold paradise
Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I used to see snow falling in movies that we would watch at my grandparents’ place while hurdling up on the floor with my favourite cousins. As a kid, I imagined how the snow felt… was it as cold as they say in the movies? I used to scrape our fridge freezer lining to get the ice out and play with it as if it was snow.
We landed in Stockholm and there it was – white fields. Thick snow covering the streets, the hedges, trees and parked cars. Into the ice-kissed air came wintry feather of pure white snowfall that gave way to a blizzard. I was completely mesmerized by the beauty of it all. It was magical. I felt snowflakes bounce on my coat and shoes. “Il faisait très froid. Je n’étais pas préparé pour l’hiver.” Thanks to the thick jacket and thermal pants my mother bought me for the trip! “You better layer up son! Or you will catch the sniffles!”
We were in paradise. A cold paradise.
The winter temperatures used to drop to below zero degrees. Oh, yes! The sun was out, but there was no heat at all! Sigh! “It is all about the tilt of the Earth’s axis,” said my Geography teacher in high school. During winter, the sun’s rays hit the Earth at a shallow angle hence these rays are more spread out, which in turn minimizes the amount of energy that hits the earth.
In the depths of winter, on some days it was pitch black outside in wintry Stockholm. Daylight in Sweden lasts from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. On some days we would have zero hours of sun! We were shrouded in darkness all day long, regardless of the time you wake up. I had to check the clock a couple of times to be sure what time it was! I dreamt of warmth. I wished I could teleport to the warm climate in Kenya.
I may not be a fan of the cold, gloomy weather that accompanies winter, but that did not mean there are no beautiful aspects of it to enjoy. Visiting Hallwylska and Nobel Museum was mind-blowing. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris covered in snow, taking walks through nature covered in snow or ice in Helsinki was peaceful. Breathtaking. Well, that at least kept the winter blues away.
Time is money…
I came to appreciate how punctuality and the respect for time was ingrained in the lives of the Swedish. If you are late, too bad for you. If the bus or the train ticket indicated that it leaves at 12.05 p.m., then it will leave at that exact time. Not a second later. I learnt to schedule my day before leaving the house so as to be on time for every activity. I came to understand that respect of time is the same as respect for your host (s). This is something many, in Africa and in Kenya specifically, need to learn.
We beat the odds!
I am set to finish my remaining units this year, 2022, and hopefully graduate next year as part of the #Classof2023. This opportunity threw me into the deep end. It was a challenge to put myself out there. I worked with Masters Students in this program yet I had not reached that level of education. That did not deter me from excelling in the projects that I was part of… we remarkably represented Strathmore University.
Surrounding yourself with people who will uplift you is very important, especially if you are residing in a foreign country. A million thanks to Dr. Jesper Vasell, Mrs. Katie Zmijewski, Dr. Bernard Shibwabo, and Prof. Izael Da Silva who made this trip a reality. May God keep blessing you. Thank you is not enough. From your wise words to continuous encouragement, truly, without it, we would not be where we are. Friends and family were also instrumental in this memorable journey.
To my peers…
Be proactive! Think out of the box. Put yourself out there and grab these opportunities! You never know what awaits you. Thanks to Strathmore University, I got to sing Anna’s part of “Do you wanna build a snowman” in the film Frozen in my raspy voice while making snow angels with friends I made in Stockholm.
This article was written by Jemmy Kamau.
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