I decided to interview Ory Okolloh from Nairobi who recently spent a few years in the states studying at Harvard. I met her at PopTech in Maine this fall, where she spoke with several other Africans on a panel…..it was close to her final days in the states.
She originally came to the U.S. to attend university and ‘become a lawyer.’ Overall, she found it to be a positive experience and says with a smile – “the American dream is alive and well….”
I asked her what she learned from her time here that she didn’t think she would and her response was interesting, but not surprising.
Says Ory, “I learned to appreciate the things that I took for granted about Kenya, such as the food and the great Nairobi weather. (poor girl was stuck in Boston during her stint – a drastic weather shift)….She also learned to appreciate the value of nurturing and mentoring others…
“What’s most important is having people surrounding you who really believe in you. Finally, I discovered I was black…race had never been part of my experience in Kenya so I had to learn to adjust to that here.”
In terms of her Harvard experience, she said that it took her awhile to get used to the fact that she actually ‘belonged there.’ She believes that both her education and life experience have resulted in a stronger belief system, that she can do ‘anything if she puts her mind to it.’
On her five year goal, she says, “I hope to get paid for I love to do, to be in a place where I can make significant contributions to my country and continent, and to make a difference in the lives of others in the same way that others have done for me.”
Ory has since returned to Nairobi.