Wangechi Murimi: Slowly fitting into my own shoes.

By Mwaniki Nyaga, KamiLimu Management Committee Member

A strong community is propped up by a handful of key components: shared values, a desire to learn, clear guardrails for participation and, perhaps most importantly, an environment where members feel welcome to share their knowledge, questions, and ideas. I caught up with Wangechi Murimi, one of KamiLimu’s cohort 5.0 mentees, for a chat about her journey as a human being: to understand what drove her to seek mentorship, her current and future aspirations, and her perspective on what KamiLimu means and whether it fulfils the key components of community.

Wangechi Murimi, a student at USIU & Cohort 5.0 Mentee.

Why did you join KamiLimu?

I learnt about it through my schoolmate Monica Wangari, a Cohort 4.0 mentee and now a peer mentor. I realized that not everyone is as excited about school as I am, as some are of the opinion that university isn’t everything because you can get your millions without it. However, I find the whole atmosphere very empowering. So when Monica saw my frustrations with my present learning environment, she said, “You know what, I know a place for you!” She told me it was a community where I would find people just as weird and as accepting as myself. People who would guide me to get the best out of my education, and who would assist me to launch my career. Therefore, I thought that if I could successfully mix friends, school and my career, I would be getting the best deal.

How do you envision yourself growing during your time here?

During the Cohort 5.0 Launch, Tonee Ndungu gave a keynote, where he said, ‘When you are in your own space, you have the capability of growing.’ I feel that in the space KamiLimu provides, I don’t have to be obsessed about what other people are thinking. I know I’m in a space where everyone is growing as they are, so I feel safe enough not to look around me. Therefore, I envision having more time to focus on my inner self.

How did you find your first session at KamiLimu (Scholarship 101)?

I am a shy person so I came in telling myself, ‘Wangechi, you can’t be too aggressive,’ because sometimes I become too fussy and I ask a lot of questions. And I tend to think people will see me as a disturbance. But Dr Chao — who facilitated the session — was very welcoming and understanding. I loved the reflection I was getting. I felt the whole community did not mistake my aggressiveness for a need for attention, but one to get the answers that you deserve. That first session had me feeling like I’m settling in. It’s like I’ve been shown a new house and now I’ve just moved my furniture in.

What is a KamiLimu mentee to you?

From the day Cohort 5.0 was launched, I was looking for a skin I was supposed to conform to. For example, Dr Chao shared about the misconceptions people have regarding #whataprogrammerlookslike: geeky, bespectacled, always on their laptop and in a tee. But here, I can’t find that skin. There’s no predetermined character that I’m supposed to play. I’m honestly struggling with the fact that I’m supposed to be my own self. However, this freedom does not mean that there are no expectations regarding my conduct as a KamiLimu representative. Still, I am being told to be who I think is best for me. And given that is not exactly the environment we’ve come from, I find it a bit unsettling.

Do you think that will be a blessing or a hindrance?

I’m a very girl-on-an-island kind of person, who lives in her own world a lot. At the launch, I saw how welcoming and open the peer mentors were, which I found off-putting as my mind was telling itself, ‘Too extroverted and energetic.’ And I’m calmer than that. So I told myself, ‘Wangechi, you’re here for the certificate.’ But now I’m looking at myself and seeing how excited I am — I’m trying to leash myself but the people are telling me, ‘No, keep going Wangechi, keep going!’ I’ve never felt it so easy to be myself. I feel I’m slowly fitting into my own shoes. I’m scared, but I guess I’ll get used to it.

What course do you study at University?

Applied Computer Technology (ACT). Initially, I believed that Tech is straightforward because the environment is so wholesome and easily accessible. I wanted something complex and chose Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering. ACT was my safety net, which I opted for as a transitory option as I searched for my calling after engineering did not work out. I quickly discovered my own misconception. ACT has a warm and welcoming face but can be harsh and grizzly, and this twist intrigued me.

How was it being a student of Engineering?

I spent 2 years in JKUAT studying Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering. I felt like it was a factory — I was receiving information and churning it back out. I’d ask myself, why am I not being passionate? And I would try so hard to fit into that category… but then my mind just broke. At some point I was nothing. I was completely nothing.

What’s the difference in the nature of instruction from your previous institution to the one you are currently in?

The instruction at my new school is interactive and more human. Here, we have more access to our lecturers. Our classes lean more on understanding than cramming the content. My instructors are open to listening to our difficulties and understanding our situation. I feel this is an optimal learning environment, all these being opposite to my previous experience.

Where do you see yourself taking your knowledge of computing?

Knowledge is transient and we are its vehicles. I see myself using this knowledge to accelerate this transport through teaching. I would love to be a professor, a doctor of knowledge. I aspire to teach university students and kindergarteners. I would also like to run a consultancy, especially with corporates, to enforce theory with practice.

What do you envision as your ideal classroom?

Raw minds. I don’t expect anything from my students other than a willingness to learn, which explains why I would love to teach university students and kindergarteners, as both groups hold a batch of knowledge that they have no idea what to do with. Thus, I would like to help them sculpt this information according to their understanding to promote its utility.

What advice do you have for those stuck in the factory?

Love learning. It is not a means to money, wealth or whatever else. It is an end in itself.

KamiLimu is a free 8-month structured mentorship program that seeks to augment classroom learning for Computer Science students at Kenyan universities.

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