“I came to Germany because Kenyan Universities did not combine practice and theory at master’s level. I also wanted to have a global mindset, and to be exposed to a different system of education. To prepare myself, having at least one year of experience in media was a requirement. I went out of my way to gain as much experience as I could from the media house I was working for, so that I would be very well prepared.”
Wandolo, who speaks three languages fluently and has a Bachelor in Language and Communication from the University of Nairobi, had previously lived in Germany for a short while. Therefore she did not expect a culture shock. She thought ahead though and wanted to spice things up in Bonn, literally. She made sure to bring her own special spices from Kenya with her, as she knew she would miss her food from home.
Cultural barriers are to be broken
In the beginning, Wandolo still had to overcome some cultural shocks: “I felt lost whenever I interacted with people who had no idea about Africa and its diversity. Some of these people often made generalized and uninformed comments about my country, making it pretty hard to keep up a conversation with them.” Coming from a continent with 54 different countries, multiple cultures and languages, Wandolo often had to deal with misperceptions and work against prejudice. On the other hand, she says there was a lot to learn for herself too, and she felt comfortable during this learning process, as it also challenged her own worldview and perceptions: “During my studies, which took place at Deutsche Welle Akademie (DWA), there were twenty-one of us from 13 different countries, so being at DWA really helped in sharpening our intercultural communication skills. On an academic level, interacting with people from different sectors exposed us to quite a number of fields at the same time, thereby making us knowledgeable and well-equipped to fit into and contribute to many intellectual and interdisciplinary exchanges.” She particularly remembers enjoying learning about digital media, media convergence and media and communication sciences. She especially values the knowledge she gained from courses like organizational communication, controlling and media management, as these subject were crucial for the founding of her own consulting firm in Kenya.
Beethoven’s town became her second home
Certainly, being abroad also means that sharing experiences with loved ones at home can be challenging. Wandolo regularly stayed in touch with her family in Kenya by talking to them on the phone, sending emails and writing messages on Facebook: “I often sent photos too, as a way of sharing my life in Germany with them.” Winters in Bonn were not only cold but also caused her to feel home sick: “Especially in January and February, I would often imagine how warm it would be back home.” Nevertheless, Bonn and Germany mean a lot to her and she remembers that she loved going to the movies in Cologne, the theatre in Bonn or jogging along beautiful Poppelsdorfer alley. At a local church, Wandolo joined a bible study group.
“We used to go for classical concerts at the Beethoven –Hall in Bonn. There was once a piece that was so good, so much so that everyone paused for a few seconds once it was over. After a spell of silence the whole hall broke out in applause and there was a standing ovation. That was my most memorable event in Bonn. It was quite fun watching Germany reach the semi finals during the 2010 soccer World Cup.“
Wandolo recalls her time in Germany to be beneficial on various different levels: “Studying here gave me an opportunity to improve my German language skills (...). I experienced new cultures and made friends from around the world. Most of us are still in touch to date. We also enjoyed the parties at the Deutsche Welle Akademie.
Global mindset and global networking
“I am still in touch with quite a number of people. We formed a group from the Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg alumni meeting last September and we are still in touch to date, on WhatsApp. We often share interesting pictures, thoughts and experiences.”
Wandolo not only received the chance to reunite with fellow former classmates but also to get to know people she had never met during her studies “so maybe I was meant to meet them one day! I am already looking forward to the next alumni conference whenever that will be.”
by Marion Ender, graduate assistant and student of the International Media Studies programme at H-BRS in collaboation with the university of Bonn and Deutsche Welle Akademie.