Former ASK Scholar Spends Senior Year in Kenya

February 5, 2021

Culture, News

Photos courtesy of Zanier Griego

By Danielle Littlefield 

Zanier Griego, a former ASK scholar, is spending her senior year studying abroad in Kenya. She agreed to talk to the The Catalyst about her new school, her biggest lessons, and what she misses most about New Mexico.

The CatalystWho do you live with in Kenya? What led to the opportunity to move there your senior year?

Zanier Griego: “I live with my aunt and uncle. I got to move to Africa because my uncle works for the U.S embassy here in Kenya. My aunt was visiting New Mexico and out of the blue asked if I wanted to go for my senior year.”

TC: Do you plan to stay in Kenya after graduation?

Zanier: “I do not. I plan to go back to the U.S for college, but I’m not sure if I will be going back to New Mexico.”

TC:  How is Kenya handling the global pandemic? Is it required to wear masks, social distance, are places closed, etc.?

Zanier: “Currently in Kenya, everything is open (schools, restaurants, etc.) but everyone is required to wear masks and practice social distancing. We also have to have our temperature checked whenever we enter any public places and there are hand washing stations that people are required to use before entering a restaurant. It’s a little difficult to get a scope on the actual covid situation in Kenya because lower-income areas do not have easy access to the covid tests. In Kenya, you have to pay around 10 dollars (1000 shilling) to get a test and the majority of the lower-income people make around 2-3 dollars a day. So whatever information that is being reported regarding covid is not completely accurate.”

TC: Are you doing virtual school or in-person school?

Zanier: “The first 2 months the entire school was online, but in October all the juniors and seniors had the option of going in person (I chose to go in person), and the kids who stayed home just logged on from Zoom. Since the new year started all schools in Kenya are open and require in-person learning so the option to go on Zoom is no longer available.”

TC: What is your school day like?

Zanier: “So I usually wake up on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays around 7 and then I do my whole morning routine and wait for the bus to pick me up at 9:10. School from Monday-Friday goes from 9:30-3:00, except on Wednesdays — I go from 8:20 a.m.-1:25 p.m. (on Wednesday I wake up at like 6 and the bus comes around 7:40). Each day I have 4 classes.” 

TC: What classes are you taking?

Zanier: IB Global Politics, IB psychology, Art, Advanced P.E, IB English lit, Environmental Science, Spanish I, and then I have two free periods. 

TC: What type of school do you go to?

Zanier: “So ISK (International School Of Kenya) is an international school that has International Baccalaureate curriculum which is kind like AP but it’s a lot harder and requires a lot more work. I guess it would also be considered a private school because you have to pay to go (thank you, U.S government) but in Kenya everyone has to pay to go to school, ranging from 20-50 dollars a year. I know that doesn’t seem expensive but you have to think that the average Kenyan is only makes 60-73 dollars a month.” 

TC: Have you made friends?

Zanier: “Yes, and they are really cool people.”

TC:  Do you go to school with other Americans? Or just people from Kenya?

Zanier: “With ISK being an international school I go to school with people from all over the the world and Africa and Kenya.”  

TC: What do you do after school?

Zanier: “Most days I just go home and do homework and then after that I usually hangout with my aunt and uncle. Like I said before I’m taking IB classes so they require me to do a lot of out of class work. On Mondays after school I participate in writers club and this is where we do different writing activities and then on Thursdays I go to Students For The Environment which is ISK’s environmental club.”

TC: What do teenagers do in their free time there?

Zanier: “All the normal things teenagers in the U.S do. They go to the mall, hangout with friends, go to the movies, really anything you can think of. The only thing that most teenagers don’t do is drive. I’m pretty sure every person at my school has a driver or someone like that to take them places.”

TC: Describe the coolest experience you’ve had so far?

Zanier: “I think the coolest experience I’ve had in Kenya so far is going to Diani beach for winter break. It’s so beautiful there and the water was so clear and there were little monkeys everywhere.”

TC: What’s your favorite thing about Africa?

Zanier: “I’m not sure I can tell you what my favorite thing about Africa is, seeing as I’ve only been to 1 out of the 55 countries that exist on the continent, but I can tell you about Kenya. There is this huge sense of community everywhere you go which is not something that you really see in the U.S. People that you have never spoke to before will just come up and talk to you which is not something that ever happens in the U.S. With that being said, I think people are a lot nicer here as well compared to the U.S. A phrase that I’m constantly saying to people is ‘everyone is so nice’ and it’s because they really are.”

TC- What do you miss the most about New Mexico?

Zanier: “My friends, the sunsets, and New Mexican food and Taco Bell. Although I have great and amazing friends here, I don’t think I will ever meet or have a connection with anyone like I do with the people at ASK. They are people that I’ve known since the 7th grade and outside of my family the people closest to me, and although I can text and facetime them whenever it’s not the same as seeing them in person. I stand firm on the belief that New Mexico has the best sunrises and sunsets ever, and they’re not something that really happens here. I miss green chili so much you have no clue. Kenyans don’t really ever eat spicy food so when it’s offered it’s usually never spicy. The first thing I’m going to do when I get to NM is go to Weck’s and get a bean burrito drenched in green chile.”

TC: Other than the lack of chile, what is food like in Kenya?

Zanier: “Well there are tons of Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, Japanese, etc., restaurants which are all delicious. Everything in Kenya is fresh and there are cows and goats everywhere so it’s very likely that when you go to a restaurant and eat meat it was probably the cow you passed on the way there, and nothing is processed unless you’re getting chips from the store. In terms of actual Kenyan cuisine I really love this thing called chapati. The only way I really know how to describe it is like a mix between fry bread and a tortilla. I love the food here.” 

TC: What has this travel experience taught you most about? Yourself or the world?

Zanier: “I think the most important thing that it has taught me is that the U.S education system is failing us. Africa is not a country with people running around with spears, and lions don’t roam the streets. I also think we tend to group the continent Africa into one unit and it is so much more than that. All around the continent there are tons of different cultures and people. Every region has their own way of doing things and it is not fair to the people on the continent to not acknowledge that.

I’ve also learned that Americans are very entitled, myself included. I know it sounds supper crappy saying something like that but it’s the truth. I think we really take things like hot water for a shower and free education for granted. I’ve definitely learned that the world does not revolve around Americans and there are so many things that we are lucky to have that some people here will never witness. The world is so much more than America and a lot of the nuances we face are nothing compared to what people go through here. Since being in Kenya my perspective has shifted so much and I think that it has made me much more self aware and I definitely appreciate the little things a lot more.”

Be sure to tune into The ASK Catalyst’s Instagram stories today, where Zanier will be taking us along on her day.

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