Meet Timothy Sewe Ogode, a Kenyan national studying the Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science, specialising in Cloud Technology and Information Security, who is just excited to have made the trip to a city known for its rich IT heritage. In his free time, Dr. John Patrick Ojwando discovers when he is not reading about his first love, airplanes or fun books, then travelling to discovering hold sway.
For a first time university student, making the long haul away from home, and being thrust headlong into a new life on foreign shores often present surprises and anxious moments, beyond the fact that studying in a distant land itself is an eye-opening experience. Yet the assumption finds little resonance in the world of Timothy Sewe Ogode. Prior to his study trip, he had raked up miles in the sky and thus was already exposed to the thrills and shocks that life away from the comfort zone presents.
Born in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, Tim’s early life was spent in Cairo, the capital city of Egypt where his father, a staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was posted. “For me, I would say, life growing up was good. I started my schooling in Egypt and then relocated back home when the family came back. It is easy to discern what the early exposure to new cultures did to the youngster. It was the base that he would use to set the ground for his integration into a life away from his own society.
The last of four siblings, Tim, as he is fondly referred at home, was able to continue with his schooling on familiar home turf, first at Happy Land Preparatory School and later Maseno School, a national boys’ school in the country that takes pride in its heritage and unique location along the Equatorial line in Kenya. Schooling for Tim was fun. “With a strong Christian grounding, my parents and those around us were a great support to me and my siblings. Being a playful child, I miss those days a lot,” reminisces Tim who also confesses that to start off he would come across as a quiet person who, once things open up, finds it is hard to remain so.
At Happy Land and Maseno, the two schools he attended in his homeland, discipline and strict conduct ensured the students got exposure and excelled in both academic and extra-curricular engagements.
After schooling, there were months of inactivity that followed his application for higher studies, a lull that was broken when Tim received his offer letter from JAIN and with it the Presidents’ Scholarship that would relieve him of the strain of funding his studies.
On receiving the offer letter, Tim made sure he was prepared mentally for the ‘huge’ test that awaited him, put his personal items in place, made a schedule, read a little about where he was going, and got advice from his friends and relatives, mostly alumni of Indian Universities. He also spent time with friends and relatives. This way, he was sure he was focused on making the most of his time abroad and living his dreams.
Arriving in Bengaluru, Tim looked unfazed by his new environment perhaps following on a familiar trail. “I have had family friends coming for studies in India and so too did my elder sibling who completed his studies in law in the neighboring city of Mysore,” he explains. “Before coming, I was already familiar with the basic information about India, its cultural heritage and read fascinating tales about its numerous tourist attractions including the incredible Taj Mahal.
Still exuding confidence about the opportunity to move into a foreign country, Tim in his spare time continues to explore and improve on his skills. Yet, he has also quickly learned to his credit that things in new setting will not be easy sailing. “Time and time again, you are called upon to respond to different situations and that many ways makes the experience all the more exciting,” he says.
In particular, Tim has surrounded himself with friends, both domestic and international, but it is the former who continue to endear him to local customs and traditions. “If you come from a different country, some people, mainly the domestic crowd are happy to see you embrace their practices,” he says. “I see this as a learning process,” he says. “I am aware I will have to work hard in my studies by keeping busy but in between I should be able to make time visit some of the interesting tourist places in the country if not alone with my friends.”
One of the harsh realities that have hit him badly is that of separation from family. The fact that from now on, he will be on his own where he is living and studying. Yet as a learner in a new setting, this reality has helped him become independent and genuinely responsible.
Coming from a country that has modeled its economy around the numerous tourist points and the Big Five, Tim is happy to flaunt the beauty of his city. “Nairobi is equally cosmopolitan like Bengaluru but shelters many surprises even for the local crowd, born and raised in its environs,” he says. “Perhaps this is the only city in the world with a full-fledged national within. And it is not exactly a zoo but a large expanse of wilderness where wild animals roam freely. Matatus, commonly used mode of public transport in Kenya, he says are of interest too. “Here, you get pimped up public service vehicles fitted with huge loudspeakers that blare music and a favourite of the younger generation,” he explains.
Making a comparison of the two cities, he insists both have diverse working classes and those without formal learning, enveloped in poverty, and whose day-to-day lives mirror each other.
Today, Tim may only have ticked a year off his scheduled four years of study period, but there is enough evidence to convince him that India in general, and Bengaluru in particular, was one of the best decisions he could ever have taken. “We sat down as a family and settled on the Asian subcontinent,’ he says. “I am so glad how everything has turned out to be. If you had asked me the question about going abroad for studies a couple of years back, I am sure I would have provided a totally different answer.” Yet moving here has opened avenues to learn, explore new cultures, make new friends and travel around. “I am lucky to be in the position I find myself and determined to make the most of the opportunity to live and study in another different culture,” he says and goes on to offer advice to the newly arrived students. “I believe it is important that we embrace the change, accept the differences and be ready to take corrective measures whenever we fall short of the expectations of our local hosts.”
For someone whose has been away from home before, another of the lessons he has learnt is to have a better understanding of his interests and strengths. Secondly, before moving into his adopted city, he was not aware of the options and possibilities in his chosen discipline.
“Now I can see myriad opportunities this field shelters,” he says. “I cannot say I am there yet, but with the passage of time, I have come to the realisation that there is a lot I can do, utilise my time here for constructive pursuits. As a foreign student, there are a lot of projects on campus that if you involve yourself will prove beneficial in the long run.”
So as Tim entrenches himself deeper into the system, the journey of both self -discovery and exploration of his true potential may just have begun in earnest. With it comes the opportunity to try out new things on campus, get to know other people, understand different cultures from across the globe and better still, appreciate his new surroundings. And put it in his own words, he is living another of his dreams, in relative comfort.
• Name: Timothy Sewe Ogode
• University: Jain (Deemed-to-be-University) Programme
• Course: Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science in Cloud Technology and Information Security
• Specialisation: Information Security
• Duration: 4 Years, 8 Semesters