In Kenya, we had one textbook for over hundred students

13. 4. 2017 | | Rozhovory Gregory

You can easily miss throw them in one bag with exchange students, but the truth is that the are regular students like us. And they have unbelievable stories of how they got here. One of those who chose to study in the heart of Europe is Gregory Otieno from Kenya, since May Bachelor of Business Administration and current focusing on his start-up.

Vždycky mě mile překvapí, když se cizinec naučí dobře česky.

Je to důležitý pro nás zahraniční studenty, protože pokud chceš být tady, tak je to lepší.

Máš pocit, že když na někoho promluvíš česky, tak se změní jeho přístup?

Jo. Já vím, že Čech má rád, pokud cizinec mluví v češtině. And they open up. If you just speak English, the approach is a little bit different. If you just try to speak even a “broken” czech, it gets better.

We can do this in czenglish, if you want. Co tě přivedlo k tomu přihlásit se na naši univerzitu? Věděl jsi něco o Vysoké škole ekonomické nebo o Praze?

Předtím jsem by v Holandsku a chtěl jsem tam studovat, ale to bylo o hodně dražší pro mě. Zkusil jsem čekat a Praha měla dobrou reputaci a taky je nejlevnější.

Studoval jsi i na univerzitě v Keni, nebo jsi přišel rovnou sem?

Studoval jsem na univerzitě v Keni, ale to byl jiný obor. Studoval jsem biochemii a pak jsem pracoval v Holandsku a Švýcarsku jeden rok a změnil jsem názor. A proto teď studuju tady.

Chodil jsi ze začátku na nějaké kurzy češtiny od školy nebo sis platil vlastní?

Byl jsem na jazykové škole na Univerzitě Karlova v Mariánských lázních. To bylo dobrý, protože tam nikdo nemluvil v angličtině. To byla jízda. Studoval jsem šest měsíc intenzivní češtinu. Pak jsem přijel do Prahy.

Zažil jsi nějaký kulturní šok nebo bylo něco, co tě tady překvapilo?

Pro mě největší šok byl, že tady lidi jsou uzavřený. Jsem z Keni, kde lidi jsou hodně otevření. They are open to foreigners. And we try to help foreigners to integrate, but here it’s the opposite. People are closed and they are hard to get to. Ale teď je to lepší. So that was very different, we help others to feel like home, but here for the first time in my life I really felt like a foreigner. But now it’s ok, it’s completely the opposite.

It surprised me that you don’t believe in anything

Did you notice people reacting to you or staring at you in the begining?

Oh yes, at the beginning I was so surprised. For example in Switzerland no one really cares, because they are very multicultural. When I came here, people wanted to take photos of me, partly because I had dreadlocks. I got a lot of attention, which I don’t like that much and I had to learn how to deal with it.

I bet you heard the story of the street at Wenceslas square…

Yes, yes, I tell you that street, I fear it. I don’t go there when it’s dark. Because mostly when somebody sees you, they assume that you are all the same, they don’t differentiate, even if you have other ambitions. I don’t blame the society here, they really cannot tell, because we all look the same.

I guess it’s similar to you, when you think of us as looking alike.

Yes exactly. But it would just be nice if people stopped assuming that everybody is the same because of their race, religion, sexual orientation et cetera. It is like if I thought all the Czechs are like your president. Or that all Muslims are terrorists. It is not like that and you have to separate one person from the other.

Is there anything else that is different in the Czech community or how people behave towards each other?

Where I come from, people are more important than anything. If I have a job, that is not imporant. Money, or anything, that is not important. You, the people are more imporant to me than anything. Here it feels like people don’t care about humanity so much, they don’t value it as we do. Up until now I didn’t come to understand how you can value something else more important than a human being. It comes from my background, my way of thinking and my beliefs, it’s not like I want people to change it here.

How important is religion in Kenya?

I was also surprised that people here don’t believe in anything. In my country, it’s one way or the other, people either believe in God or Allah at least, or they believe in something. We have religious values. I was shocked when I went to the kostel and I was the only young person there, the rest was two very old people. Even the priest was surprised to see me there. Another thing is that people use so many swearing words here. I had to get used to it, with guys especially. For us, you swear when something really angers you. Here I feel it’s like a cool thing to say.

What did your family and friends say when you told them you are going to study in Europe and then the Czech Republic?

With Switzerland and Netherlands it was different, because it was just for a period of time. When I told them I was going to the Czech Republic to really study there and stay for a long time, it was a bitter sweet feeling for them, but they were happy for me that I could go abroad. Most of the time I was away from home because I started boarding school when I was very young, so I would spend three months in school without seeing my parents and then one month at home and so on. On the other hand they are used to me being away.

I used to come to class to discuss not talk about textbooks

Have you changed opinion on some of your first impressions about the country or people over the three years?

Yes, it changed a lot. When learnt the language and read more about the culture. And while visiting another areas I came to understand Czechs better. Now I can say I have almost integrated, my perception really changed from the first time. You also learn a lot when speaking to people.

You are not fully integrated here until you get Czech sarcasm. Do you understand it now?

Sometimes. And sometimes I miss it, that also concerns the jokes, but with some help I usually get it. I know humor is very important to you. It’s very different from Germany, they are not funny, they don’t make jokes.

Do you usually see international students from your program or you have made some Czech friends?

In my program it’s mostly international students, but we have also three Czechs there. If we go out, we go multiple nationalities, Czechs included. But I have Czech friends outside the program too and right now I work for a small Czech company, so I can practice the language more.

Is the university system, or school system in general very different in Kenya?

A little bit. Here people focus more on passing exams and tests. Students just go to class and then somewhere else. In Kenya we would have even arguments and talking about our opinions. In the classes here you basically talk about what the textbook says. We are taught to share our ideas more. The approach diverges too. You can see the teacher-student division. We have more equal approach, the teacher learns from you and you learn from the teacher.

The thing is, that students are sometimes afraid to speak up.

I wasn’t like that. I remember in my first year I used to ask more questions, so much that up until the point when I didn’t ask a question my macro teacher said: “Gregory, do you have a question?”. I’m used to this way of learning, when I do it, I don’t have to study that much for the exams, because I remember everything. It comes naturally.

Teacher gave us readings before classes to ensure we really study

I think we usually care too much about not to sound stupid or ask less smart questions.

I don’t think like that, to me there is no stupid question. When you don’t understand, you should ask. But I’ve seen it to change, now in my class, the others ask too and I just enjoy the discussion. You learn a lot like that, we have all different experiences and different way of thinking and it makes you to start looking at a problem from a different perspective. And that helps you to solve the problem.

You are also very small group, so it’s easier to discuss problems. When you have a big class of two hundred, there is sometimes simply no room for questions, because a lot needs to be done.

I see. We used to have classes this big in Kenya too, but what the teacher did, he simply told us to read in advance and we just went to the class to discuss and ask what we don’t understand. Because most of the stuff you can read and understand it on your own. In this way the lecturer ensures that the students really read and don’t just wait for the exam period to study everything.

How do you judge our study materials?

You have all the materials here to study. The facilities are much better, you have the library, all the books. Back in my university we used to have one text book for one hundred and fifty students. You had to go and make a photocopy or if someone makes a copy you borrow that to make your own photocopy. Just to get the material was hard, but here you have so much ressources, we didn’t even had the internet. People don’t even have computers. I think when you have so much, you don’t appreciate it. When you have so little, you have to be efficient.

Foto: archiv Gregory Otieno

Poznámka autorky: všechny české odpovědi Gregoryho jsou bez gramatické úpravy. 

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