International student Arnold Nciko
Congolese origin, Arnold Nciko Wa Nciko is a going-to-fourth year student at Strathmore University (SU) pursuing Bachelor of Laws. He is delighted to have gone through three years of his life at the University. The 22 year-old has no regrets for attending a university away from home. He has a rich knowledge and experience in research and writing as well as in other opportunities offered by the University.
What is your background?
I come from a city called Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I am the first born in a family of six. My parents say that the only property that we, their children, own is our education. When I was in high school, my siblings and I were always competing even when we get our exam results. The competition kept us on our toes in our academics.
How did you end up studying in Strathmore University?
When I cleared my high school, I was to go study in South Africa. However, my uncle advised my parents to allow me to come to Kenya. My uncle emphasized also that Kenya has equally good universities. This was how I landed in this country, in August 2015. And, to start off, I had to learn the English language for three months since I did my high school studies in French and my high school, Le Collège Alfajiri, could only provide me with the basics of the English language. I spent the three months at Bridge College, an English-teaching institution off Moi Avenue.
After the successful completion of my three-month programme, I had to look for a university to join. I didn’t know much about Strathmore University. I started visiting some of the universities around the city. Compared to the Congolese standards, all these seemed to be good universities. But when I came to enquire about Strathmore University, I was amazed by the reception in the admissions office and the clean environment in the University. Everyone was looking knowledgeable. Perhaps the dress code had something to do with this. I called my father and told him that ‘Dad, this is where I belong’.
Among the courses that were introduced to me was ‘School of Finance and Applied Economics’; the course sounded like it was meant for the brilliant students and I was more than ready to consider it. Law was never my interest. My father advised me to consider a degree in Law and perhaps merge law with finance or economics once I reach the master’s level. I will remain eternally grateful for this advice because, with law, I believe that I am going to engineer social change in my country.
Do you think studying at SU has an impact on your home country?
Strathmore University has had a notable impact in my country. The University conducts maths contests in our major cities on an annual basis, just as it has been doing in other countries on the continent. This has helped many youths who might not have had a chance to go to higher education, secure a scholarship opportunity in this institution which has tackled the upper reaches of world-class universities. It is my hope that they will go back and help rebuild the Congo.
What clubs/extra-curriculum activities do you participate in at SU?
I am the current president of the Toastmasters club, though now towards the end of my term. Toastmasters is an empowering and fun-learning experience that helps people develop and refine their leadership skills. It helps one become more confident in communication and a leadership. The Club has helped me to be able to express myself in a clear and concise manner. As a member of the club one is also afforded the opportunity to deliver speeches before larger and more professional audiences. Together with my fellow club members, I have had the privilege to deliver a speech at the World Bank Group, the Coca-Cola Company and before the global president of the Toastmasters International Organisation when he was on a visit to East Africa.
I am also the male Academic Representative of the university student council. But beyond the academic docket, and with the help of my fellow council members, I have been particular about helping my fellow international students learn from the experiences of their seniors on how to adapt to the new educational environment, that is Strathmore University, and how to conduct themselves so as to avoid any troubles with Kenyan law enforcement, especially the Police. My term in the student council is ending in August and I encourage more international students to try to get involved in student politics.
I also served in 2018 as the head of the Human Rights unit of the Strathmore Law Clinic; this was an interesting journey. The Clinic is a student-run organisation which affords law students a practical learning environment enabling them to apply the legal knowledge, gained in class, to real-life social issues with the aim of promoting access to justice, through pro bono work.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being part of the Strathmore Law Review which is a student-run academic law journal in the Law School, published by the Strathmore University Press. I will serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the Review for the academic year 2019-2020. Barack Obama had a similar position in the Harvard Law Review. Beyond the prestige that comes with this position, as an editor, one acquires some significant academic rigour in their legal research and writing, which is really critical to the legal profession.
It is not surprising, therefore, that because of the skills that the Review has provided me with, I was among the students that represented the University at the African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA) conference in Kigali last year. The same skills allowed me to help review ‘The Constitution of Kenya: A Commentary’- 2nd edition by Dr. Luis Franceschi and Professor PLO Lumumba. I am also reviewing another book ‘Constitution-making from the Middle’ by the former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
I am also writing a paper for a writing competition and I have one that has already been accepted for the upcoming African International Economic Law Network Conference, which will be hosted by the University in July. I will present the paper during the conference. I can fairly say that the Strathmore Law Review has given me the formidable exposure that I need to grow my legal career.
Any challenges that you have faced in SU?
Studying law at Strathmore as a student from a French speaking country was a difficult mix. Upon joining the university, I had serious problems, especially with the English language and had it not been for the Toastmaster club, the teaching staff and my classmates, who welcomed me with open arms, I wouldn’t be doing this interview today.
The dress code in Strathmore was also another challenge when I joined Strathmore but I came to learn that it promotes a conducive learning environment. Also, because people act on perceptions; the dress code allows one to be taken seriously by the people he or she meets.
Who is your role model?
I have various role models, all of whom are very humble people. To mention but a few: Dr. Luis Franceschi, the Dean of Strathmore Law School; Dr. John Ambani, the editor-in-chief for the Strathmore University Press-Law; Cecil Yongo, the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Strathmore Law Review, and AnnBeatrice Njarara, who also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Strathmore Law Review and who has been my mentor both in leadership and editing.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy swimming, dancing (in my comfort zone though) and playing video games during my spare time.
What advice would you give the students thinking of joining SU?
To have a campus experience of a lifetime, they should not limit themselves to being in class. They should also take advantage of the opportunities that the university offers in extra-curricular activities.
This article was written by Odhiambo Obonyo
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