In Kenya—an East African country of nearly 50 million people—most houses are made of concrete or iron sheets, and the more expensive ones have gates and security guards. Dogs are for protection and are rarely allowed indoors. Cats are meant to eat rats, and a rabbit in the grass would likely be hunted for food.
These were a few comments from seven Kenyan students who will attend US universities through a global educational program and who are in Falmouth this week to take part in the New Balance Falmouth Road Race on Sunday, August 18, and to familiarize themselves with life in America.
Their tour guide is 24-year-old Connor J. Cobb, who graduated from Falmouth High School in 2013 and from Wesleyan University last year. He works for the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project, or KenSAP.
He is the son of Joseph P. Cobb and Jayne D. Farley of Falmouth.
KenSAP helps gifted, needy Kenyan high school graduates gain admission to highly selective universities in the United States and Canada. Each year the program chooses a dozen high-achieving students, introduces them to the American university system and its application process, and prepares them for the American SAT exams.
Since its founding in 2004, KenSAP has helped place 179 students at US and Canadian colleges, all with full, need-based financial aid. All but six of those students have graduated, according to KenSAP’s website.
KenSAP students mainly apply to Ivy League universities and small liberal arts schools such as Middlebury College or Amherst College that can afford to offer students full financial aid. Some students are also athletes, but this is not necessary, and academic merit is much more important, Mr. Cobb said.
During a visit to the Enterprise yesterday, Thursday, August 15, Mr. Cobb’s students talked about their educational plans and interests, how life differs between Kenya and the US, and what has surprised them most so far in their visit to Falmouth.
The students come from small villages across Kenya, and only a few had ever visited the capital city of Nairobi before being selected for the KenSAP program.
Faith Rugut, a photography buff, will attend Harvard University and plans to double-major in economics and psychology.
Emmanuel Kwizera, who is also passionate about photography and film production, will major in economics, with courses in computer science, at Brandeis University.
Hillary Onyore, who comes from a village near Lake Victoria and loves to fish, will study economics at Vassar College in New York.
Kennedy Kirui, who will run in the New Balance Falmouth Road Race with Mr. Cobb as well as a KenSAP alumnus and instructor, will major in computer science at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.
Harriet Mueke Muutu, who likes writing and reading books, is looking at studying urban planning and computer science at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Peris Mwangi, who enjoys traveling, will attend Smith College and is thinking of studying economics and data science.
Tuzo Mulunda, a music lover, will attend Harvard University.
“I’m undecided, but I’m leaning toward applied math,” she said.
Mr. Kirui said he had never heard of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race before this year, but he had heard about the Boston Marathon.
“I love running, and I’m so excited for the race,” he said.
His fellow students will volunteer at the finish line to cheer on the runners and hand out cooling towels, Mr. Cobb said.
One surprise Ms. Rugut noted is that it is much safer to cross the street here in the US compared to in Kenya.
“People actually follow traffic rules here. In Kenya it’s more like a suggestion; it’s not like a rule you should follow,” she said.
“What surprised me is there are a lot of timber houses. Where I come from successful people live in concrete houses. The rest are made mostly of iron sheets with a bit of wood. And every place is super-clean,” Mr. Kwizera said.
Mr. Kirui said he lives in a village far from Nairobi.
“When I joined KenSAP, that was the first time I went to Nairobi. I’d never been away from that small town of mine,” he said. “I was not expecting to find so many trees here in Falmouth. Every house has trees around it. Considering the large number of people in this country, I was expecting buildings everywhere close to each other.”
Ms. Onyore said, “I went to a high school in Nairobi, but I come from a village near Lake Victoria. There’s just no need for you to move all that long distance.”
Other observations included the number of cars on the streets compared with public transportation, as well as the great number of American flags in Falmouth. In Kenya, students said, flags are only displayed on public buildings on Mondays and Fridays.
“They were also amazed by the size of the houses here. In Nairobi it’s common for a family to live in one room,” Mr. Cobb said. “When we went to Woods Hole, I called it a village, and one student said to me, ‘I know a village. Woods Hole is not a village.’”
During their time in Falmouth, Mr. Cobb said his students will experience “quintessential Cape Cod things” such as swimming at the beach, walking the bike path and eating seafood.
To raise funds for the KenSAP program, the students have a Crowdrise page online.
“If you’re interested in donating, you can google ‘KenSAP runs the Falmouth Road Race’ to access the page,” Mr. Cobb said. “We have a group of 21 students in Kenya who are just starting what these guys did last year, studying for the SAT, writing their applications, getting ready for college. They’re raising money so that they can pay for the SAT and buy books and supplies.”