Establishing Cultural Roots at UBC’s Okanagan Campus
Name: Omar Mwangari
Home: Mombasa, Kenya
Program: Psychology (Honours), minor in English
Omar doesn’t like talking about himself much but he has a very special story.
Since coming to Canada from Kenya four years ago, Omar has taken on some of the biggest leadership roles on UBC’s Okanagan campus including coordinating the Jumpstart program, African Awareness Week, and the Summer Scholars Program. He has worked as a peer mentor, Jumpstart assistant, and has recently become one of the first international students to work with Aboriginal Programs and Services. It seems that he has always been interested in bringing people together from different cultural backgrounds. “The whole idea of culture goes big with me,” he says. “I’m deeply culturally rooted.”
When asked what drove him to become so involved on campus, he says it was to overcome homesickness and culture shock. He recalls his mother’s advice: “If you want to get past culture shock and homesickness, just be involved; be part and parcel of the community that you are in. So stop reminiscing about home and embrace the situation that you are in.”
In high school he brought students from different socioeconomic backgrounds together through a Reading Book Project that allowed his school to exchange books with students who had limited access to them. The unique idea for this project came about, Omar explains, as a result of his studying under both the IB and Kenyan education systems.
In addition to all of his campus involvements and achievements, Omar continues to excel academically with a full course-load. He is pursuing his Honours in Psychology and minoring in English. In the future, he hopes to pursue a career grounded in culture and humanitarian action.
Ruminating on the time he received the fateful phone call from UBC offering him a scholarship, Omar admits that he couldn’t believe it at first — not until he received an official email. “Never in my life did I think I was going to get this scholarship. I applied just for the sake of it.” Being chosen for this scholarship, out of the hundreds of students who applied, he says, “has been one of the greatest moments in my life.”
Watch this student-made video in which Omar reflects on his involvements and experiences at UBC’s Okanagan campus.