Immigration Stories – Kenya and Minnesota – Being Away From Home – by Jane Kariuki. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Immigration Stories – Kenya and Minnesota – Being Away From Home – by Jane Kariuki. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Without question, it is everyone’s desire to live happily or freely in a society that provides equal opportunity and a secured future either for themselves or their families. Likewise, for the better future of our family was my parent’s main reason for relocating from Kenya to Minnesota. My parents were privileged enough to apply and win the Green Card lottery. They saw this as an opportunity to advance themselves and the future of their children. After receiving the confirmation news they began the process of acquiring the rights documents that will approve them to move to the States. Both my parents describe the process as exhausting. Claiming it took years to collects all the necessary documents. Some of the difficult documents to retrieve were marriage and birth certificate. Being born and raised at small towns neither of them received a birth certificate, for such acts were uncommon. Additionally, a traditional marriage does not require a marriage certificate and they never bothered to obtain it. Therefore gaining these certificates and other documents often made them weary about the progress of migrating.

Even though the process was burdensome they both admit it was worth it. Being at a place where they can both find jobs and send their children to school was a dream come true. After their arrival, they took time to start looking for a job and after some time they both got a job with a decent pay. Nevertheless, migrating has come with its challenges; especially the lack of fresh cultural food. The main challenge for my parents was adapting to the practice of eating refrigerated food. Coming from a background that believes in growing, harvesting and cooking their own food, they had to adjust to the commonality of purchasing food from a grocery store. My mom declares that the flavor is simply not the same, for instance, fresh greens is better than frozen. Nevertheless, they have been looking for ways to get fresh food and in the recent years they started a small garden on our backyard, planting tomatoes, and various greens.

From Professor Liang’s Fall 2018 Global Human Rights class. Jane Kariuki Peace and Justice Studies and Global Cultural and Language Studies Class of 2020.

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37 responses to “Immigration Stories – Kenya and Minnesota – Being Away From Home – by Jane Kariuki. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. DyAnna Grondahl


    Thank you for sharing this article – it reminds me of your workshop last semester in human rights. I think it is interesting to ponder the differences in food culture around the world. A few years ago, I had a conversation with my doctor about “local-vorism” which is rooted (pun intended) in eating only what the land has traditionally provided in certain areas. I think food diversity is among one of the moderately good things about globalism – our interconnected world made fruits like bananas and oranges a possibility in Northern MN. At the same time, it is incredible to think about the journey this food travels from farm-to-plate, which has it’s own host of consequences. I am interested in hearing about how the rest of your paper went, and how you see globalization impacting food culture.

    Thank you!

  2. Marissa Mikrot

    Thanks for your article, Jane! It’s great hearing something from you since you’ve been afraid for what seems like forever. With that, I wonder if you have faced any food changes in Europe. Would you say the quality of the food is better, the same, or maybe even worse? Do you miss the food your parents make? Have you found ways to recreate these dishes?

    I’ve always admired the emphasis on quality that many European countries have and wish they would be adopted by the U.S. The freshness of the products there, whether vegetables, fruit, or meat, is really incredible! Truly like the things you are buying are fresh from the garden.

  3. Cassandra Mahlberg

    Thank you for sharing this story, Jane! Something that is really interesting to me is the Green Card Lottery. Having to literally win a lottery in order to have just a chance at a better life (whatever your family considers that to be) sounds unimaginable. I dream about the monetary lottery and all the things I could do with a substantial amount of money, but realistically, I don’t need to win the lottery to build a decent life for myself. Having your movement restricted and reliant on a gamble seems unjust (although I don’t have a valid solution for this problem). It’s also interesting that some of the sacrifices your parents made in order to live here involve food. With the vastness of globalization, we expect to have what we want to suit our cultural needs readily available to us, and yet some of the most basic things like fresh produce elude us. I’m glad your family was able to develop a garden, but I wonder if there is a community resource like a winter greenhouse that could help supplement fresher produce in the cold season near your home. Food security and sustainability is finally being recognized as necessary in Duluth with Seeds for Success leading a project for a winter greenhouse and farmer’s markets throughout the winter. I wonder if this resource helps people in Duluth to connect back to their cultures through fresh food.

  4. Aleah

    ! Reading about your family’s experience is very interesting to me because my father had to go through a huge process to obtain his green card in order to stay in the states. My grandmother, who recently lives in Mexico, was just approved of her green card after 15 years! My father said the process was very long and exhausting as well but worth it in the end. Thank you so much for sharing this article!


  5. Samantha Willert


    It is amazing that your family was able to get a green card and move to Minnesota. I am curious as to why they chose Minnesota. Did they have other places in mind? Also, how long did it take them to get their certificates?

    I find it quite admirable that your family has started a garden in the backyard to grow fresh greens! Not many people would do that! Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. Phillip Truax

    Dear Jane,

    Thank you for sharing this personal story about your family. The main idea that really hit home to me was the idea that it was an adjustment to not eat personal grown vegetables. I have pondered on this idea for awhile because in a world that needs to be more sustainable, home gardens would be one of things to put on the top of the check list. I applaud your parents, it may not be knowingly but they are creating change.

  7. Ashley DeJuliannie


    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I admire your family for all that they have done for you. I am interested to know how much you were exposed to dual cultures growing up? As you mentioned about the difference in food, I often wish the US had a deeper connection with the food we eat. I am happy to hear your family started a small garden. Connecting with nature is something I read a lot about when I read The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan last semester. He really dove into the history of how Western Culture got disconnected with the food we eat.

    Again thank you for sharing!

  8. Elijah Ortega

    Hello Jane,
    Thank you for sharing your family’s immigration story with all of us. Being the son of a immigrant myself and knowing many family members whom have also gone through the migratory process I found many similarities in your family’s story and my own. For instance the fact that it is a painful process that takes years to complete. This is something very real and trying thing that I do not believe many American citizens are made aware of. I enjoyed your piece on the cultural differences your parents are facing, with the refrigerating of food, this was something unfamiliar to me and I thank you for sharing it. Learning the customs and traditions of other cultures is something that excites me and I am ever grateful whenever a new perspective is given to me.
    Thank you for this read.

  9. Tamer Mische-Richter


    Fresh cultural foods is something that we often forget for the families that move to a different part of the world. I think this adds stress to a process that is already stressful. I do however, think this can be remedied fairly easily through sharing traditional practices. Food is a carrier of culture that shares both personal and familial memories, traditions, and feelings. Fair opportunity is a huge reason to uproot yourself and family to a new beginning, but the taste of home would help with the process.

  10. Catey Swenson

    I’m so glad you shared this story; I was so unaware of how selective and difficult it is to come to the US. For example, I did not know that there was such thing as the Green Card lottery. It is crazy that people must rely off of luck to better their lives. I was also unaware how uncommon it is to have marriage or birth certificates. I often wonder why marriage certificates are even required in the US; it really goes to show how much the government really controls in our personal lives. As for the food, it is really cool to hear that your family actually had to assimilate to using refrigerated foods instead of fresh right out of the garden for each meal. That is definitely something I failed to recognize in the past but something I can learn from. Mass food production and trade is very wasteful and it is refreshing to know that, while it may seem inefficient to some, there are people in this world who are dedicated to sustainable farming practices.
    Thank you for sharing!

  11. Katelyn Fischer

    Hi Jane!
    Thank you for sharing! I can’t imagine the process of getting a green card. Providing documents and proof must be very stressful. I remember you talking about how hard it can be to not have the fresh cultural food. Have you found a way to work around this?

  12. Madina Tall

    Hi jane!

    I loved reading your article about your parents migration story! It seems to be a very common theme within immigrants that food is a big topic for discussion. It seems quite odd to me that our taste buds could tell us so much about who we are and where we come from. Another main theme is opportunity and I guess all migrants for one reason of the other are chasing opportunities.

  13. Allison Einck

    Hi Jane!

    I enjoyed reading your article about your parents migrating to the United States. I have compared this to the reading I recently read in World History regarding adaption and migration. Your parents have had to adapt to the food living in the United States. I am sure this was a big change for your family. It is interesting that humans are able to migrate and be able to adapt to a totally new environment. Humans have been adapting to new environments for thousands of years. Thank you for sharing your story.

  14. Kristeljei Baltazar

    Hello Jane,

    What an awesome story. While I was reading your article, I could not help but relate with your parents moving to a whole different country and missing the food they were used to eating. I am also an immigrant but I immigrated from the Philippines. I moved to America when I was only ten years old. I remember missing the Filipino dishes my grandma used to make for me and my sister. It was especially harder because my mom didn’t really know how to cook back then. I remember American food being too salty for me and the fruits didn’t taste as sweet as the ones I was used to.

    The process of coming to America is very meticulous. I remember my mother dragging me and my sister to different offices to acquire the copious amount of documentation that the U.S embassy required us to get before they even qualified us to get an interview with them. But just like your parents, my mother’s hard work was all because she wanted to win that “green card lottery” and hope for us get a taste of the American Dream. Even today, I struggle to present my birth certificate because it looks so different than the birth certificates here in America.

    Thank you for this awesome story. You seem to have very ambitious parents. I am also glad they found a way to get fresh food by starting their own garden.

  15. Grace Macor

    Hi, Jane!

    I cannot imagine moving across the world. What a change! Your article reminds me of something I recently read in “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” by Tignor. Tignor states, “But now it is becoming clear that all humans share common heritage, and our differences are not genetic or crudely physical, but mainly cultural” (2018, p. 4). It sounds like the journey of your parents migrating was a culturally change, specifically related to food. Food is such a big part of our culture, and it would be a big change to have one’s diet modified to their environment.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Dawson Ness

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for your wonderful article. This is eye opening to hear about all of the complications that your parents faced when trying to immigrate. It is really different from the past where people could roam as they pleased, like the nomads from Tignor’s Worlds Together Worlds Apart (2018, p.84). I wonder if it is worthwhile for countries to have strict travel policies and from what circumstances these policies were developed. I am very glad that your parents feel that their immigration was worthwhile and I hope that they continue to enjoy being a part of the United States.

    Thanks again for your story,

  17. Hannah Holien

    Hi Jane!
    What a great article, thank you for sharing! I think this article and their stories are important to share and understand. Change is an important part of life but it also something that is terrifying! I have traveled many places but I always knew that I was going back home to my comfort zone. Individuals who immigrate, like your parents, forgo this sense of comfort and drastically change their lives. In “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart”, they talk a lot about migration and how it was crucial for human survival. I think something that gets lost in our society today is the fact that we are all more alike than we are different. In the book, it states, “now it is becoming clear that all humans share a common heritage, and our differences are not genetic or crudely physical, but mainly cultural” (Tignor et al., p. 4). I think this is something to remember when we are discussing immigration laws and policies, which is hot news right now. Thank you so much for sharing this post!
    – Hannah Holien

  18. Ashley Hamilton


    Thank you for your post! Such an interesting read as there are many headlines in the news today about immigrating to various countries and it becoming an increasingly harder and longer process to do so. So many ideas and practices can be spread and learned from the migration of people. In my world history class, we are reading about how the Silk Road changed the idea of trade and spread many ideas. According to Tignor et. al, the Silk road changed history, largely because the people who managed to traverse part or all of the Silk Road planted their cultures like seeds of exotic species to distant lands (2018, p. 223). As you mentioned, when your family and you moved here, you had to adapt to the ideas and ways of western civilization. In addition, many of the ideas that African people have brought over to the United States are implemented into our culture today.

  19. Tara Bighley

    Very cool article. It’s so awesome to hear about a real life, first account story about your family’s experience. I find it oddly fascinating that there is a “green card lottery,” it must have been such a wonderful feeling for your parents to finally be able to live out a dream of theirs. It sounds like there were quite a few hurdles and challenges for them as they made their way to their dreamland. In my textbook Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, Tignor et al talk a lot about the Silk Road and how it helped people and civilizations flourish with trade and commerce. Your family was able to flourish in a different way, by taking the leap of faith into the unknown. On page 227 of the text, it talks about the Kushan dynasty and how the took over a large area in the Indus River basin and were an integral part of the creation of the Silk Road. Even though the Kushan dynasty and your family’s intentions were quite contrasting, they both reiterate the fact that people want what is best for themselves and their family’s. I appreciate you telling that story about you and your family, it was very enjoyable to read.

  20. Lexie DeWall


    Thank you for sharing your story on how your family migrated from Kenya to Minnesota! I have a co-worker that was fortunate enough to be able to do the same thing, and as a result provided her family with much more opportunity. Tignor et al. (2018) mentions migrations that took play from northern and central Europe; “they convulsed the northern rim of the Mediterranean, staging armed forays into lands from what is now Spain in the west to present-day Turkey in the East” (p. 254). Migration is something that is so well known this day and age, because so many families, such as yours, are trying to create opportunities for future generations to come from their family and want them to have a lasting impact on the world. I agree that moving has its pros and cons, such as eating more refrigerated food versus fresh green gardens; but, as you mentioned, your family is now starting a garden. We have to work with what resources we have and make the most of them.

  21. Jane,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to uproot your whole life and move to another country. It’s awesome that your parents stuck through the process and reached their end goal of moving here. I can relate to missing food from home, because while studying abroad I found myself craving many things from home that weren’t existent in Morocco. In World’s Together, World’s apart, Tignor explains the Han and Roman Dynasty’s and as the empires were becoming larger and larger many different people and culture came together which was hard for those who didn’t speak the language or were used to different foods. It is incredible how people adapt overtime. I really enjoyed learning about your story, thank you!

  22. Evan Wohlert

    Thank you for sharing your article on migration. It made me really think about how migration has changed in the past 100 years and how it has almost become more confusing. Requiring birth certificates, marriage certificates, and even a Green Card must be so exhausting and there must have been so much anxiety with your parents that everything would work out. Reading about migration in Tignor’s, “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” the early civilizations really paint a different picture with migration, with Tignor stating, “After the first wave of newcomers, more migrants arrived by foot or in wagons pulled by draft animals. Some sought temporary work; others settled permanently” (p. 84). I never read any information about requirements to migrate during these times (~2000 BCE), if you migrated to another area and the people living there accepted you, you could just live their or settle for some time. This is a lot less confusing than it is today, but I’m glad to hear that your family was able to migrate and I hope they have come to like it here in the States! Awesome job on the article, it was enjoying to read!

  23. Tanner Egelkraut

    I appreciate you sharing how your family moved from Kenya to the United States. I can’t even imagine how hard that would be. Being an American my whole life, I never left the US until just recently when I went to the Philippines. This was a major culture shock for me. One of the things that I first came across is the lack of refrigeration over there. I definitely thought I would get sick from food that sat out, but it turns out I didn’t. Upon reading Worlds Together Worlds Apart I came across a group of people who also migrated between 450 and 250 BCE. (Tignor, et al, 2018). These people were the Celts. I wonder how much harder it was (or even easier in some instances) it was for them to move from their homes to new places in Europe. I’m sure they found local customs to be very different from their own. Nice post!

  24. Brett Radford

    Great post you have here, I can’t imagine how hard it must of been to obtain all of the right paper work that was needed for your family to get over here, but I bet your parents are glad they stuck through it all. I agree with your mother than fresh greens are better than frozen ones. Personally I am not from America either so after graduation i would have to obtain a green card to stay here as well, so it is very interesting to here storys like yours here. As Tignor mentioned back with the Romans and how those communities came together to help people out, i hope your parents had help from people around them when they moved over here. Great story thank you for sharing.

  25. Sarah Symanietz

    What a beautiful story you have to share. I’m sure your parents and relatives have an endless amount of stories to tell about their time in Kenya. At first, I was very surprised at the length of time it took you parent’s to obtain all the formal documentation needed to come to the US. After thinking about it, I understand why they would want all that but still was surprised at the fact that those documents were not readily available to them. I cannot imagine not having a document such as a marriage certificate. However, this is similar to previous times when documentation was low with Islams: “Few data can be gleamed about Muhammad and the evolution of Islam from Arabic-Muslim sources known to have been written” (Tignor 320). Although it was a hassle to obtain all those documents, I’m sure your parents are happy to have them now.

  26. Kasey Kalthoff

    This is a wonderful story. I have heard of the difficulties that come with obtaining citizenship, especially in the United States. I am taking a World History class right now and we were recently learning about diversity in India. I find it enlightening that immigrants retained their beliefs but also, “embraced some of their conquerors’ ways” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 367). I think its great that your parents are finding ways to grow fresh food and keep that cultural aspect around!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Kasey K.

  27. Anissa Jones

    This is an amazing story! I can’t begin to imagine the stress of going through all the paper work & other processes that come with obtaining citizenship. The braveness of your parents reminds me of a chapter from a book we are reading in our history class called Worlds Together, Worlds Apart. It talks about the difficult processess and experiences that early humans went through to migrate across Southwest Asia into South Asia and Southeast Asia. They had to bare the cold weather at times, but they were determined to get where they desired to reach (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 14). This determination is much like you described of your parents. I really enjoyed reading your story!

  28. Tanner Egelkraut

    This is such a great story that I enjoyed reading. I can only imagine how hard it could be to leave a place you are comfortable with and go to a unfamiliar land. Upon reading my textbook Worlds Together Worlds Apart, Turkish invaders invaded India and “before long, the newcomers thought of themselves as Indians who, however, retained their Islamic beliefs and steppe ways” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 367). These invaders kept some of their own customs but also adapted to the local ones as well. I find it interesting how they did not try to force their ways on the local population. Thanks for the post!

  29. Justice Bauer

    Hello Jane!

    First off, I think it is very interesting that your family relocated to Minnesota all the way from Kenya. Migration to the United States sounds like a long process, and it seems like your parents would agree. Studying the migration patterns from Tignor’s textbook Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, was quite interesting to me because not everyone was migrating to the U.S. They were also migrating to other places in the world. I think your story is very touching and I am glad that your parents were able to make their dreams come true. Thank you for sharing your story!

  30. Emily Knoer

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story! I find it very interesting to hear stories of those who have migrated to the United States and the challenges they face in order to do it correctly. Also, it is interesting to hear the differences in cultures between two countries, especially when it comes to food. I believe the American food system has a lot of issues, so I can only imagine how difficult it was to get accustomed to the use of grocery stores and over-processed foods. However, I am glad your parents were able to start a garden in order to get better tasting fresh food!
    Again, thank you for sharing your story!

  31. Mykaila Peters

    Your story was a delight to read. I was intrigued by the differences you outlined such as your parents not having their birth certificates or marriage license and the difference among cultural food and food preparation. I can only image how big of an adjustment it must have been for them. How did you feel as your parents told you this story? Thank you for sharing.

  32. Katrina Lund

    Your parents sound like incredible people, I’m impressed by their resiliency in the face of these challenges. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for them to go from a place that pays little attention to paperwork compared to the U.S.’ deep affection for bureaucracy and the process of thousands of papers. It’s incredibly admirable that they worked through the convoluted process to relocate to a COMPLETELY different world, whew. Their garden and struggle with American culinary customs is something that seems to be universal amongst immigrants from eastern cultures, and unique in each way they choose to overcome it.

  33. Madina Tall

    Hi Jane!
    I know I have already commented on this essay but reading it a year later I have some different insights to share. Food, since humanity began, has been a lot more than just a commodity. In a way, the way our cultures view food and how it brings us together shows the almost mystical value of food. It goes a lot further than just the taste and benefits of the nutrients but even on an almost sacred level we connect our hearts and minds through food.

  34. Sebrin Ahmed

    The article reminded me of my own struggles as an immigrant from East Africa, I can very much relate with the challenges that come with starting fresh in a new country. It was very comforting to read that so many others go through the same obstacles to get to a better life. I have found that getting the support and guidance from people who have gone through the same things makes the transition process much easier. I hope to become that support for people that experience the transition in the future. Thank you for sharing your story.

  35. Elijah Ortega

    Hello Jane,
    Thank you for sharing the story of your family’s naturalization process. It’s nice to hear that your parents had success in acquiring their green card. My father had very similar motives that drove him to leave his home town of Jacona, Mexico and move to the United States. He also tells me of the hardships of acquiring citizenship and how long it takes. Thanks again for sharing the story.

  36. Elizabeth Mirkin

    Thank you for your article. My parents both immigrated to the United States as well, so I relate to your story in many ways. I was not born yet, but my sister was and I grew up hearing stories about what life was like back home. I always crave to know the culture of my parents better, but they are very good at telling me stories and making the foods that they ate growing up. They also tell me about the exhausting process it was to legally move to the United States, and how lucky they are to live here now. Like your parents, they were both fortunate enough to land good jobs and begin a new life in Minnesota. The part they miss most about home, other than the family that still lives there, is the food and culture as well. My mom and grandma make traditional foods at home for me, but they tell me that it just isn’t the same.

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