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Up To Date

For International Students In Kansas City, Barbecue And Art Are Pros, Weather A Con

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Chiluba Musonda
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Chiluba Musonda left his home country of Zambia in 2004 to pursue an education in the United States. He currently lives in Kansas City and works at UMKC.

Every year, thousands of young people leave their home countries to study in the United States. 

Some come here because they want to pursue opportunities they wouldn’t have at home, some are simply looking for adventure. And some wind up in Kansas City without even knowing where it is on a map.

Chiluba Musonda can thank the Yahoo search engine for his home in Kansas City.

When he was researching colleges from his home country of Zambia, he typed the following words into the search queue: mid-size colleges, affordable, in the U.S.

Four schools came up and he applied to all four. UMKC was the first to respond.

On Christmas Eve in 2004, Musonda arrived in Kansas City without luggage (it had been lost during the trip) in the middle of a snowstorm. His first meals were from QuikTrip.

“A hot dog and a taquito," Musonda told Steve Kraske on Up To Date. "I ate that for three days in a row.” 

He hasn’t been back to QuikTrip for a meal since.

Fortunately, he’s changed his mind about Kansas City’s dining scene in the 12 years since he arrived here.

“One of the things I've fallen in love with is the food, the barbecue — Jack Stack, Gates, you name it, I've tried it.”

For Doreen Mbugua, who arrived a year ago from Kenya, barbecue doesn’t have the same appeal.

“I’m not much of a meat person, so I can’t really enjoy it,” she says. “But I do like the arts here.”

She says one of her favorite places in Kansas City is The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Mbugua didn’t expect to find so much activity and culture in Kansas City. She had pictured grasslands and open skylines, so when she landed in Kansas City, without luggage (the airline lost hers, too), she was a little confused.

“I thought I was lost and I thought, ‘Too many buildings,’” she told Kraske.

She says Kansas City has exceeded all her expectations, though she still hasn’t quite taken to the weather here.

“If I could change that, I would,” she says. Back home Kenya, she says the weather ranges from “not too hot” to “not too cold.”

Musonda considers Kansas City his home away from home and for the time being, he is settled here, and he recently published a book about his experience. He currently works for UMKC as the Coordinator of Advising services in the office of International Student Affairs. 

Mbugua still has a few years before she finishes her bachelor’s degree, and she plans to get some work experience in the United States before she returns to Kenya.

“I want to experience life here ... then go back home and enrich my culture at home,” she said.

Lisa Rodriguez is an associate producer of KCUR's Up To Date. Find her on Twitter, @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.