Mwendwa Kiko, who hold a Bachelor in civil engineering at University of Nairobi, has decided to study further in France. Selected for the Master TRADD (Transport and Sustainable Development) at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, he is doing an internship in the Lab Ville Mobilité Transport (City Mobility Transport Lab, LVMT) at the school. The French Embassy in Kenya awarded a scholarship of the French Government to him. He tells us why he came to France.
I am Kenyan. I grew up in Kenya and studied in Kenya. I had neve lived abroad before I arrived in France last August.
I learnt French in the high school and at the Alliance française in Nairobi. I hold a Bachelor in civil engineering at the University of Nairobi. I wanted to use mathematical tools to solve societal challenges. After 5 year of my bachelors, I just wanted to work. I did it for two years. But I was not very satisfied. Therefore I decided to study again and to do a master.
I studied at bachelor level in the College of Architecture and Engineering at the University of Nairobi. It’s an excellent college, very old, 50 year history. I was particularly impressed by the academic staff, the different professors and the way they address the problems and the solutions. But we missed material, computers ; software was dated.
I was first interested in structural engineering, and finally by transport. I did an 6 month internship between the 4th and the 5th year of my bachelors in the company that recruited me after graduation, Span Engineers LLP.
I am registered as graduate engineer at Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK). I have to work during three years under the supervision of a professional engineer, write a report and pass an exam to become a professional engineer. The year I stayed in France is not recognized because I am not supervised by an engineer registered at EBK, but the EBK can take the internship into account.
I didn’t want to stay in Kenya because I wanted to see how it works elsewhere. Before I arrived in France, I was not aware of the differences between the Anglo-saxon system and the French one.
We were welcomed warmly. Emeric Fortin takes really care of his students.
The programme was very arduous. Because of lockdown and winter, it was complicated because we were not together and it was cold. But with 25 students, it’s like a family. It’s a big difference with the university. Emeric Fortin called us by Teams to know if everything is ok. It’s really different.
The scientific level is also very different. In the bachelor program, they insist on « how we do something ». Here we work on « why we do something », « why this solution and not another one », and also about sustainability.
I live in a student guest house just near to the school. It is a huge advantage.
I work on the MODUS transport model that belongs to the DRIEAT, the regional administration for urban planning and transport, in Paris. The objective is to elaborate scenarios on transport, their development and the impact of this development.
The model is under SAS for now and I have to convert it in Python. Then, I will have to test it to observe the impact of the development of transport.
So I came back to my first dream: use mathematics to address societal challenges.
My supervisors at the LVMT are Nicolas Coloumbel and Alexis Poulhès, researchers in transport economics.
I would like to pursue a PhD in modelling or transport economics, rather in France because I am already here and the scientific environment is excellent. I applied for a PhD in a university in the Paris area and I am expecting the result.
Then I would like to go back home in Kenya and teach at the University of Nairobi.
They should come to France because it’s a country with high scientific level. France is the country of Eiffel and of a lot of mathematicians since time immemorial.
It’s a country of culture: it’s immaterial, but it is has a big impact.
Paris is a beautiful town.
It’s an opportunity to discover another culture, to live in a multicultural environment. There are a lot of advantages. We learn also beyond what we do in class. In the master TRADD, students come from all over the world: Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Vietnam, Morocco, Algeria, France, Afghanistan, China, Ivory Coast, Brazil, South Korea, Japan etc.