Bring the Beauty of China Back to Kenya

Sophia Kuve
Class of 2024, Master of Science in Global Health Program at Duke Kunshan University

On December 11th 2023, Sophia Kuve (Class of 2024), concluded her 1.5-year Master’s program in Global Health at Duke Kunshan University (DKU). Her luggage was filled with gifts for her two children, some given by her cohort classmates.

Sophia is a mother of two teenagers. In Kenya, many women around her age are busy taking care of their families, but Sophia hasn’t stopped pursuing higher academic achievements. In December 2022, armed with a master’s degree in microbiology and her long time working experience as a laboratory analysist, Sophia embarked on a 54-hour-long journey from Kenya to Kunshan to join the DKU Global Health Program. “This is the longest international trip of my life,” she remarked.

Sophia on her thesis defense

“I can’t count all my achivements”

“The Global Health program at Duke Kunshan is my personal favorite,” Sophia remarked. When applying for the program, she compared different global health cources and found what DKU program was “the best education tailor-made for students.”

Throughout her year and a half of study, the faculty, staff and classmates of the program provided meticulous support when she needed it the most. Additionally, advisors and professors from the center offered substantial assistance to her research, ranging from funding for on-site projects to technical guidance. This support enabled her to successfully complete her research on antimicrobial resistance challenges in poultry farms in Kunshan, China, and Nairobi, Kenya.

Furthermore, through the networking facilitated by DKU Global Health Program, Sophia became a member of the Kenya Bioethics Society. The program also sponsored her participation in academic conferences and online presentations of research findings. “I had no idea about these platforms while working in Kenya until I came to China. All of this is thanks to the support of the Global Health program.”

In December of this year, Sophia successfully completed her master’s program with outstanding grades within three semesters. “Actually, I can’t count the achievements I have made here.”

Sophia conducting her field work in Kenya

“Everything in China has been so amazing”

“Cultural differences and language were the biggest challenges, but I learned how to handle,” Sophia said. When she first arrived in China and stayed in quarantine hotels, she took pictures of every meal and sent them to classmates to confirm if it was something she could eat. Soon, she learned to use Taobao and became proficient in using translation software to address various daily communication and life issues.

Duke Kunshan provided her with a home away from home. Beyond academic learning, Sophia forged deep friendships with many classmates and teachers. “I love everything here; they are so amazing.”

Sophie with her classmates

She traveled to Shanghai and Suzhou, capturing numerous videos and photos that she can revisit in the future. These visual memories will allow her to share the tremendous changes happening in China with her family back in Kenya.

From lab to communities

“I used to be more focused on the technical aspects in the laboratory, but after this year and a half of journey, I’ve discovered that many root causes of health issues lie at the societal and human levels, requiring better policies and the empowerment of people.”

Sophia in the lab at DKU
Sophia in her lab in Kenya

Currently, Sophia is applying for a Ph.D. program in health policy-related fields. She eagerly awaits the outcomes of several Ph.D. program applications and is contemplating participating in an internship in the first half of 2024 to gain practical experience in the field of global health.

“I hope I can use what I’ve learned to make a difference in my community in the near future. Issues in developing countries need to be addressed by their own professionals.”