The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

Hackley students and faculty members take on the RSIC ‘23 in Nairobi, Kenya

Credit: Fernanda Paz
Brookhouse’s Karen campus’s middle school that resembles a fairytale castle. Its pristine architecture fuels a great learning space for students. It also shocked delegates from around the world that a school so beautiful could exist, yet coming from Hackley we were used to such nice buildings.

Perhaps you noticed an absence of five students and three faculty members from the Hilltop. Were they sick? Were they cutting class? No, we were off exploring Rwanda and Kenya. For five days, we connected with students from all over the world, learned about countries from Australia to Peru to Jordan. ‘How?’ You might be wondering, and the answer is the Roundsquare International Conference that was hosted in Nairobi this year.
Brookhouse International School hosted the conference between its two campuses, Karen and Runda, both located in Nairobi, Kenya. Brookhouse is a K-12 international school that provides students with a British education, as well as the ability to board for students ages eight through 18. Its castle-like architecture and outstanding education makes it one of the top schools in the East African region.
Hackley’s delegation took part in a variety of new activities and experiences allowing them to connect with fellow delegates and learn more about different cultures.

Arrival Day, October 8th:
Delegations who arrived prior to the start of the conference were able to attend the introductory activities hosted on the Karen campus. Some activities included camel rides, henna tattoos, viewing cultural dances, as well as hair accessorizing. Unfortunately, Hackley’s delegation arrived later that night and missed these festivities.
Once our flight landed in Nairobi, we headed straight to the student hotels to check in and go to sleep. Each student was placed in a dorm-like room that was shared with two to three roommates. Hackley’s delegation was split up which allowed for us to step outside our comfort zone and make new friends.
After dropping us off and helping with the check in at the hotel, Hackley chaperones arrived at their hotel along with the other teacher delegates.
Although it was difficult to call it a night because of all the jitteriness of speaking to new friends, we eventually hit the lights of our room, eager for what the next day would bring.

Opening Ceremony Day, October 9th:
At a ripe 5:00a.m., the first morning call was made. The bellowing of a horn echoed through the halls of the dorm buildings, letting all delegates know the day had begun. Despite our five hours of sleep, our excitement took over and we were ready to start the day.
After boarding the buses at 7:00 a.m., we arrived at Karen campus for the first time. We were greeted by hundreds of students dressed in their school uniforms and a large breakfast buffet. Seeing the school’s castle-like architecture for the first time made us even more excited for the upcoming week.
After breakfast, where we were able to socialize and connect with students from various schools for the first time, we headed to the opening ceremony that was taking place at the Bomas of Kenya center in Nairobi. The auditorium was able to accommodate every delegation including both teachers and students, Brookhouse students, as well as numerous special guests from both the former First Lady to famous Kenyan singers. The ceremony included various speeches, performances, and getting to know each school.

We first listened to Margaret Kenyatta, who was the First Lady from 2013-2022. Her speech touched on her work in women’s health, girl empowerment, as well as environmental and wildlife issues and how staying true to herself made it difficult to be taken seriously in the beginning of her career. However, she persevered and did not let anyone change her, which was certainly worth it.
Next, we heard Richard Turere, a TED speaker and author. He is a Brookehouse alumnus who grew up in the Masai Mara herding cattle. He invented Lion Lights, a system of lights used to scare off lions in order to protect certain areas. With this invention, he received a scholarship to Brookehouse and went on to study wildlife conservation at the African Leadership University.
Following these speeches, various Brookehouse groups performed songs, a retelling of a famous children’s story, and modern dances. The audience clapped, sang along, and danced in their seats creating a lively and energetic audience. It was such an amazing way to kick start the conference, and was remembered throughout the week.
Upon our return to Karen campus, we had hours of free time. In this time we were able to have lunch and socialize with other delegations as we started to make new friends. Our first lunch in Nairobi consisted of traditional Kenyan meats, avocado and tomato salad, rice, and potatoes, all of which were very delicious. The Brookhouse kitchen staff worked around the clock providing food for over one thousand delegates with meals each day. All of the meals were of great quality and delicious.
Since each school packed many of their school pins, we were able to trade with one another and collect dozens of pins from schools all around the world. Pins with kangaroos to flags to Latin sayings were passed around. It was a great way to start off conversations with new people and spend those hours of free time after lunch.

Credit: Fernanda Paz
The opening ceremony on our first official day of the conference was located at the Bomas of Kenya center. A beautiful auditorium with high ceilings in a dome shape which was able to accommodate all delegations, speakers, and performers. Here, we heard speeches and watched various performances.

After mingling and getting to know other delegations, it was time for our first Baraza meeting. “Baraza” is Kiswahili for public meetings where there is room for each voice. Each Roundsquare conference incorporates these meetings where all delegations are split up into groups of around twelve student delegates along with two Brookhouse students who facilitated the meetings. This allowed for a more close-knit environment to form where you can get to know each other personally.
For our first meeting, we played a variety of games which allowed us to feel more comfortable with one another and to break the ice. From there, we had a five-minute reflection time where we considered the various speeches given that morning as well as the message behind the children’s story that was read. It was nice to see everybody in my group taking that reflection time seriously as it allowed for a richer, more efficient discussion to follow. The definition of “baraza” was definitely portrayed in most groups as people respected each other’s opinions and listened to all voices.
In addition to discussing what we had learned that day, we engaged in an exchange of views regarding the different political climates of our countries. This was a common theme among most Baraza meetings throughout the course of the week, but each day surrounded different themes.

Concluding our one hour successful meeting, all delegations regrouped under the tent on the main lawn. Here, we enjoyed tea-time with an assortment of cookies and donuts for everyone to enjoy. As we ate, we engaged in some more mingling and getting to know more and more people. Having so many people in one place, there was always someone new I was meeting.
Soon, it was time for dinner. Again, we were provided numerous options that were appealing to everyone. As people ate their meals and sat with new friends, the night became lively with chatter coming from all parts of the tent as the sun set over the beautiful campus. Once dinner was over, we were able to have some downtime until nine pm, when the shuttles would take the students back to their rooms for the night.

October 10th, Service Day:
For three days, the conference worked on a rotation schedule where different groups got to do a different activity each day. Being a part of Group A, our first activity was Service.
This day consisted of our usual wake-up and arrival at Karen Campus for breakfast, which would then be followed by a quick bus ride to the school we were assigned to. My Baraza group, along with two others, were greeted by many eighth-grade students from the school we were sent to help out with. Our tasks included repairing floors, as well as sanding and painting walls.
I focused most on painting the walls of a few classrooms. Although this was supposed to be the task of the Roundsquare delegates, the students joined us and we were able to talk with them and make new connections. Even with our age gap, we were able to relate through various subjects such as how many siblings we had, what our favorite school subject was, or if we liked to play soccer.
Following the projects of some of the classrooms, we had time to play games with the students as well. I partnered with Irene, who taught me how to make our own jump rope using bottle caps, as well as making our own dolls using yarn. I had such an amazing time spending my afternoon with her as well as her friends where I was able to learn more about Kenyan culture and even some Swahili. Apart from just learning more about our different cultures, we also had a blast playing soccer together as well as jumping rope. It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but I know that this impactful experience was brought home by each of us.

Credit: Fernanda Paz
On our third night of the conference, we were able to attend the Cultural Evening. Students from various schools were able to showcase aspects of their culture through dances and songs. Unfortunately, Hackley did not prepare a performance, but after watching all the acts we wished we participated.

After spending most of the day working at the school, we returned back to Brookhouse for a Baraza meeting and dinner. That day, our meeting consisted of us reflecting on what we learned and our favorite aspects of the day, as well as a discussion on the famous Jackie Robinson quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” We discussed what this quote meant to us and gave examples of charitable work we do back home.
That night, Group A had our Cultural Evening. Similar to a talent show, delegations from various schools performed a dance from their culture on stage. We were able to see numerous Bollywood-inspired performances from Indian schools, as well as German folk dances, and even an ABBA song. It was great seeing students proud of their culture, as it made for a lively show. Once the show came to an end, we returned to the dorms for the night, eager for what the next activity would bring.


October 11th, Adventure Day:
The next day in our rotation cycle was Adventure Day. Around five minutes from campus is Nairobi National Park, a vast area where safari animals are free to roam as well as areas for camping. That day, we planned to spend the whole day exploring and doing many activities as well as spending the night in the tents provided.
Once we arrived at the campsite, each Baraza group boarded their own van, and went on our first game drive. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me since I had never been on a safari before, or seen so many animals in their natural habitats. We saw ostriches, gazelles, giraffes, and even a few hippos on our first drive.

Credit: Fernanda Paz
On our game drive through Nairobi National Park we witnessed various animals roaming through their natural habitats. From giraffes, to lions, to hippos, we saw numerous species. It was impressive to see such outstanding animals living so close to the city.

After an hour or two of driving through the park, we had our first competition activity of the day, a tent-building race. Each Baraza group was challenged to a race where the first group to construct a tent the fastest as well as fit every group member inside, wins. I don’t know how much help I was, having never built a tent before, yet we still won. It was a really fun team bonding activity that allowed us to coordinate and work through obstacles together.
Celebrating our victory on the bus, we drove back to the main campsite for some lunch and downtime. Here, many of us played card games with each other while we waited for our next scheduled activity which would be an Amazing Race-inspired scavenger hunt through the park.
We boarded the buses again eager for the race where we would figure out clues and drive to various destinations for the next clue. Unfortunately, once we began our journey, the buses got lost and we ended up driving over two hours around the park aimlessly. Although that sounds like a pretty big disappointment, getting lost in a park with safari animals around us was definitely a positive since we were still able to see more and more animals. This made getting lost worth it since we were able to see lions and rhinos. Also, it allowed us to get even closer to one another as we resorted to playing group games to pass the time.
Eventually, we found our way back to the campsite where we would have some time for socializing before dinner was served. That day was a pretty hectic one, so most of us were looking forward to calling it an early night. However, after dinner, we were invited to watch Masai Mara performers who would be showcasing some cultural dances. We created a circle where some delegates were able to jump in and join the performers. It was a great experience to not only see these cultural dances, but also be able to participate in them and show our appreciation.
Instead of following our new routine of heading to the student hotels, we walked to our assigned tents. I was pleasantly surprised to see how spacious they were, as well as the beds that came with them, allowing eight people to sleep in each tent. Before falling asleep, some of us decided to branch out and try out the outdoor showers near the tents. Despite their being outdoors, at night, and with bamboos in close proximity, the showers were warm and clean, a perfect way to end our tiring and hectic day.
We were instructed to have an early night, as the wildlife being so close could result in danger if we were too loud at night time. This also meant for an earlier wake-up time, at a bright and early five am.

October 12th, Democracy Day:
After waking up bright and early in Nairobi National Park, we headed back to Brookhouse, saying goodbye to the animals we met. It was our last day of the rotation, Democracy Day. The plan was to stay at the Karen campus all day listening to various speakers, doing a scavenger hunt, and then getting picked up by our host family in the afternoon where we would spend the night at their homes.
The first activity of the day was in the school’s auditorium where we listened to a panel of speakers. These included William Kamkwamba and Clifford Chianga Oluoch. They discussed the accomplishments of their careers, and how they got to that point, while answering questions from the audience.
William Kamkwamba is an environmental entrepreneur and author who is known as “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” a Netflix series based on him and his development of windmills in his area growing up.
Clifford Chianga Oluoch, teacher, author, and director of a food program for Nairobi slums, spoke on the importance of adults creating a safe environment for children and adolescents in order to prevent the need to undo the effect of trauma and toxicity.
Both speakers provided keen insights on subject matters specific to Nairobi, as well as matters that span to life outside of Kenya. I know that I will take a lot of what they said with me through my next journeys in life.
Later that day, we geared up for our scavenger hunt that would test our team’s ability to work together, coordination, as well as creativity. We kicked it off with an art task where we were each assigned a segment of the paper to work on. From there, we ran to a chemistry lab to run a quick experiment that would lead us to our next clue. Our next, and most challenging activity was to toss a water-filled rainboot to each group member without spilling all of the water. Needless to say, this one also took the longest as it took multiple tries. After screaming at each other and getting soaked with water, we finally achieved the goal and began our next trek to our next destination.
After posing for pictures, and struggling to solve a Sudoku puzzle, it was time for the host families to pick us up for the night.
Even before the trip began, the homestay aspect was one that I was most anxious and excited for. I was both nervous and excited to see who’s home I’d be in as well as what we would discuss and what we would do. Each host family was connected to Brookhouse by being parents of students or past students. Most students had one to three roommates they were being hosted with.

Credit: Fernanda Paz
After spending the night in our home stay, my roommate and I were treated to a delicious Kenyan breakfast. Consisting of Kenyan tea and coffee, as well as cereal, and fruits, we tried new breakfast foods that we loved. It was very nice to be able to have home cooked meals during our time at the conference.

My roommate and I got picked up by our host family’s daughter who was kind enough to take us to a nearby mall and gift us with numerous souvenirs from the markets. Although she did not attend Brookhouse, she had two younger siblings who were students there. She then drove us to their lovely home where we were greeted by her mother and a homemade, traditional Kenyan snack. This consisted of Kenyan tea, sausages, as well as bread.
Soon, it was time for dinner where we would eat with her family including two older cousins. We enjoyed delicious Kenyan chicken, roasted potatoes, rice, as well as sides of purple cabbage and vegetables. Throughout dinner, my roommate and I shared aspects of living in the US, New York and California, while our host family gave us some insight on Kenyan life and culture. We learned more about Kenyan society, where most people stand in politics, to even how the dating pool is for Kenyan adults. It was an experience I will cherish forever, being able to see how different, and similar, Kenyan life is first-hand and learning so much from people who have lived in Uganda, Kenya and traveled the world. We conversed for hours in their living room, exchanging memories and beliefs that differed from one another as well as beliefs that we shared.
Soon it was time to end the night, and my roommate and I were excited to be able to sleep in a cozy bed in a nice room for the night.

October 13th, Closing Ceremony Day:
After waking up, feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep, it was time to get ready for the last day of the conference. Although I was upset that the conference was coming to an end, I was excited for what the day had in store for us. This day was filled with various activities starting with breakfast at our home stay before returning to Brookhouse.
After our host-parents dropped us off, we exchanged our goodbyes and showed our gratitude for making us feel at home. Saddened to say goodbye, we joined the rest of the delegations under the tent before hearing paralympian Henry Wanyoike. He touched on his career and how although he became blind at age 20, it did not stop him from continuing with his love for running. It was truly inspiring to see how he took such an unfortunate event, waking up blind one day after suffering a stroke, and not letting it derail his life.
From there, we had our final Baraza meeting. It was bittersweet being our last, but we were also able to reflect on all that we learned from one another as well as the fun we experienced. We made sure to keep in touch even after the conference, and at the end we all took what felt like a hundred photos to keep with us for when we returned home.
Following some lunch after our meeting, delegates were able to board the buses back to our hotels to get changed for the closing ceremony that would be taking place at Carnivore, a classic Nairobi restaurant used as a venue for various events over the years.
The restaurant set up a huge tent with a vast dance floor, countless tables, and beautiful decorations. The ceremony started off with a group photo, consisting of every single delegate and teacher involved. It had so many people in one photo, it required a fish-eye and a very large selfie stick to say the least. We enjoyed some freshly made fruit juices before listening to a few speeches given by the director of the Brookhouse schools as well as the Colombian delegation that will be hosting next year’s Roundsquare Conference in Bogota.
We then got to make our rounds around the infinite possibilities of food at the buffet. From steak to chicken, to salad, to potatoes, there was something for everyone and it all tasted amazing. Although it was our last night which was sad to admit, we made the most of it by playing card games at our table and laughing with the new friends we had made over the course of the last week.
To cap off the ceremony, Brookhouse brought out the famous Kenyan band Sauti Sol. Since 2005, the band has been setting themselves apart from other Kenyan artists with their Afro-pop influence and messages behind their songs. Quickly, the dance floor became packed with some delegates who would be hearing the band for the first time as well as others who had been fans for years. It was a terrific way to end the conference with everyone dancing, singing along, and having the time of their life. It was truly a night to remember.
Exhausted from all the dancing and our now sore throats, we boarded the buses for the final time back to our dorms. However, this time, instead of going straight to our rooms ready to crash, we all decided to spend some more time together outside. Playing music and card games, we all wanted to establish more memories before the conference truly came to an end.
After the dorm monitors instructed us to finally go to bed, my floor was bustling with girls trying to say their final goodbyes as some flights left in the early morning while others would leave the next night.
Our delegation’s original plan was to travel to the Masai Mara for two days after the conference, yet with an unexpected change of plans we ended up leaving Nairobi back to New York the following night.

To be able to attend the Roundsquare conference was an honor for me, as I was able to learn so much and make truly valuable connections. Not only was I able to visit a new country, but I was also able to experience the differences and similarities first-hand among myself and my new friends from around the globe.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Dial Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *