Jefferson City is Lincoln University student Caroline Wanjiru's third home — or second home away from home.
"I was looking to go to a school that felt like home," Wanjiru, 21 and a sophomore, said of drawing comparisons with her hometown of Nanyuki, Kenya.
A place with a search engine description of "a gateway to Mount Kenya and the wilderness of Mount Kenya National Park" — with wildlife in the park that includes leopards and "giant forest hogs" — might seem as different from Jefferson City as it is far away, but not so, Wanjiru said.
Jefferson City and Nanyuki have about the same size of population, and Wanjiru said both are quiet and have friendly people.
Quiet might not be an adjective people use to describe Los Angeles, but that's where she lived from 2011-16 while attending community college in California.
Wanjiru said what she loved most about LU is the small student-teacher ratio. She's pursuing a bachelor of science in clinical laboratory studies and studying ways to strengthen the immune system to handle treatment for lymphedema — swelling in the arm or leg caused by a blockage of the lymphatic system. She and her mom have the condition, though hers is not as severe as her mom's.
Wanjiru is not just a student, she's LU's student liaison to the Jefferson City Council.
She doesn't get a vote on the City Council, but "I get to have an opinion and voice concerns, if any," serving as a representative and advocate for LU. She had her first council meeting in February.
Wanjiru is a student worker in LU's Office of Student Engagement, where she does setup, takes calls, greets visitors and interacts with students for LU's royal court, student government and campus activity board. She's also a soprano in a campus gospel choir.
Yes, she's busy.
"I function better under stress," she said.
That said, she knows she has to take time for herself, even if this year she feels like she has to frequently be in more than one place at once.
She likes sitting by Binder Lake to enjoy nature, and other times settles for turning her phone off and telling friends not to come by her room.
"Jefferson City gives you a chance to sit and reflect," she said of the spirit of her home of intentional and conscious living.
"You're stepping into the most profound place in the state," she said of the Capitol. "It's the source of everything Missouri."
Wanjiru said there's a strong possibility she will continue to live in Missouri after she graduates from LU; she's still weighing her options. She definitely wants to pursue a graduate degree and said the East Coast is too cold and the West Coast gets old.
"It's a long ways from home, but it's an opportunity to grow," Wanjiru said of being in Missouri.