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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#NigeriansinDiaspora- Miss B

I came into the United States much like most Nigerians, to study, in my case to get my bachelor’s degree in engineering. I was sure that coming to study and live in the United States wouldn’t be much different than those handful times I had come to visit for 3- 4 week holidays. And sure enough I did not experience the dreaded culture shock until the summer of my freshman year and sophomore year.

Culture shock is a phenomenon often of disorientation but can be expressed in varied forms experienced by someone that is suddenly subjected to a different way of life and culture. In the university setting, it is most common amongst first-years/ freshman or recently transferred international students during the first few weeks of classes. Some people don’t really experience it at all and I was prepared to be one of them.

I’m not sure why experienced culture shock late. Maybe because I had heard about it from so many people that I tried to mentally block it from ever happening to me. Or maybe it was because I quickly made friends, had found a good stable church and got involved in a few extracurricular activities my freshman year. Safe to say, it happened and it wasn’t so time-stopping or earth-shattering as I expected but more self-realizing. In fact, I only realized that it was a culture shock after I had been culture shocked, lol. Like a whole year and a half or two after the experience.

At the time when I experienced culture shock, I was getting one of my very tastes of being an adult. I was looking for my first internship and going through the whole ordeal of interviewing and trying to market myself. But mostly this was a time when I was coming into myself as a woman, as a black person, as a black woman, as an engineer, as a female engineer and as a black female engineer while still trying to balance who I was as a Nigerian and an African.

I dealt with this experience the ‘best’ way I knew how, bury myself in more work, get involved in more student organizations. Anything to keep my mind off thinking that I was going through something new. It didn’t work until I learnt to embrace it, accept the difficulty I was encountering and try to learn through it. Luckily for me, I had a good support system in the form of family and a few friends. Most of whom didn’t know what I was going through, but served as good distractions till it was over.

In retrospect, I probably would have experienced a milder form of culture shock if I stayed in Nigeria to study but I am glad and I am proud of all of my experiences because it has helped to create a great sense of empathy within me and learn about different cultures and experiences with an open mind.

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