Article by Uchenna Ifeacho | Additional Reporting by Bre Mascetti | Photography by John Morin | Owl Staff
As we drove down the dirt roads in Nigeria, the potholes would rattle our rusted car. The streets were lined with broken down vehicles: scraps that were sent over from the United States. As a child, I could only dream of the fancy cars and shiny buildings waiting for me in America.
I boarded the airplane at eight years of age flooded with mixed emotions. I was distraught leaving my friends and extended family behind in Nigeria, but thrilled to start my new life.
My father moved to Maryland where he would work long hours in order to provide for our family. He would send us clothing and toys, but saved the majority of his earnings to fly our family to him years after he initially arrived.
Although we packed few suitcases, they were filled the American clothing my father had sent us. We knew America would be different, but we were prepared to adjust to the customs. On the airplane, I received my first bite of American culture: pizza and movies.
With a 12-hour flight ahead of us, the airline played the movie Liar Liar, starring Jim Carrey. It was different watching an American film. The actors were Caucasian and spoke in perfect English. I was used to watching films set in villages where the actors wore sandals and spoke with African accents.
My first taste of pizza was tainted from the plane. The crust resembled cardboard and I was not used to eating melted cheese. In Africa, we were used to our cuisine of rice, beans, and soup. Later I would learn to appreciate good, fresh pizza.
When we arrived to the United States, my father picked us up from the airport in a new shiny minivan. Unlike the cars in Nigeria, this car did not rattle, jerk, or break down on the road. We drove through cities with tall buildings and bright lights. My dreams had come true.
The first stop to our new home, Maryland, was a McDonald’s. I ate my first hamburger and drank my first fountain soda. American food took some time to get used to. As I started school, I would sell my school lunch to buy snacks from the vending machines. In grade school, kids were cruel.
I was different even though we had the same backpacks. I had a different accent and would stand to answer questions. Later, the kids who would laugh at me would laugh with me. Growing up in the same neighborhood, we would bond on our walks home.
Having graduated from HCC’s Mass Communications program, I am now attending Towson University with plans to graduate in the fall of 2017. I appreciate the sacrifices my father and family endured to provide my brothers and me with a better life. Now the tall buildings and bright lights are my home.