Finding home away from home

To be a zillion miles away from home is probably one of the most difficult things. It is even more difficult when you are by yourself in a new country. I had this sense when I boarded a plane from Ghana to the United State as an exchange student to Guilford College.

It was my first time on a plane and I felt so dizzy, but the flight was scarily fun. I was not sure what awaited me in the States because, back home, I hear that “America is a free land” and “people take their freedom for granted”; Americans act how they like without any control.

“Almost everyone has a gun.” The idea that everyone had a gun scared me to death because I have never seen a real gun before, and I know how deadly guns are. I promised myself not to get into a fight with anybody for fear that I might be shot.

Do I still have these notions about Americans? No.

All my preconceived ideas about America changed after meeting very friendly and welcoming people at Guilford. People are full of smiles, generally affable and very relaxed. They glow with warmth that almost feels like being around loved ones back home. Well, I have been told the story would have been a bit different if I were to be in the big cities where everybody is busy and rushing to go somewhere. Greensboro is pretty much a small city, and I dare to say that it has very relaxed people.

I did, however, have some great cultural shock. The major difference was the food. You may say that I like food, but I can’t help it because cooking is my hobby and I have a soft spot for good food. And if there was anything that made me want to run back to Ghana in my first weeks here, then it was definitely the food. I seriously yearned for my fufu with aponkye nkrakra (a Ghanaian food), and my favorite dish: yam and palaver sauce. I knew this was impossible, so I settled for any food I could get. Within about two weeks, I got used to American food: burgers, fries, collard greens and my favorite: “mac ‘n’ cheese.”

Apart from the food, which was the biggest difference to me, I experienced other cultural shocks like the difference in weather and the educational system here. I come from a country that is warm almost all year long. We do have some cold months, but I am sure those are like spring here. Words cannot express my excitement when I saw snow for the first time. I literally basked in the snow, made several snow men and took lots of pictures.

I really like the educational system here. Guilford is a small school, and teachers and students have a one-on-one interaction which makes learning fun. I must confess though that I had some difficulties being so open with my professors and the administrative workers because back in my university, University of Cape Coast, it is an honor to dine with your professors; sitting at the same table with my professors and the administrative workers here every day makes me feel so special. I know students here do not see anything exceptional about this. For me, though, it is an honor. I still cannot bring myself to address my professors or the administrative workers by their first names, for this is seen as disrespectful back home.

Friends here ask me if I am excited to go back home, and I don’t know what to say because I have mixed feelings. I love my country and I want to go back, but I cannot deny the fact that I love this place and shudder whenever I think of the fact that I have to go home. I have met very nice people and have made good friends. I wish I could spend more time with them but that is not possible, so I make it a point to enjoy every second I spend with them. I am away from home, yet I feel I am home here at Guilford.