Abandoned, alone, and frightened. As I looked around an abundance of trees that carried on for miles was all I saw. In the jungle I found myself standing in; the humid air hit my skin. The presence of mosquitos ever so heavy, as was the feeling of emptiness. Civilization and the home I once knew, gone in one instant. I adjusted my belt, fixed my collar, grabbed my luggage, and headed into the hostel of my African school which would now be my new home for the next two years.
Settling into what felt like a new life was not easy. The American lifestyle I was used to and the friends I had acquired over the years were no longer there to be my rock. I went from living in a room with one of my sisters to a large hall with over 100 girls who were soon to become much like sisters to me. Classes were the most difficult part of the whole experience. 18 classes every term, 18 exams. Two of them being foreign languages and more than 13 of them being subjects I had never taken in my whole life.
Being one of the few foreigners at my school, one of the largest problems I faced was being teased. People called me Americana, foreigner, halfcast, etc. I pretended it didn’t get to me, but most of the time it did. About two weeks into school, I got to my limit, and put my foot down. I began being vocal and speaking up for myself. I must say, it did build me into the person I am today. My skin is much tougher than the average individual and I can hold my own ground. Throughout all the bad, there was some good. I made friends who I consider family to this day, and went from being an average student to one that was on top of my class.
The sleepless nights, countless anxiety attacks, and late-night cries were all worth it in the end. The final term that I was in school, I took 2nd out of 41 in my class with A’s in all 18 of the subjects. However, that wasn’t the most important thing to me. I made memories with people I never thought I would open up to. Our unity and friendships are what got me through the whole thing. From being a lonely American girl who felt abandoned in the middle of nowhere to a girl with friends and intelligence; but most importantly, good memories.
Like my grandfather used to say, “Oke oshimmiri anokataghi rie onye obula nke o na-ahughi ukwu ya anya.” The ocean never swallows a person with whose leg it does not come in contact. Even though I found myself in what I believed to be a terrible circumstance, I prevailed in the end.
The day I had waited for, for two years had finally come, it was time for me to go home. As I stood at the gate of the school that I once considered a prison I soaked in the humidity of the fresh air one last time. Just as the heat in the air of that beautiful jungle, I hope to capture those memories in my keystrokes as I type away these words.