To me, Africa is not just a place; Africa is not just a geographical location. Africa is the tradition, spirit, patriotism, and unity that beautifully transcends the struggles and contemporary perceptional issues that she faces. Although we live in a world that tends to pay close attention to her faults, when I think of Africa, I can’t help but feel proud and content that I am part of such a vibrant, dynamic, and ever-growing culture.
Ever since moving from Nigeria to South Africa at the age of seven, I have always struggled to define “what” I am, and in this sense: I know I am African because I have lived there all of my life, but am I Nigerian or am I South African? For years I couldn’t decide on an answer to this question, especially because both of these nations, which I love dearly, were at odds with each other following the xenophobic attacks in 2008. However, since coming to the U.S. I have been forced to answer this question as people ask me about home and which of the two countries I identify with more. After attempting to answer these questions almost everyday, I have come to realize that I am both. I am Nigerian by birth, by my name and tradition. I am South African by my childhood, my memories, my home, and of course, by naturalization. I can't deny the fact that both countries have played integral roles in defining who I am today.
When I am home surrounded by others who are very much like me, I tend to take my individuality for granted. But being in the U.S. has helped me remember the uniqueness of my identity. I have also noticed that the style of an American college education, with its sometimes overwhelming plethora of student bodies, fraternities, clubs, committees, and events (though not inherently bad themselves) sometimes threaten to cause international students to lose their connection to their motherland. Luckily, being immersed in a culture that is vastly different to mine has allowed me to truly treasure my roots in Africa.