On the 24th of September 2023, I embarked on a transformative journey from Nigeria in West Africa to the enchanting landscapes of Denver, Colorado. The initial fatigue from the extended trip quickly dissipated as I realized I had stepped into the realization of a long-held prayer. As my days unfolded amidst the sprawling campus of DU, I discovered more than just academic pursuits; I unraveled the unique tapestry of this new chapter.
My introduction to the class became a memorable moment. The professor, recognizing the challenges of a new international student, graciously paused the class to welcome me, eliciting a round of applause from my classmates. It was not just a relief from constantly navigating Zoom links but also a warm initiation into the academic community.
In the days that followed, I found myself enchanted by the subtleties of my new surroundings. One peculiar observation was my fascination with the sky. As a nature enthusiast, I couldn’t help but notice the clear, drama-free skies of Denver, a stark contrast to the expressive and story-laden skies of Nigeria. This subtle yet significant difference became a daily reminder of the unique experiences that awaited me in this new chapter of my life.
As I immersed myself in the rhythm of my new surroundings, an unexpected family awaited me – the church. It all began with passing by it during my bus rides, where a simple criterion emerged: if the people were nice during my first visit, I’d consider returning. Little did I know that this casual decision would swiftly evolve into a profound reality.
The turning point came with my first encounter with snowfall. In a city blanketed in white, this newfound “family” extended their warmth and support, transforming what started as chance meetings into genuine connections. On a particular Sunday, I found myself called forth and introduced to the congregation. While I had mentally prepared for this moment, the depth of the familial bond became strikingly clear.
Each Sunday since, I’ve been enveloped in numerous hugs and greeted with assuring smiles, affirming my sense of belonging. These gestures go beyond mere pleasantries; they echo the essence of family, a community that extends beyond the confines of the church walls. In these heartfelt embraces and shared smiles, I’ve discovered not just a place of worship but a sanctuary of genuine connections and a reminder that, in this city far from my roots, I’ve cultivated a second home.
Exploring the culinary landscape, I discovered the remarkable versatility of bread and chips, a revelation unlike anything I experienced back home. While bread had its allies in Nigerian cuisine, the range of pairings over here is astonishing. From sandwiches to dipping into soups, and even accompanying various main dishes, bread and chips seem to have seamlessly integrated into every meal. It’s a delightful exploration of flavors and textures that have broadened my culinary horizons and added a new dimension to how I enjoy meals. Threads of adapting to new aspects of life, such experiences make my journey colorful.
Navigating Denver’s unpredictable weather became a daily adventure. The atmosphere, seemingly vibrant and full of life in one moment, can swiftly transform into a gloomy scene in the blink of an eye. As my body grapples with adjusting to these sudden shifts, I’ve developed a survival strategy for venturing outdoors – I never leave my house without a sweater or a jacket, and sometimes both, depending on the whims of the weather.
Years in the coldest part of Nigeria, particularly in Plateau State, didn’t prepare me for Denver’s weather mood swings. I thought I had mastered the art of dealing with cold climates. However, my arrival in Denver shattered that illusion. The cold we enjoyed back in Plateau, attributed largely to the topography, now seems like child’s play compared to the weather variations here. This realization prompted a re-evaluation of my wardrobe choices. While my experiences in Nigeria equipped me with a familiarity with colder temperatures, the erratic nature of Denver’s weather demanded a more versatile approach.
So, as I step out each day, I carry not just a jacket but also the lessons learned from adapting to a climate that keeps me on my toes. It’s an uneven dance with nature, a daily negotiation between the comfort of warmth and the readiness for unexpected chills. In this journey of weather adaptation, my wardrobe has become a reflection of resilience, preparedness, and acknowledgment that, in Denver, one must be ready for anything the skies might decide to throw.
My inaugural Thanksgiving celebration marked a delightful experience. In the U.S., Thanksgiving is more than just a day; it’s a grand celebration filled with abundant meals and heartwarming banter exchanged among family members. The atmosphere is rich with warmth and togetherness, creating a tapestry of cherished moments. Back in Nigeria, our family gatherings take center stage during the festive season of Christmas. While the traditions may differ, the essence of bringing loved ones together remains a common thread. Embracing the American Thanksgiving was like stepping into a lively tapestry of gratitude and camaraderie, a day painted with the hues of shared laughter and the aroma of delectable feasts. It’s a beautiful addition to my cultural experiences, creating a new mosaic of memories that blend seamlessly with the festive spirit of home.
Additionally, the emphasis on mental health in the U.S. never fails to leave me impressed. Perhaps, due to its relatively unexplored nature in Nigeria, my reflexive response to my colleagues’ inquiries about my well-being is often a simple “I’m fine.” Furthermore, the sincere concern that accompanies queries about well-being here remains genuinely admirable. Yet, with each passing day, I am realizing the significance of prioritizing mental health and recognizing the considerable work that lies ahead in my home country.
Summarily, these diverse experiences have not only shaped my perspective but have also played an instrumental role in my personal growth. Navigating through the intricate tapestry of cultural transitions, academic challenges, and unexpected connections has taught me valuable lessons in resilience, adaptability, and the beauty of embracing the unfamiliar.
As I continue this journey, each encounter, whether with the clear skies of Denver, the warm embrace of my church family, or the aromatic delights of newfound culinary experiences, becomes a brushstroke contributing to the canvas of my evolving self. The challenges and triumphs in this new chapter are sculpting a version of me that is more open-minded, resilient, and appreciative of the richness that diverse experiences bring to life.
Looking forward to 2024, I anticipate more adventures, cherishing the transformative journey that has sculpted a more open-minded, resilient, and appreciative version of myself.