Tuesday afternoons have always been a huge deal for Alaba Danagogo. As a devoted hot chocolate drinker, Alaba finds herself indulging in its sweetness specifically–for no particular reason–on Tuesday afternoons. Since coming to the United States from Nigeria, Alaba has also made an effort to exploit her six months free Amazon Prime trial. Online shopping has become the “bane of (her) existence.” In other words, Alaba seems just like your average spirited international student down the hall — an avid reader, social-media scroller, and naturally, a consumer of comedy shows in the free time she has.
Spotting pink glasses and a Dashiki–a modernized traditional costume worn in most African countries–to our lunch date, Alaba tells me tales of her American experience that are both fascinating and learning mechanisms for her.
After a labyrinthine immigration process, a couple of wild, and sleepless nights away from home, Alaba felt confident that she had American culture all figured out. The Western world had established a huge presence in Nigeria, which made her transition to the US easier. Her biggest struggle was, and still is, figuring out where she fits in. She describes herself as being “a blade of grass in a large green field of more grass,” feeling like her presence isn’t important anywhere.
“I feel insignificant and not particularly necessary. I haven’t found my niche yet, but hopefully when I do, those feelings will change. I think finding where you belong is really important.”
“When I first arrived in Syracuse, I felt very confused,” she says. “I got lost all the time because this campus is so huge.”
Thanks to Google Maps, Alaba is getting better at it. Other than that, she fawns over the beautiful architecture during long walks.
“I know I’m far away from home when I look out and see empty roads. Honking vehicles are something I do not miss from home. It can get very loud in Nigeria, because cars honk for every reason,” Alaba says. “Honking is a way to tell pedestrians and drivers to stop, move out of the way, or ‘thank you.’ Cars don’t do that here in Syracuse.”
Alaba proceeds to rattle on about several things (some) Americans do that confuse her. She seems perplexed as to why students choose to buy bottled water to drink, when clean tap water is easily accessible. She is content with drinking tap water— a privilege that most people in Nigeria do not get to enjoy.
As a biology enthusiast, Alaba wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and dreams of becoming a published writer before turning 19. When I told her that those were big dreams, she snapped: “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming enough.”
Sonia Wee is a freshman studying public communications at Syracuse University.