I recently got the opportunity to sit down and interview a college student from Africa. The student is currently in the United States on an internship to study modern agriculture.
I will admit I was a little nervous going into the interview. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was anxious to hear about where the student had grown up and what experiences he had undergone throughout life.
I had never met anyone from Africa. The country and culture is one I know little about. I’ve seen documentaries on African culture, I’ve looked at National Geographic more than once and have scanned articles on Africa, I’ve looked at pictures from my college friends’ Facebooks who are currently serving time in the Peace Corps and are teaching in Africa, but I had never been face-to-face with someone from the country.
When we met, I learned the student was immediately open to tell about experiences, background and culture.
When I asked about the differences in the culture. The student explained the difference in mannerisms in America vs. Africa. In Africa, when a person is introduced to another and they want to show respect to, they must bow their heads and remove their hats. The student laughed and said it was noticed immediately that didn’t happen in America.
The conversation got more interesting when I learned the student had gotten to try everyday American food like McDonald’s, pizza and ice cream for the first time. How crazy is that! Can Americans even imagine life without McDonald’s and pizza?
I also learned the student was surprised to see young kids walk around with iPods, iPhones and iPads. In Africa, if someone is seen with that type of technology, it’s well known that they are “a rich man.” It made me wonder what this African student thought about Americans. Are Americans spoiled, or are we just lucky? American children are walking around with the same type of technology only a rich man in Africa can get his hands on.
As my interview went on and our conversation got deeper, I learned more about the student’s background. He told me about how much control the government has over the people in Africa. True freedom is something that doesn’t exist on that continent. It’s a hard concept to grasp because as an American I know nothing different than the freedoms we are entitled to everyday.
The student told me about how the government had taken properties from farmers in his country because they didn’t have enough money to pay soldiers. The soldiers were then free to take properties away from civilians.
As an American, can you imagine if that happened here on our soil? I know our government is not at its best right now. We hear about it, see it and read about it everywhere everyday. We should be thankful to be living in the land of the free. We have the right to our own land, the freedom of speech, the freedom to do what we want when we want.
I truly believe people take their rights for granted.
The African student had been a refugee when he was young. He was taken away from his parents, who he has not seen in years and isn’t even sure if they are alive. Can you imagine? I think we should realize how much freedom and opportunity we have here in America.
My interview is definitely one that will stick with me forever and will make me rethink my frustrations the next time I begin feeling like things are unfair.
BCR Staff Writer Goldie Currie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.