To me, culture is the lens through which we view the world. It directly influences the way we build relationships and the ways we interact with the world around us. To be put succinctly, culture is a concept that is intricately tied to one’s sense of self. My Nigerian culture is a vast landscape of vibrant colors and mind-boggling flavors. From the Argungu Fishing Festival celebrated between February and March every year to celebrate the fishing season in Kebbi State to the mouth-watering jollof rice that is prepared at all functions and events without fail, my culture is one of celebration and thankfulness. There’s an emphasis on reveling in the blessings one may be fortunate to receive and making efforts to not take them for granted. There’s a Yoruba proverb that goes “Ọpẹ́ olóore, àdáàdátán ni” which means the gratitude to one’s benefactor should know no end. Clearly, Nigerians are a thankful people. Despite all these positives, it’s undeniable that there are questionable rules written into the unspoken constitution that is our culture: The blind disrespect for elders at the expense of the youths, a persistent longing for times bygone, and consequently, a reluctance to accept change. There’s the fanatic adherence to religious bigotry by the majority of the older population and quite a few of the younger individuals as well. It goes without saying that the culture we hold dear is not one that preaches gratitude alone, but one that subliminally pushes divisiveness amongst its people and this is something that we, Nigerians, need to work to change.

I’ve lived in the United States for about a year now, attending Duke University. I’ve definitely experienced quite a bit of culture shock during my time here. To begin with, the food is…definitely different. I’ve had to adjust to that for sure. Interaction-wise, small talk and such seems to be a requirement, and wearing headphones indicates that you do not wish to be disturbed (Honestly, a valid premise). These are all things I’ve had to pick up over the course of the past year and when I think about it, I realize how much I’ve changed. I’m definitely a lot more open to having casual conversations than I was previously and I really do enjoy it! I’ve learned to filter the things I say occasionally as some things aren’t acceptable here until a certain level of camaraderie has been established, which I suppose I understand. Nigerians are a very direct people but I’ve learned it’s extremely important to adapt to situations other than the ones you’re used to. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I suppose that is the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far: be willing to adapt. This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising one’s morals but tailoring one’s approach to situations can be infinitely helpful. I hope to learn much more over the course of the Global Fellows Program and the rest of my experience in the US.