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Column: The journey never expected

'It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life'

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"The same question repeats in my head, 'Was this going to be my new home?'"

Photo by Savannah Reid

Photo by Savannah Reid

"The same question repeats in my head, 'Was this going to be my new home?'"

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As I glance through the airplane’s window to the ground below, I hear the pilot’s voice come over the intercom, “We are now landing in Niamey, Niger. The local time is 12 p.m. and the temperature is 40 degrees celsius.”

I felt a sudden shock the moment I entered the place I would call home for the next 12 months. Everything was unraveling so fast and I felt overwhelmed by all of it.

The same question repeats in my head, “Was this going to be my new home?”

Six months before we moved, we were still uncertain whether or not my mom would be placed in Niger for work; when we finally received that call my mom was ecstatic. I on the other hand, struggled with believing my life was changing so suddenly.

As an emergency room nurse my mom wanted to expand her working habits and challenge herself to work in an undeveloped country to pursue medical work around the world. She emailed an organization called Society of International Missions that sends medical workers overseas; she received a reply after a couple of weeks explaining that a country in West Africa needed a nurse. My mom looked into Niger and decided it would be a good opportunity.

During this long process of training and attending classes to learn about West Africa, I still couldn’t believe this was actually going to happen. I had lived in Texas my entire life and I was comfortable where I was. I had never been outside of Texas for more than a week so moving overseas for a year was difficult to even imagine.

The more I found out about Niger the more I didn’t want to go. Not only is Niger one of the hottest countries in Africa, but it’s also the sixth poorest country in the world and not to mention it’s home to a terrorist organization called Boko Haram. I was leaving my home, family and friends to move to a place I’ve never even heard of before. It was hard to fathom the concept of not being able to see my friends and family for a whole year.

In Africa I attended an international school with kids from all over the world. I lived in a two-bedroom house in a neighborhood; it was a completely normal life except in Africa. The only difference was the food. Niger had no fast food places or countless restaurants like you would see in America. Instead, meals consisted of goat and cow meat with rice; it was hard getting used to the food and we often had the same meal every day.

My journey overseas was something I will never forget. It was definitely challenging at first but once I adjusted to living there I fell in love with it because of the people and rich culture. The Nigeriens were respectful toward us and made it feel like home as much as possible.

The culture in Niger was rather different than America; Niger is 95 percent Muslim and is a French-speaking country. It was challenging learning French and trying to communicate with the people, but after learning simple conversations and words we were able to talk with our neighbors.

Of course I missed my friends and family but moving to Niger was worth it. It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life because it gave me a new perspective on how I view the world. Not everyone has access to live overseas and experience the things I’ve had the possibility to, so I’m grateful for my mom for giving that chance.

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