Article by: Olivia
The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single step
~ Lao Tzu
31st August 2016: that was the day I left my parents, my brothers and the land of my birth to a country I had never been to, not knowing what lay beyond the horizon. Even though it has already been 5 months since my departure, the memory of that day is as fresh as the summer breeze. I remember in the days preceding my very last day in Ghana I had this sort of ambivalent feeling: I felt anxious and excited but relaxed at the same time, almost as if I knew I was fulfilling another step to realizing my destiny. On that cold August night, I sat with my two brothers in the backseat of the car, while my Mum sat beside my Dad, who was driving us to the airport, and tried to make cheerful small talk to conceal the torment of emotions that was surging within all of us. I don’t think I had the chance for a proper goodbye once we arrived at the airport. I just gathered my luggage from the trunk of the car, with the help of my Dad, and I went to take my place in the long queue leading to the entrance of the airport (there were so many people travelling that night and the queues were just unbearable). I watched as my family drove off into the distance, waving goodbye through the windows of the car, until they were out of view. I tried my hardest not to cry.
I definitely knew I was in a different country when the plane finally touched down. It had been a long flight—18 hours—but I had finally arrived, and it was HOT! Coming from a country in the tropics I wasn’t expecting Denver to be that hot; I was wearing a thick sweater in anticipation of the cold. Boy, was I surprised! From the sky Denver looked like a desert with little ridges, but as I rode from the airport to University of Denver I couldn’t help admiring all the infrastructure, especially the skyscrapers (we don’t have buildings that tall in Ghana, and I’m still deathly afraid of heights so seeing skyscrapers gave me kind of a knot in my stomach and also a feeling of awe). As I approached the school I was mostly overjoyed that I had made it. After all my months of hard work on applications I was finally here, and I couldn’t wait to absorb every single experience DU had to offer.
That’s how my ongoing journey through DU really started. If you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering who I am. Well, I’m Olivia, but my friends call me Livy, and I’m just like you. For many of us, leaving home to a new environment was the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. If you’ve been in a boarding school before (like myself) then maybe you’ve had the experience of being far away from family. But that experience doesn’t compare to travelling to another state or country with thousands of miles separating you from the people you love. My first quarter was a total rollercoaster of emotions. It began with excitement at the beginning of the quarter, but that quickly turned to sadness, then loneliness, then depression and a multitude of doubts all centered at the question, “Do I belong here?” I mean, the plan was to come here to pursue a degree in Fine Art, something I couldn’t easily do in Ghana because art isn’t considered a profession there. (Everyone is just so focused on making money, so they push their children to become doctors and lawyers.) But during my first quarter there were so many low points. As an international student its hard to fit in with other people and even harder to make friends: there’s a language barrier if you’re not fluent in English; then there’s stereotypes that other students may hold against you just because you look different, talk differently or come from a particular place; and then there’s a cultural divide. How do you fit in with students who come from such drastically different cultures from yours? It really wasn’t easy. And I honestly don’t know the answer to that question till now. But I know this: it’s absolutely normal to have those feelings in such a situation, but those feelings don’t last forever. You may be like me, you’re always late in adjusting to a new environment and always the last to make friends. But that’s okay, because college is about making friends and memories not just for the moment but for life. Last quarter may not have been the best time of your life, but we made it. I can certainly say that I’m more comfortable now than I was last quarter. But if you’re still struggling with that question, “Do I belong here?”, the answer is yes, you do belong here. Want my advice? Get involved in clubs, meet people who share the same interests as you. You never know, you could make a lifetime friend at one of those gatherings. Or at best you wouldn’t feel so homesick.
We all came to DU with a purpose, but it’s vital that we never forget our roots. Keep moving forward, one step at a time. But remember the steps you took to get this far in your journey. And keep your eyes on that sunrise just over the horizon (your goal) that you’re getting closer to achieving with every step. It’s going to be a great year guys.