Imagine a woman wearing black skinny jeans and a white blouse patterned with the word “love.” She detests winter and her favorite color is purple.
This could describe any ordinary K-State student, but this one is different. Nneoma Asinugo, 18, is an international student native to Amauzari, Nigeria and resident of Abuja, Nigeria. She is currently attending K-State to study art, but intends to switch to architecture after this semester
“I just like arts in general,” Asinugo said. “I have always just liked arts and then architecture. I guess I’m not so sure what I like about it. I like the whole design aspect. I mean, if it is just design I could stick to arts. But I like it being a bit more practical.”
Asinugo said she chose K-State specifically for its architecture program and that she has known for a long time that she did not want to go to school in Nigeria.
“My sister has been here for four years,” Asinugo said. “I didn’t want to go to school at home. I wanted something different.”
Asinugo has noted differences between Nigeria and the U.S.
“First off, like people who are older than you, it is kind of freer to relate to them here – but at home, they are more respected,” Asinugo said. “I guess people at home are a bit more cautious. I don’t know, maybe here you could meet someone at the counter of a coffee shop or something and start a conversation but at home you kind of are more cautious of who you talk to.”
Differences between the U.S. and Nigeria have not affected Asinugo’s relationship with her roommate, Eilaina Gregory, freshman in environmental design from Wichita.
“I was excited when I found out Nneoma was from Nigeria,” Gregory said. “My social group in high school was about 90 percent Nigerian. I’ve learned customs and preference and I also love the culture, so I knew me and Nneoma would connect.”
Nigeria has more than 250 different ethic groups. Asinugo is an Igbo, which is one of the three biggest ethic groups in Nigeria. They have their own language and culture. But even within the Igbos there are differences.
“We have different traditions,” Asinugo said. “At Christmas, the town I am from is called Amauzari, and they have Amauzari day. They have performances. They have kind of a festival.”
She said tension occurs between different ethnic groups in Nigeria’s government.
“Politically, if the president is choosing five governors or something like that, and he chooses from four different places and two people come from one place, then there is going to be this whole talk about why,” Asinugo said. “People kind of contend for things. But, in general, they also follow stereotypical thinking. It’s not necessarily bad, but they think, ‘This person is from this place and these people think this kind of thing.’”
Despite Nigeria’s tension and government issues, Asinugo said she gets homesick.
“I don’t miss doing things in Nigeria,” Asinugo said. “I can just do them here. I do miss the people.”
Living at school is not new to Asinugo. Prior to coming to K-State, she attended Loyola Jesuit College – a boarding school near her home in Abuja.
“My school was really close to my house, like a 15-minute drive,” Asinugo said. “So for every visiting day my parents could come. If we had an open day they could come, so it wasn’t that bad.”
She said she struggles with being so far from her family, and calculating the seven-hour time difference to know when it is a good time to call. She talks to her sisters every day. One of them, 21-year-old Chiamaka Asinugo, studies mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
“For Nneoma in particular, I would say her school’s location is an inconvenience,” Chiamaka Asinugo said. “My relatives were able to drive me to school and I could take a train directly to my city. For her, it takes some planning ahead to get to and from school during holidays.”
Chiamaka said she encouraged Nneoma to go to college in the U.S.
“My main advice was for her to enroll in the EAC (Education Advising Center) at the U.S. Embassy back home,” Chiamaka Asinugo said. “They were set up to help students fulfill admission requirements to U.S. colleges.”
The two sisters both said they miss Nigerian food. Asinugo said her favorite food is called shawarma, which she describes as a burrito with more ingredients.
“We eat traditional foods,” she said. “We eat rice and stew. The main traditional food is the main staple food, like corn and wheat.”
Asinugo said she has advice for other international students.
“They should try to connect with the people at here and at the people at home,” she said. “Try to get a nice balance, so they won’t feel down in any area.”