Story by Gisselle Hernandez, Assistant Features Editor
When Victory Aniemeke left Nigeria to attend Murray State, the only thing he was unaccustomed to was people having trouble understanding him.
After all, Aniemeke was familiar with the United States after spending summer vacations in the U.S. with his family. But he soon found his professors and fellow classmates struggled to understand his Nigerian accent, even though he has been speaking English all his life.
“Every [African] develops an American accent, but I spoke straight out of my Nigerian accent,” he said. “I talk like how I talk back home.”
As a freshman at Murray State, Aniemeke is one of the 56 African students who have adopted Murray as their home away from home. They have embraced the challenges and differing experiences that come along with being an international student at Murray State, such as communicating with other students and homesickness.
Living in a town that contrasts in development and culture with his own, Aniemeke said, allows him a chance to meet new people, and being involved in the African Student Association, a chance to meet students from other African nations as well.
ADAPTING TO MURRAY LIFE
Self-proclaimed social butterfly, Aniemeke can often be seen smiling, describing himself as “a friendly person who likes to make jokes.”
Aniemeke also soon became familiar with his teachers’ and classmates’ accents, which he said made socializing easier.
He said his people skills came in handy as he became the social chair for the African Student Association at Murray State. With 35 members, the organization aims to introduce diversity to the Murray community through African culture and tradition, said Serah Waweru, the association’s president.
The organization hosts fundraisers to raise awareness about the continent, as well as events promoted by African students. Such events include the Miss Murray State International Pageant and mixers. Those who are curious enough learn the traditions and differences between cultures.
Aniemeke, for instance, said his hometown is much less developed than Murray.
“Really, the videos you see on TV sometimes are true,” he said. “People are really broke back home.”
Aniemeke’s father, however, is a successful pastor and teacher. He’s held in high regard by people in his village and owns the largest house in the community, Aniemeke said.
“Power, money and respect,” along with God, are the ingredients to a successful life, Aniemeke said. “My father has all three. I want to be like him.”
As someone who was literally raised by being disciplined with a whip, Aniemeke said he loves both his parents for molding him into who he is. He attributes his social skills and personality to his father, including his father’s tough discipline.
“If they didn’t whip me I would be worse off,” he said. “In America, they don’t touch their kids. Back home, my dad would fling his belt like a ninja – and I’m glad he did.”
AFRICAN STUDENT ASSOCIATION: A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
While Aniemeke said he’s happy in Murray, he – like many students – does miss a couple parts of home: some of his favorite foods and his mom.
Nostalgia had led to the African Student Association hosting events such as the annual “Taste of Africa,” which showcases the different foods of the countries in Africa.
This year, though, the event was canceled because of financial difficulties. The organization is planning other events to raise awareness of African culture and to unite their members.
The organization also has goals of recruiting up to 20 more members, because of the influx of 19 more African students at the university this semester, said Waweru. The goal is to also help African students feel welcomed.
“Not only is ASA an African student organization but also for African students who are not yet comfortable making friends with Americans,” said Chinazam Amuchienwa, member of ASA. “When they come in, they are more familiar with people from African countries.”
When they graduate from Murray State, African Student Association members receive a certificate recognizing their involvement in the organization.
As for Aniemeke, who doesn’t know as yet if he will return to Nigeria, thoughts of graduation seem far away.
“I just go with the flow,” he said. “For now, I am focusing on school. Everything else will come afterwards.”