Talk to many immigrant women in the US and you will hear that America is often regarded as a land flowing with milk and honey; a place where your dreams come true. So, it is not surprising that millions of people from all over the world migrate to the U.S. in search of greener pastures. According to the Migration Policy Institute, about “44.7 million immigrants” were found living in America as of 2018. This number represents about “14.4% of the U.S. population” and translates into the fact that immigration is a huge source of “population growth and cultural change” through U.S. history (Wikipedia).
So, how did my journey to the U.S begin? What has been some of my challenges and how have I surpassed them? And in what ways have I grown as a person over the years? These are some of the questions running through my mind as I reflect on my life experiences. Although there are various reasons for immigrating, I believe that every immigrant faces similar challenges. I will be talking about two challenges I faced below:
Challenge # 1: Culture Shock:
To put it simply, cultural shock is a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation (Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster). For instance, the food, the lifestyle and greetings are very casual and different in the U.S . when I compare it to the food, way of life and greetings of Nigeria. That being said, I quickly adapted to greeting people by saying “hi and hello” instead of the formal way of saying “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening” in Nigeria. I also learned to adjust my tastebuds by trying out pizza, hamburgers, and other American staples.
Challenge # 2: Assimilation (aka “Fitting In”)
Assimilating into American society is certainly an involved process. For me to fit in here, I had to find my community (Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Caribbean men and women), adjust my accent as well as pick up on the different accents around me, and adapt to the four seasons. Let me tell you, in Nigeria, I did not experience the brisk and rigid temperatures of fall and winter. I certainly remember feeling lonely in my first few months in America; I struggled to find a balance in my “new normal”. I missed my family, friends, and the career that I left behind back home. In the blink of an eye, I went from being very independent to becoming dependent on my husband while figuring out my next steps. Despite dealing with the overwhelming feelings of excitement, uncertainty, and more, I was certain of one thing; I was determined to discover and seize every opportunity that the U.S. had to offer me.
However, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that the two challenges I reflected on above are in no way exhaustive. Instead they touch on a fraction of my personal experiences. I am thankful to say that these experiences (the highs and lows) have shaped me into the woman that I am today.
To wrap up, I want to encourage my Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Caribbean immigrant sisters in the U.S. and the U.K., to keep pushing forward as you work towards your goals in these foreign countries. One day you will be living out the manifestation of your dreams. I know this for sure because in many ways I am now.
With much love,
Paula (Your Nigerian-Grenadian immigrant sister trying to live out her best life in America)