By Koro Koroye
After my first semester as a freshman at Hofstra had passed, I quickly got used to how surprised people were by my immediate assimilation into the American college life. As an international student from a country like Nigeria, everyone I met expected me to struggle with the English language or walk around campus wide-eyed and excited about finally experiencing the college life. But in reality, I must’ve watched every American movie that was shown in my country.
I'm not denying that this doesn't ring true with some international students at Hofstra, but I certainly do not fit the criteria. I speak exceptional English; in fact 90 percent of the people I meet and speak to are surprised when I tell them I'm Nigerian. First, they comment on how American I sound. That comment is then followed by the poolside statement that has plagued me for five years: “You're Nigerian? Wow, you speak really good English.”
At first, I used to painstakingly explain that Nigeria was colonized by the British, and even after we gained our independence in 1960 we didn't just chuck them and their language out. We kept it, and it is now our lingua franca, our unifying language. There are 36 states in my country and there are hundreds of local languages growing every day in those states. However, everyone speaks English, whether it is perfect or broken. And yes, while I may have disappointed many of my colleagues by not speaking with clicks or with an accent right out of the infamous “Coming to America” movie, I am very much a visiting immigrant in America. My passport holds my visas and the stamps that document the countless times I have flown 12 hours from New York to Nigeria and back during the long summer and winter breaks. I desperately miss my cuisine, I throw hot sauce on everything I eat and Skype is a blessing from the gods.
You may not catch me walking around Hofstra with an African kente cloth wrapped around my hair, or worse, dancing in the Student Center to a soundtrack from "The Lion King," but I still wear my nationality in any possible way that I can – just ask my professors, who struggle to pronounce my name at the start of every semester.