..but I almost did. After spending the summer in-between high school and college in Ghana and having my life flipped upside down I arrived home to Chicago on September 9th at 1pm and I hopped on a plane to Savannah, Georgia at 7am the next morning. In those 18 hours home I was dazed, confused, jet lagged, sick from American food, and somehow packed my life into a few suitcases and heading off to college.
My first quarter at college was rough.
I got to Savannah and started at Savannah College of Art and Design just a few days later. Less than 3 days after returning from Ghana I was sitting in a classroom learning how to correctly draw a figure, design principals, and the different shades, tones, and types of colors. I was overwhelmed with meeting hundreds of new people, trying to eat the simplest food possible to not get sick, and learn the whole “college system”. I didn’t give myself any time to adjust to living back in America and the immense amount of “reverse culture shock” I faced.
After taking some time to get settled and into the swing of a full time schedule, things just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel the program I was in was the curriculum or focus I was looking for. I began to realize an only art major school wasn’t for me. I longed for an internationally focused school which integrated service learning into their programs. SCAD wasn’t right for me.
So I finished my fall quarter and went home for winter break. It was the first time I’d been home in over 6 months and it was honestly so comforting to return to a place I called home for all of middle school and high school. Coming home made me realize how much Savannah didn’t feel like home. I didn’t fit in at SCAD and the environment wasn’t what I wanted to be surrounded by.
So I decided I wasn’t going back for the winter and spring quarters. My dad and I went back to Savannah to bring all my stuff home.
I didn’t know where I fit in.
I didn’t know who my friends where.
I missed my kids in Ghana and I thought my heart was going to rip out of my chest if I couldn’t see them soon.
I made some bad choices. It wasn’t the best period of time, lets just say that.
I started thinking about college and that I was about to spend $200,000…a fifth of a million dollars to get an education. I knew in my heart that my future were in Africa. That one day I would be the mother to some precious little ones. That one day I would start the non profit of my dreams. That I would wake up every single morning in Africa and smile because I was home. I knew all these things I wanted to do and didn’t see the purpose of spending that kind of money to have a piece of paper in my hand, and be accepted by American standards. I thought of all the ways I could spend a fifth of a million dollars. I could build the children’s home of my dreams. And sponsor some very deserving students…and maybe even build and run a school. The possibilities were endless. College just didn’t seem like my way to get there.
I decided I wasn’t going back to college. So I started looking for other opportunities and applied for some internships abroad. I ended up getting a few offers and was about to accept one and make a big move and leave college behind. But something stopped me. One day I started searching “college gap semester trips” and randomly stumbled upon Carpe Diem Education. The first thing I read on their website was “Through community service, adventure travel, language study, home stays, and authentic cultural exchange our students receive insight into themselves while cultivating a sense of love and understanding for the areas in which they are traveling and the people with whom they interact.” This was it. I searched over their trips and spotted East Africa. That was it. Within the hour I had already applied, talked to the Carpe Diem office, and had an interview scheduled. Two weeks later I was on a flight to Tanzania with the rest of my group and leaders. I still wasn’t 100% sure that college was the route in which I was headed but I decided to receive college credit for the 3 month trip (and frankly it was the only way my parents would allow me to go).
I stepped back onto the continent I’d fallen in love with, started bonding with my group, and doing some soul searching. Through my 3 months in East Africa my thoughts on college slowly began to change. I was given such an incredible blessing to be born in the US.
To be born into a loving and supportive family who encouraged me to reach for the stars.
To have a full belly every night and breakfast on the table each morning.
To be able to attend school and not have to walk miles to get there.
To have clean, drinkable water flowing at all times.
To have something as simple as a bed to sleep in at night.
And now I was being given the ultimate opportunity…the opportunity to get one of the highest forms of education possible. I thought of my kids in Ghana. We talked endlessly about their hopes and dreams and future professions. Every single one of them dreamed of going to college. We discussed plans and steps to get to college and ways we could pay for it. They really are some incredibly motivated kids.
It was a complete paradox. How was I telling my kids to dream big and attend college when I wasn’t taking the opportunity myself? How could I explain to them that I wanted them to attend school and get a degree…yet I wasn’t doing the same myself?
So sometime during those three months I decided that I was indeed going to finish my degree (after long talks with my extremely supportive group and leaders, love you guys!) I found a major and school that fit all my wants and needs and applied to the school from a tiny internet cafe in southern Uganda.
I realized that obtaining my degree wasn’t just to make my parents happy or follow the normal American stereotypical timeline.
I’m doing it for Briget, and Prince, and Henry and all my other ones with dreams bigger than their heads and hearts can handle.
I’m doing it for my future kids and the non profit I dream about every night.
I’m doing it to show that bumps in the road don’t make dreams come to a halt. They’re just motivation for more.
And most importantly, I’m getting my degree for me, because I have such a deep passion for learning about things I’m passionate about. I’ve learned that a classroom doesn’t have to involve 4 white walls and a chalk board. My classroom involves red dirt roads, smiling faces, long days, sweaty bus rides, and heart pounding love. My classroom is Africa.
But when I’m not in Africa, you can find me at DePaul University in every African development and Peace/Justice/Conflict studies class possible, or at the Pan-African Association office working with some incredibly inspirational African refugees. Here’s to an amazing year ahead.