Making new friends is really not my strongest suit but moving to a new country, one way to get ahead is by networking. People often say that the first set of friendships you make in a new environment determines how easily you integrate into the system. With this in mind, I decided to attend my faculty’s postgraduate evening for new students. I was hoping to meet my new colleagues both local and international. When I got to the venue, the large room was filled with lots of students already mingling and getting to know one another. There were several tables of drinks, small chops and sushi, for anyone who cared to grab some. I grabbed a glass of red wine and decided to try sushi for the first time; it was also my last.
I stayed at the back of the room observing for a while. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me and I felt self conscious because I was the only black person I could see in the room. This was an uncomfortable feeling as I wasn’t used to seeing how different I was from other people so visually displayed. After the initial discomfort, I moved into the room to meet and find out who some of my colleagues were. As I ventured forward, I met a lady and we got talking. I learnt she was from South Africa; though she was white, I was relieved I found another African in the room. She asked how my experience had been so far, she was particularly curious about people’s attitude towards me. I told her it wasn’t everything I had hoped but it wasn’t quite bad either. I soon found out her curiosity was born from her feeling sidelined and left-out when she mentioned she was South African. She wanted to know if I had a similar experience.
As the evening progressed, I met some more lovely ladies mostly from Japan and China. We were all quite excited to be starting a new program. As we were conversing, an Indian guy came up to us, he was also a starting a program in Journalism and Communications. He asked where I was from and I told him I was Nigerian. He was a bit more excited to have met a Nigerian than I felt being Nigerian at the time. I later learnt that he had previously studied in Canada where he met a Nigerian girl who became his house mate and helped him improve his English language speaking skills. The downside to this was he felt he knew all there was about Nigeria from meeting just one of us and he proceeded to share his knowledge with the group.
Nigeria is currently under terrorist attack, he mentioned confidently like he had witnessed the last attack and he could give all the gory details. I gave him the stealthiest look I could muster and told him only certain parts in the North were under terrorist attacks. This was the beginning of a good friendship. For the rest of the evening, we bonded over our similar experiences as citizens of developing countries, our limited funds and our expectations for the new program we were undertaking.
Whatever our first impression of eachother was, Karan and I stayed friends regardless, mostly because that was the only sane choice we made for the next two years.