In October and November of 2009, I was fortunate enough to go to Nigeria with nine of my peers. This trip was made possible by the State Department for a program called Reading Across Continents. Reading Across Continents promotes cultural exchange and literacy for students across the world. During the program, my peers and I served as Student Cultural Ambassadors. Students from School Without Walls in Washington, DC, Achimota School in Ghana, and Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja, Nigeria, participated in the program. I spent three weeks in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.
In order for me to participate in this program, I had to write an essay and read three books. The books were Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Girl Who Can by Ama Ata Aidoo, and Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. Students from the schools in Nigeria and Ghana came to Washington, DC, and were accommodated by the students from School Without Walls. The students from Nigeria and Ghana were excited to experience the lives of American students. They went to school with my peers and me, and participated in classroom activities, as if they were enrolled in School Without Walls. During their time in Washington, DC we all visited historic places, such as the National Mall and the White House. Likewise, the students from Nigeria and Ghana were able to meet historic figures, such as Dorothy Height. We all completed community service projects as well, such as reading self made books concerning stereotypes and prejudices to students at Hardy Middle School in Washington, DC.
When I traveled to Abuja, Nigeria, I was able to experience many cultural activities. These included going to traditional West African markets and wearing cultural attire. I enjoyed bargaining at the markets. I was able to negotiate appropriate prices for multiple goods, as well as buy numerous things with little money. Also, my peers and I got the chance to experience a different classroom atmosphere because we spent our three weeks at Loyola Jesuit College, which is a boarding school. Even though the school work was more tedious than what I am accustomed to at School Without Walls, there were many similarities in the subjects and methods of teaching. Additionally, one thing that I really enjoyed about staying at Loyola Jesuit College was the family atmosphere. All the students were always together and familiar with one another. Since they were away from their own families, they formed a new one with their peers. When my peers and I arrived at the school, we became a part of that family. Together, as a new family, we all completed another community service activity with children in a surrounding neighborhood outside Loyola Jesuit College.
Another place that we went to in Nigeria was Lagos. There, my peers and I were able to experience an Under 17 World Cup game. We even met the Nigerian soccer team and the First Lady of Nigeria. I was greatly appreciative of all the special experiences I had in Nigeria and the wonderful people I met. I also gained an appreciation for multiculturalism because of the diversity that was present in that country. Although the trip was only for a short time, it was one of the best experiences of my life and I made international friends that I will always treasure.
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