Random Musings| Of Culture Shock and Mental HealthIdes Ofune 21st May 2019 0 COMMENTS
On Sunday I posted on my Facebook page about depression and what I could do to help sufferers.
The post took me back to a time when I started living in Budapest during my postgraduate Masters’ studies. I experienced what I now know as culture shock. The weather was very cold. In short, everything was cold. This is coupled with the fact that some of my lecturers didn’t understand my Nigerian accent. They kept saying “come again” every time I made a contribution in class or asked a question. It was very annoying to say the least. Most times, I chose to just stay silent in class. It affected my grades though.
Then there was the sea of White faces, oh lawd! As a typical Nigerian who had never left Nigeria before, I had never seen so many white people except on Television. Whenever I was returning home from class, I randomly looked at the crowd at train stations looking for one Black face. I wanted something familiar. The same way Dan Foster (an American Radio presenter in Nigeria) felt when he first came to Nigeria. He said he saw a sea of Black people in Oshodi and was like, what? Too many Black people in Nigeria. Later on, a colleague said my uneasiness was valid. That as a white person in Kenya for the first time, she felt out of place. She too was looking for a white face anywhere she went.
Then there was the weather! It was winter and I was always cold. One day I stayed late in the library and when I came out, the cold hit me in the face – I wasn’t wearing a winter jacket. I had not gotten used to wearing heavy warm clothes. I almost froze to death. When I got to my room, I cried myself to sleep. I was tired of everything – of my lecturers not understanding what I said, of the new culture, of the new weather that wanted to kill me. I told myself I was going to go back to Nigeria. I was going to abandon the Master programme. In my mind, I was like, “abeg I no dey do again”. Erm, erm, erm, but wait fess (in my Nigerian accent), if I get back to Naija, what would I tell them made me abandon my studies? Weather, “oyibo people”, lecturers? Does that make sense to an average Nigerian? Of course not!
The next day, I randomly told a friend how the weather was affecting my mental health. What she said made me change my mind. She asked “you have never been depressed before?” I said no. She was like oh, winter makes people depressed that’s why we don’t look forward to it. Before then, I had been looking forward to seeing snow for the first time, you know like in the movies. I no know say snow dey do person strong thing. Anyway, I also spoke to a few African friends and it happened that we were all facing the same thing – Lecturers were having a hard time understanding our accent. Speaking to people made me realise that I was not alone in my situation. I also got the strength to deal with whatever I was facing.
Why am I writing this? To tell someone that if you are going through something, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, speak up, tell someone about it and you will be surprised that someone else is going through same or has been through it – a problem shared is a problem half solved. Do not keep it to yourself because it might make you seem alone forcing you to take irrational decisions, just like I almost did. I am never a fan of keeping quiet because of “what will people say”. I know it’s not a Nigerian thing to open up because everyone is “strong”, but you alone know where your strength lies.
If you are going through a problem, speak to someone!
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org