Walking through the corridors of Lorain County Community College, Mayaya Phir can’t be missed. Colorful outfits, big earrings and beautiful African-made braids are what define the style of the 23-year-old Zambian
Phiri was born in Zambia, a country in the southern part of Africa. Four years ago, this young woman challenged herself and came to the United States. Thanks to a study abroad agency, she requested a university in Kentucky and was accepted. She then decided to move to Ohio after she found that LCCC offered good programs for a low fee. Phir is enrolled in LCCC, enjoying a clinical science therapy program.
“It [LCCC] is smaller than my old school in Kentucky, so I made better connections here,” Phiri said. She said that the U.S. education system is different from Zambia. “They use a British system back home where everything is set and where the students can easily talk to their advisers,” Phiri said.
However, she has adapted well to American culture because she describes herself as open-minded. It prepared her for a different lifestyle, like fast food, for instance. “I would say ‘Oh this is so cheap’ rather than ask people ‘Do you really eat that?’” Actually, she said that fast food is expensive in Zambia.
Phiri said she misses some aspects of Zambia, like people in general. “People back home are very friendly wherever you go and always try to help you,” Phiri said. She feels Americans are more by themselves and put the individual first. It was a difficult transition for her, as she is the type of person who prefers to put people first.
She also noticed that people in Zambia have more fun while Americans are reserved, until you get to know them. “In my country, what you see first in a person is usually how she really is,” Phiri said. “A person will not pretend to be anyone else. If she wants to be friendly with you, she will be.”
Despite the cultural and lifestyle differences, Phiri is not homesick, but still continues to include some of her cultural traditions in her everyday life. For example, she will use her native language to talk to her parents or uncle on the phone.
Because Zambian is not spoken in America, Phiri does not feel the need to speak another language except for English.
Phiri is balanced between two countries: One is Zambia, where she is originally from, and where she had developed a certain culture. The other is the U.S., where she gets most of her experiences in life. “Once you are on a place for so long, you get used to it and this is where I did my growing process,” Phiri said. “I was 18 when I came but I matured. My vision of things has changed. I feel my identity is more here, even if I have my own culture.”
There are almost two years left for the student before she returns in Zambia. Phiri expects to have her degree, so she will be able to come back to America or work all around the world.