Oluchi Happiness Okoro is a Nigerian senior in the college hailing from Imo State. Raised in Nigeria, Oluchi grew up with a love for her country and people. She extended that passion into Columbia’s African Students Association where she became an active member. She thrived on the cooking scene where ASA was lucky to taste her numerous delicacies. She is a Chemical Engineering major in SEAS. She aspires to work as an Engineer back home.
What initially drew you to ASA?
When I came to Columbia University in 2012, I went to the “Days on Campus” and met Hamed, Efe, and Miriam. I introduced myself and started going to the meetings. The bonding I did with them as well as a few others like Shad, Nana, Emmanuel, and Samantha really pulled me in.
I was also apart of my school’s ASA (at Oberlin) and it was a group that I truly enjoyed being apart of.
What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?
I wouldn’t say “expectations” per se…. but when I first came, the transition was different because this school was big, whereas my other school (Oberlin) was small and had a smaller ASA. It was close knit and so I was wondering how it would be possible to establish a tight community here.
But after a few weeks, I realized that in spite of the big community it was still possible to find true friendships and to find people I “roll with” in ASA.
What is your favorite memory of ASA?
I have multiple… the most recent Mafia Night was one of the best that I’ve had. I was the Mafia and no one could imagine that it would be me! So I actually made it alive until the end without anyone suspecting me! It was fun to be apart of.
I also really enjoyed watching the Ghana vs. Nigeria soccer match in River’s basement and the fact that Nigeria won was of course the highlight!!! *Cheers*
Also cooking together with friends is always fun….. playing music and talking amongst each other was the best way to bond. Even though cooking takes literally the whole day, it’s still a day of laughter and fun! I remember when we were all making meat pie for the first time and we were all clueless, but thank God for the internet and recipes that we could look up and we were able to learn together! These definitely helped create some good memories.
How has ASA impacted your time here?
All of the informative meetings we had weekly really allowed me to become knowledgeable. You get to learn about people’s countries and progress back home without having to rely on what Wikipedia says. A good example is the Technology Meeting we had one Monday about the different technological advancements happening in countries like Ghana and Kenya. It was really eye-opening.
Generally, however, being African here at Columbia and even back at my old school really ingrained in me this common sense of “family” and community. When I first came to the States, I was like “what’s this deal about Individualism?” … like back home it is ALWAYS about the family unit. It’s not “I”, it is “we” … These values only seem to be consistent here in ASA. I could truly appreciate being African and have other people like me in tune with similar ideals that I was raised with.
So during your time here in ASA you have always been a constant chef in the kitchen, preparing numerous delicacies for our ASA events. Please, tell us where did you learn how to cook and what are the secrets to your recipes?
My mom is a very good cook I must say! Like, my uncle would never eat in his house … he would always come to our house to eat every morning … that’s how good of a cook my mother is.
I have gone to boarding school since I was nine up until I was about 16. I remember coming back from boarding school; I was actually on holiday. And you know when you are on holiday from school, you are just chilling and pretty much doing nothing. So when I got home, the first dish my mother had me make was Jollof Rice and ofe Nsala. After cooking it all, I realized that I forgot to add salt to the jollof rice! And you know naaa… you cannot add the salt directly on top because it will taste as if you just added the salt. So when my uncle and mother returned I just played as if everything was alright. I served them the food. My uncle took the first bite and minutes he was like” “Bia Oluchi, itinyekwa nnu na rice nka?” (Translation: Come Oluchi, did you put salt in this rice?) …. *laughs*
I was so ashamed especially when he started comparing me to my cousins in Owerri that could all cook so well. My mom wasn’t too happy with me as well. But, thankfully my ofe Nsala came out better and so I was vindicated through that. From then on out, I found myself cooking more and more and as they say with practice things gets better.
Do you have a favorite African dish?
I’ve fallen in love with Efo ….. and amala …. I grew up in Lagos, although I’m from the East. So my uncle calls me half Yoruba / half Igbo! I remember when my aunt from Calabar made it for me when I went back home last time and I was practically begging her to make it again. They say it replenishes the blood because of its vegetable content so that’s always a plus!
My other favorite dish is ofe Nsala…. of course that’s from my Igbo side! *chuckles*
Village or City?
Eh! You know naaaa…..I cherish the times when we go to the village!!! My sister thinks I’m weird in that way, because most people prefer the city. But, I think the village is just beautiful…the smell of the fresh air and everything. Having no internet forces you to interact with everyone around you…Nature becomes your best friend in that sense. It’s always fun when going back especially around Christmas time because everyone is back to the village. I can remember my little siblings, till this day, going to the stream and swimming … oh, the memories are priceless! I truly enjoy the village.
If we looked at your iTunes or Spotify list what would probably be the most recent African song you listened to?
“Beautiful Baby” by Bracket ft. Flavour! I am obsessed with this song!!!
Alright! And what’s next for you?
The plan for now is to work in Texas …. but eventually I will be taking the GRE and applying to graduate schools, God willing.
So you failed to mention wedding bells in this your future plans…. Please tell us if there is anyone special?
I don’t know if there is anyone special…. *laughs hard*. It’s something I’ve just been praying about. Lol …. You will get an invitation when the time is right though…. *more laughs*
Any words of wisdom for returning ASA members?
Spend time with people… I made the mistake of waiting till the last few semesters to chill with people. It’s important to be able to interact and be there for people. People say they don’t have the time but if it’s something you really want to do you can make time for it.
Oluchi, Thank You for your invaluable contribution to ASA! We wish you all the best in the future and can’t wait to see you again!