Senior Spotlight : Oluchi Happiness Okoro

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!

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: EFE KAKPOVBIA (CC’14)

image

Efe Kakpovbia is an England-born, Canada-raised Naija gal studying Biology/Pre-Medicine in Columbia College here at Columbia University. Efe has served as ASA’s Campus Liaison for the past two years, but has been an active ASAer since her freshman days. Last year, Efe was a Co-Chair for Afropolitan, undoubtedly her favorite show put on by ASA.  

So, how did you hear about ASA? What were your initial thoughts about the group?

Hmm..wow, how did I hear about ASA..? Oh! I think Miriam told me about it, actually. I can’t say I was fully in love with ASA initially haha! But, I definitely fell in love after going to several of the Monday meetings.

Okay, well what drew you back to ASA then?

The people! I just remember the upperclassmen being so welcoming. It was like home. The environment was so open and engaging! Actually, I had never been this interested in my heritage and Nigeria, and even the continent, until I joined ASA.

Awww! Well, do you have any favorite memories with ASA?

Uhh…all the Afropolitans..

I’m sorry— you liked all the Afropolitans?

Haha! Yes! I mean, it was really stressful planning the Afropolitan shows, but it has been among the best, most fun times with ASA. I just loved everyone being together and having fun. But, I also really enjoyed our Senior Sendoff last year; it was really classy, and I think the Seniors enjoyed it.

What do you feel like you’ll take away from ASA beyond Columbia?

Well, I became more engaged in the continent, and it’s made me want to go back to Nigeria! I learned that it’s great to speak your mind on issues and topics that relate to Africa, even if people disagree with you.

So, what are your plans post-graduation!?

Yeah, so I’m really excited! I got a job through the Canadian Embassy to teach in France for 7 months!! I’ll be teaching English 12 hours a week to elementary students.

Any Words of Wisdom for future ASAers?

THINK BIG! The club has grown so much since my freshman year. I know it wouldn’t have grown as much if we didn’t push ourselves to bigger goals every year. Our impact has grown so much on campus and I’m so excited for what ASA will become in the future!! 

image

We thank you for your hard work and efforts with ASA, and we wish you all the success in your future endeavors, Efe!! We know you will spread the ASA love to your soon-to-be students in France :) 

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT : MIRIAM AGYAKOMAH MAAME YAA KWARTENG­-SIAW (CC’14)

image

Miriam Agyakomah Maame Yaa Kwarteng-Siaw is a Ghanaian-born senior in the college. Raised partly in Ghana and Texas, Miriam grew up with a love for her country and people. She is a Biochemistry major and Pre-Med. Miriam has been an active and passionate member of ASA from day one of  Freshman year as one of the two Freshmen Representatives. She has served as Secretary of ASA (2011-2012) and President of ASA (2012-2013). She was also a Co-Chair for ASA’s major showcase, Afropolitan in 2013. She aspires to be a Medical Doctor and eventually take her skills back to Ghana.

What initially drew you to ASA?

I came on campus searching for ASA even before the first meeting. This is because growing up in Ghana and then in Texas, I had always been surrounded by Ghanaians and people of African descent and when coming to Columbia I didn’t know if there would be enough people who identified as Ghanaian or African. As a result, I made sure to find that safe space in ASA. I found my niche in ASA with the people I connected with like the sophomores and seniors at that time. Undoubtedly, the people kept bringing me back.  

What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?

I wanted people to understand me as a Ghanaian because this is something I didn’t really have in high school. These expectations were definitely met. I also wanted to learn more about Africa and my personal country because I didn’t have substantial intellectual knowledge about the place. This was met through weekly discussions, political roundtables, and also through Afropolitan cultural performances.

So you have clearly held a lot of positions in ASA, how were you able to juggle that with Gospel Choir?

Hmmm…. that’s a good question. I have had people ask me this in the past. I think that learning how to prioritize: knowing what needs to be done at an exact moment and knowing what comes first is how I juggled multiple things.  Also having a passion for everything I was involved in helped me execute them well; it prevented those things from becoming a chore. It helped me balance everything so that things did not crumble in the midst of the chaos.

What is your favorite memory of ASA?

Pick one!? Ay! ….

LOL…Okay top three then….

1. Weekly Introductions….. appreciate knowing what people are doing and where people are from. It also let’s freshmen know people by connecting a name to a face.  

2. Spade Tournaments (Card playing) …. I’m not sure if this is still done, but it’s one of my favorite things. You know now!… Africans and their gloating and things like that…. *laughs*

3. “Voices Unheard: Liberia” was also one of my favourites as well as the “Voices Unheard: Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya” too!

4. Also I cannot forget,  Afropolitan…eh… too many memories.

How has ASA impacted your time here?

Definitely the connections; making friends …… if I start to name some names we will be here for ever… and then if I forget someone’s name, I will be in trouble…(you know Africans!) *laughter*

But ASA is more than just connections it’s also a support network…. to be honest there are some aspects of school that are miserable without that kind of support. ASA has saved me from the sometimes overbearing stress.

image

Miriam and Oluchi Okoro enjoying the Nigerian Independence Day Parade!

Fufu or Jollof Rice?

Oh my sista!  Fufu now….! Jollof rice is Rice and rice  is everywhere; you can get some form of rice at John Jay or Hewitt ….. but Fufu is special oooo; moreover John Jay will not give me Fufu!  

So yes, Fufu all the way, and it must be with Peanut Butter soup…

Modern or Traditional Highlife?

While I can appreciate the modern/contemporary jams….  I am more of the old skool type. I get down with the old skool …. and you know now, it’s usually with my one and only: Ginikannwa Ezeude….. *hysterical laughter*  

So in your description you mentioned that you were Pre-Med, and I know you just took the MCATS, how was the experience?

The exam….. study hard! *laughs*

But no seriously, you have to stay organized in your studies. Review the material from your classes, start ahead of time and be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit to studying throughout the week or in a month, or whatever time frame you’ve given yourself.

With regard to general advice about pre-med life at Columbia: be pro-active….. we have a good support network…. but you have to go to them and do your own research and be direct in what you want here at Columbia.

Alright! And what’s next for you? Is Med school directly next year or time off?

The plan was originally to go to Med School straight when I came to Columbia… but plans change; so I’m taking a gap year after graduation. I’m looking into research in immunology and neuroscience. I have a couple of interviews lined up, so hopefully one of them works out. Then after a year, Med School….. then by God’s grace, I will be a physician and make my way back to Ghana.

So you failed to mention wedding bells in this your future plans…. Please tell us if there is anyone special?

(shy) No….. *side wink* ….

Any words of wisdom for returning ASA members?

Stay connected! There are times when things get stressful and it’s hard to do it on your own; its good to have other people supporting you…. stay connected always…. Even if it’s not amongst ASA, just have two or three friends you can turn to and keep in touch with.

Be optimistic and positive about your experience here at Columbia. Even though it may not always look too exciting or fun, just know that you never know who you will run into and something good may come out of things unexpectedly.

Also take advantage of being in the city more, go out more because after four years it becomes sad when you realize that you don’t know as much about the city as you would have liked.

image

Miriam, Thank You for your service to ASA over the years! We wish you the best of luck in the future and hope to see you again SOON!!

ASA Celebrates the Life of Our Dear Brother and Friend, Dapo Atitebi

                                                    Rest In Peace Dapo!

     The current and past members of the African Students Association are saddened to announce the passing of our beloved friend Oladapo “Dapson” Atitebi following a battle with cancer. Dapo was an integral part of the ASA and wider Columbia family and as news of his passing has spread, we have been overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of loving messages and remembrances about him, from his deep bellowing laugh and pitch-perfect imitation of Mufasa from The Lion King, to his incredible intellect, wisdom, and kindness which he shared generously with us all. He made every ASA meeting a joyous and thought-provoking occasion, supported and encouraged us in our academic and extracurricular pursuits, and inspired us with his dreams and passions – from coding to playing guitar, from entrepreneurial plans to epic games of Mafia.

    A death is never easy to hear about, but the death of such a beautiful soul who embraced life so wholeheartedly is especially difficult to bear.

   We know that Dapo would not want us to remember him with grief, and so with our tears come smiles and laughter as we reflect on how he lit up our lives. We are beyond grateful for the time he spent with us and will always honor and celebrate his life and spirit.

   Dapo was not only an amazing friend to us, but also a loving and devoted son to his mother. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise funds to see her and his family through this difficult time, and support of any kind is deeply appreciated: http://www.gofundme.com/6sct6s.

             image

   image

imageimage

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image