Nigerian student embraces her culture

Olivia Amee poses with a Nigerian flag to represent her heritage. Image via Amee

When Florida A&M senior Olivia Amee looks back to her first friendships on campus, she said she initially gravitated toward those who shared her Nigerian heritage. She said looking for small reminders of her home community comforts her when she finds herself in new places.

“It’s pretty easy for me to connect with other Nigerian students because a lot of the time, we have the same mannerisms and habits,” Olivia Amee said.

According to the computer science major, she was relieved when she discovered peers at FAMU who identified with her cultural upbringing. This sense of belonging among other African students compelled her to join the African Student Association during her freshman year. Now, OliAmee serves as the club’s treasurer.

“Going to ASA meetings used to be my favorite thing to do,” Amee said. “It felt nice to be surrounded by other people who just get it.”

Within ASA, Amee and other club members participate in activities like movie nights, painting sessions and game nights. Amee said she jumped at the opportunity to contribute even more of her time and efforts to the organization by joining the executive board. As a treasurer, Amee helps budget the club’s funds to coordinate yearly programming.

“My favorite part of the general body meetings is before we actually begin when everyone’s just catching up with each other,” Amee said.

ASA secretary Muna Okoli said she also relies on the club as a cultural safe haven. The senior pharmacy student helps cultivate a space for ethnic understanding and education. Members of the organization come from various African backgrounds, although it is not a requirement to join the club.

“I’m constantly learning about where my friends come from and what the culture is like over there,” Okoli said. “Our meetings are super diverse and always a good time.”

Amee’s family is originally from Lagos, Nigeria. Her mother, Marie Amee, said she aimed to teach her children about their heritage at a young age. Through tactics like watching Nigerian movies and cooking Nigerian food, Marie Amee ensured that her household stayed true to its cultural roots.

“I think it’s important that my children know about my birthplace,” Marie Amee said. “I passed down my traditions so they can carry them on and continue the cycle.”

Olivia Amee said she continues to utilize the lessons her mother taught her. Miles away from home, she holds on to her upbringing through simple tasks like practicing the Nigerian language and listening to Nigerian music.

“I remember one time I made jollof rice from scratch because I was feeling homesick, and all my roommates thought it was so good,” Amee said. “Little things like that make me feel proud of where I came from.”