Sunday, July 14, 2024

Chance meeting leads to new friendship

CNA’s Social Media Ambassador makes surprising discovery far from former home

College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) new Social Media Ambassador may be a long way from her former home in Nigeria’s Imo State, but by chance she’s already found a familiar face here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chidinma Okafor is a Digital Content Creation student at the Seal Cove campus in Conception Bay South and developed CNA’s new “College is scary? CNA is scary good!” campaign. While she was busy conducting interviews for that campaign, she happened to notice Television and Film Technical Production student Udochukwu ‘UD’ Okonkwo.

At once, she knew she’d found a friend.

“At first when I saw UD, I had no doubt he is from Nigeria,” she said. “When UD first saw me, the first statement he made was ‘You are from Nigeria, right? What part of Nigeria do you come from?’”

UD and Chidinma.

In a scene their fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can easily imagine, the two passed questions back and forth trying to figure out exactly where in Nigeria the other was from and how they might be connected. For people from Nigeria, however, the process can take quite a bit longer.

Nigeria is a vast country, home to 215 million people from a wide variety of ethnic groups, each with its own unique language and culture. In fact, the country is so diverse that it declared English its official language to help all its various peoples communicate with one another.

That’s why it was so thrilling when Okafor and Okonkwo discovered that they were also both members of the Igbo ethnic group. This meant they shared a deep cultural connection, similar family and religious values, and could communicate in the general Igbo language that all the ethnic group’s tens of millions of members understand.

Okonkwo said the Igbo people are known for their hospitality, respect for family and elders, and tenacity, “I was so happy to see someone that has the same behaviour, look like an Igbo person, with smiles full in my heart and on my face, I approached her and confirmed that she is my sister from another mother.”

And the similarities didn’t stop there.

The two were astonished to learn their hometowns are right next to each other, and they grew up speaking the same specific, local dialect.

“I felt happy meeting someone who speaks the same language as me,” Okafor said. “We are both Christians. He also has family friends who are from the same community with me. Again, I found out that he graduated from the same university my husband attended. My husband and I agreed to invite him to our home to enjoy different delectable Nigerian cuisines.”

Okonkwo has savoured every minute of it.

UD is a student at the Prince Philip Drive campus.

“The joy is indescribable to meet your own sister you don’t believe you will see, after passing seven rivers, seven seas, oceans and lakes to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “I am so happy and thank God who brought us together here. Even though I feel at home here, meeting with my sister here made me feel more accepting, joyful, relaxed and peaceful. Since then, I have not missed Nigeria so much. It is important to have your friend or family member whenever you are in a new country, such experience will enable one to adapt easily.”

Okafor agreed, adding, “It is extremely important to have a friend from home when you are in a new country. There is a special joy you have when you see someone that speaks the same language and have the same culture with you.”

Although their friendship may be new, it promises to be strong. The two are working tirelessly to study, work, and build their lives here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and always make the time to support and celebrate each other along the way.

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Ryan Crocker
Ryan Crocker
Ryan is CNA's Manager of Communications. A graduate of CNA's Journalism program, Ryan worked as a journalist for more than a decade, winning multiple awards, before transitioning to marketing and communications. He returned to his alma mater in 2023 and contributes articles to CNA Currents working closely with Editor Ryanne McIsaac.



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