How This NYU Law Student Adjusted to Living Alone in the United States
Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing right now.
I’m currently in school at NYU; I’m studying human rights law. Basically human rights law because ever since I was little it’s something I have been passionate about. I mean I’ve always wanted to do other things but that’s like my number one thing. I feel like there should be – in Ghana I feel like the human rights system is not where it’s supposed to be compared to other countries. I feel there should be more people willing to fight for the underprivileged; people that re marginalized and all that. Basically I want to be doing that pro-bono in underprivileged countries. I feel like America has so many organizations that work here for human rights law – I would love to work here but I feel like going somewhere that I’m much more needed, places like Ghana. I think that my resources would be much better there.
So you lived in Ghana when you were younger? How long did you live there?
For years…almost all my life. And then I moved to Belgium after HS. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life because in Belgium I realized so many things. What I really wanted to do. I knew always family was important but in Belgium made me appreciate all these things and it’s different. I didn’t live in the city. So I was so far when I lived in the flounders. It’s so diff from NYC – I love NY I love Belgium but there’s no place like NY. New York is huge and you get inspired by people walking down the street. There are so many kinds of people, it’s very diverse in terms of race. In Belgium it’s very diverse in terms of nationalities. In my class I’d have people from Greece, people from Spain people from England from Germany. Here the diversity is in terms of race, sex, everything. Religion. And you get inspired – even if you don’t believe in what they do – you get inspired by the normal people. I feel like the world is some kind of rainbow and NYC is the best place to see it. Getting to know other people really changes your perspective on things.
What would you say you feel most accomplished for in your life right now?
I think for now it’s just school and just basically doing well in school. Every semester I’m like this is the hardest semester of my life. I’m hoping when I graduate I’ll be able to do everything I wanted to do. I’m currently at a standstill I’ve been through a lot of not self-pitying, but I guess at some point in your life you get to feel like that. I’m job-hunting too, and after I get like one rejection I’m like “oh no one wants me” its funny. But I think for now its school. I’m trying to travel a lot. I recently went to Aruba with my boyfriend and it was an amazing experience. I came back and was like I’m depressed because I want to be on vacation again. I feel like me travelling is one of my biggest accomplishments right now because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do; I want to travel the world. I feel like everyone wants to travel the world that’s totally fine, but I also want to travel because I want to experience all these things that I see on TV. Years ago I had Tumblr and I would see all these places. I’m going to Morocco and I’m super excited about it. It’s so different than what I’m used to – my everyday life. I want to experience all these countries. This is year is finally the year when I said I’m going to morocco I’m going to Thailand I’m going to Bali. These are things I really want to do. The fact that I’ve accomplished one out of those and I’ve already paid for some of these trips, I think is an accomplish – it might seem superficial but I think the fulfillment the happiness and the joy I get from being in other countries – in Aruba I saw flamingoes on a beach and it’s something that I don’t see on the normal. It’s not part of my everyday life.
Right. And that’s what makes it fulfilling and inspiring. I think that inspiration comes from all places but traveling is something that’s priceless. You get to meet different people and see that problems going on here aren’t the only problems going on in the world.
Exactly. And you might think they don’t have as much as you have here. But over there they are super content with what they have. I’m not romanticizing how people live in underprivileged countries. Because I’m originally from an underprivileged country but the fact that you can see they’re happy with their families, they’re happy with their marriages, they’re happy with friendships, and all that. It’s inspiring to do better. And to be honest this year I said to myself that no matter what happens I’m trying to be a positive person. I’m trying to see the good in things. I’ve always wanted to travel. I’ve always wanted to start a travel blog. It took me – I said it in 2010 – and it’s taken me 7 years to finally say this is the year I’m going to do it. There’s no holding back. And it might not be how I want things to be but I’m trying to see the good in everything. It might take 5 years it might take 10 it might take 30; as long as I’m doing something. In 2010 I barely saw anyone that looked like me traveling all these places. All the posts I used to see on Tumblr would be blonde girls – there’s nothing against the white blonde – but I want to see people like me too. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone look like you even when you’re little. It gives some kind of self-confidence. When I was little I used to see this lady, she’s originally from Sierra Leone, she was an anchor on CNN and it she was extremely beautiful. The fact that she was black she spoke like me, she looked like me; I thought, I want to be like her. I want to be confident. And it’s okay to set your own pace – everyone has they’re own path. But seeing someone that has your shade or looks like you, it’s a beautiful thing.
What would you say has been your greatest struggle?
I think that in America the biggest struggle for me is when I started school. I came in on a full scholarship to NYU. Well almost full. Some universities are notorious for reducing sponsorships or financial aid. College and university here is like a luxury. It’s so expensive. It’s something you need but I feel – in Belgium colleges are free. I think that has been my greatest struggle because I’m alone here. I moved here and left my dad because we had so many differences. I was tired of getting constant negativity. I didn’t even plan to move out I just moved into school and he decided he didn’t want me back. So I stayed and decided to find my own path. He wanted me to be a nurse. He wanted me to do things he wanted to do. I don’t want to be 60 and look back on life and think I lived life for this person who’s no longer with me. And now I feel useless. I want to regret things I did on my own not pushed to do. I don’t know exactly what my biggest struggle is, but just trying to find my way, with my career, my hobbies. Traveling is a hobby but it’s become part of me.
If you could do one thing differently again what would it be and why?
I don’t think I would do anything differently. But if anything I would say to start earlier. In 2010 when I was thinking I want to start a travel blog, I should’ve started then even with the little that I had. Because the people on Tumblr I used to follow are now so huge and traveling almost every two weeks. So I’m like “ girl you should’ve started then!” But then I also went through years of depression because of so many things. I think that also pushed me when I got left Belgium – I don’t want to be in the shadows, I could do this. I never wanted to look back and say, “I could’ve done that.” I just don’t want to regret things.
What is your biggest fear and why?
Not being able to do the things I want to do. I have my grandma back in Ghana. My grandma is almost 80 and she still works. She works because she wants to and I want her to stop. I want to have that kind of drive. I want that kind of energy and happiness and contentment and joy at that age. I feel like my biggest fear is not being able to reach that. I think that if I don’t accomplish what I set for myself that’s going to make me really, really sad. As cliché as it sounds not being able to do what I want to do is my biggest fear; or being scared of what people have to say. There are so many bloggers around now as opposed to 2010. Someone would probably say, “oh you want to be like them,” but then I had this vision for so long. Being set for it and being carefree and knowing that nothing anyone can say can bring me down.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I just want to be happy. I want things to grow. I don’t really like talking about my goals because for some reason when I’m vocal about it, it doesn’t happen. I just want to be extremely happy in all fields, in my career - I already have an amazing bf – it’s amazing to have someone believe in you more than you believe in yourself and he takes all my photos (laughs) - with myself, my family, with my friends, travel. I don’t have a set goal but as long as I’m doing things I love with people that I love. I think I’m good to go. And hopefully when I launch my travel blog it becomes something that is worth reading not just for pictures. I hope it’s something that inspires someone to go out there. Whether it’s an hour drive to a lake or waterfall. Just get out of your comfort zone, go enjoy, go alone. The thing about me is even if I had no one to do this with I would still go alone. Years ago I would wait on people to do things with me, to have fun with me, to go to brunch with me. Then they would cancel and I wouldn’t do it. It was just last year that I really came out of my shell and thought whether or not anyone is doing this with me I’m still going to go out there and do it myself. Sometimes when I have nowhere to go I’ll just go eat by myself. People think that there’s something really wrong with that but it’s really nothing. There’s this quote that says, “My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.” (Warsan Shire).
Who inspired you growing up?
Isha Sesay. I used to see her on CNN and think I want to be like her. She’s a black woman on CNN – there’s something about seeing her in the midst of lots of white men or women that made me think, I want to do that…I’m inspired by so many women. Growing up, my mom and grandma; they went HAM for me. They pretty much took care of me. My grandma owns a bakery, which my mom helps out with sometimes. It’s because of my grandma’s bakery that my mom could pay for so many things for me. She would take me to the best of schools so that I could have the education she envisioned for me. That’s why I never want to disappoint them. I want to really work hard and I want my grandma to stop working. For her it’s not about the money. I think she feels if she doesn’t do that she’s going to be bored. I want to reach that age and be like her. At some point we had nothing but for them to still pay for my college tuition and my high school, that reminds me you can make anything out of nothing. Their drive and commitment and fearlessness are my everyday inspiration. They set the bar high for me. I learned from them so I want to translate that fearlessness, that commitment to the things I do. Those two are my biggest inspiration, especially my grandma. She’s an amazing woman.
Also seeing black women living their truth, doing what they love, is very inspiring to see. It gives you some sense of purpose. Basically, my grandma, my mom, black women, women of color, JAY-Z (laughs) inspire me - I love Michelle Obama, I want to be like her!
By: Armelis D'Orville