My name is Maryam. I am an exchange student from Kaduna, Nigeria, in Western Africa. The exchange program that brought me here is Partnership for Learning, Youth Exchange and Study (P4L-YES).
Making the decision to being an exchange student in the United States is the best thing I have ever done for myself. At first, I was not sure what it would be like here in a different country, and totally different from my own life. Before I came, I thought I would find it very difficult to live here and get along with the people because of the cultural differences from my hometown in Nigeria. Things were better than I expected. I was surprised to see how the people opened up to me and were so kind. They never deprived me of anything or treated me unfairly because I am not like them or from their country. I am the only one with dark a complexion in the community I live, which is in Iowa.
I have learned about Americans and their government. I am very impressed with the system of government and its role in the communities, which is different from what I have at home. The rule that says every child is entitled to have an education whether you are rich or poor is one of the rules that have impressed me a lot. It is very different from where I came from. In my country, the system is different. Our parents pay for our school fees and our guidance. Our government offers scholarships to poor children but not every one that cannot afford paying school fees gets a scholarship. You will find many children who are willing to go to school and be educated, but because they cannot afford the fees, they aren�t allowed to attend school. This affects them and their future. The U.S. system of making sure children attend school until high school is one of the most interesting things I have experienced.
Life is full of experiences, but I didn�t realize that until I came here and met different people, lifestyles, foods, and even how people dress. Nigerians have a mode of cultural dressing. There are over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups in Nigeria, each with different language and mode of dressing. Most of the girls dress in cotton fabrics locally sewn by a tailor. Muslim girls wear a head cover because Islamic religion is one of the main religions in my country. Muslim girls and women are prohibited from going out in public without a head cover.
I have learned a lot, and I am still learning everyday. I will always thank the U.S. Government for giving me this opportunity.