Assimilation at What Cost?

Naomi Gashaw, University of New Haven

In this article, I decided to talk about what I know best. My experience I want to talk about is my journey to America and the thing I struggled with the most. My name is Naomi Gashaw and I come from a beautiful country located in the Horn of Africa called Ethiopia. Among the lovely cities, I was fortunate enough to be raised in the capital Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has a deep-rooted culture unparalleled to anything I’ve seen elsewhere. I’m not only saying that because that’s where I’m from, but the history will speak for itself when it comes to the wonderful contributions the Ethiopian culture has made to Africa.

Growing up there, this didn’t seem like much considering that it’s all I have known. When I first moved to America I was really excited and eager to immerse myself in another culture just to prove to myself that I am the free unconfined spirit I always told myself I was. The first few months I was in America I engaged in all the ventures that I thought seemed to be mostly American. I learned about the fascinating sport of football something I was unfamiliar with- as well as the arts, food and holidays I’ve never heard of. It was all well until I started getting comments, which seemed like a compliment but was nothing short of a wake-up call for me.

The friends I have made started saying that I wasn’t like other Africans they had met before. They were saying it as if they favored me more for being more like them rather than being my African self. What I started as a simple way to better my understanding of the world and different cultures consumed me and stripped me from being that African girl I loved so much. I didn’t feel like I changed, but it seemed like I let who I truly am down by fitting in with the people around me too much. I was torn for a while but quickly understood that it was great that I was able to fit in but I had to understand that fitting in is not always the best thing when it comes at the expense of people misunderstanding who you really are.

I am a young African woman that came from a country that has the purest untainted culture in Africa. That was something I wouldn’t say I took for granted, but put on the back burner in my quest for cultural diversity. I had to learn how to make those go hand in hand. I wanted people to know my culture resonated with me and always will regardless of where I was living. Now I find myself to have a great knowledge and understanding of my surrounding culture as well as bringing my African heritage right alongside me.