By Racquel Joseph
Dallas senior Jenny Abamu is a Baylor pre-law student with a major in international studies and minors in economics and Arabic. She has a passion for discovering the world and wants to work in foreign service and diplomacy. This past spring, Jenny visited Nigeria, completed a semester at the American University in Cairo, and spent her spring break in London.
As she explored Africa, Jenny took hundreds of pictures and created edited video clips. She established a Facebook group called “T.I.A.: This is Africa” where she posted her point of view.
“I kind of wanted to show people what Africa actually is,” Abamu explained. “I wanted to make the people more human. Everyone has the National Geographic images in their heads, but it’s more than that,” she said.
Before Jenny had even stepped off the plane in Nigeria, she had her first crisis on the African continent. Her American passport had been filched from an overhead compartment while her Nigerian passport was left untouched. “With a Nigerian passport, you can’t go anywhere but West Africa without a visa. With an American passport, you can go anywhere,” Abamu explained.
The episode sums up the reason Jenny was in Nigeria in the first place. Her parents emigrated from Nigeria in their late teens, and Jenny was returning to discover her roots. “I was trying to understand, especially in this part of my life, where my parents came from,” Abamu said.
She also took the opportunity to spend her winter break among extended family before heading to Cairo for school. Jenny finally met the family that her parents had been helping to support from the U.S. her entire life. Family members came from all over the city and region to greet their cousin or niece with open arms and kindness.
In Nigeria, she found that everyone worked all the time. Leisure activities were rare. While she loved the strong community bonds, she saw why people would take an opportunity to migrate away from their home.
“While I was there, there was no president,” she said. Because of the instability, Jenny went everywhere, including jogging, with a chaperone. She shot a clip of her cousin, Isaiah, clad in a button-down shirt and slacks, gamely escorting her during her 6 a.m. run.
Jenny also experienced the consequences of political instability when conflict flared between the Muslim north and Christian south. After a fight in the streets, a twenty-four-hour curfew was issued. No one was able to leave their homes without facing serious consequences. But these reminders of a nation in flux did not stop Jenny from recording raucous New Year celebrations, street soccer games, and dancing cousins.
On January 24, after an eventful time in Nigeria, Jenny flew to Cairo, where she attended classes at the American University in Cairo in the Zamalek region. While the majority of students at the university are Egyptian, all classes are taught in English. She went on adventures with other foreign exchange students who she introduces in a humorous video on T.I.A. It was her task to “document their lives” as they bonded together in the face of a completely new culture, following the guidebook Lonely Planet into adventures good and bad.
In her final video, Jenny reflects on what it meant to her to travel through Africa and England. She decided that though she may seem to be just a number, one person, she now knows she means something to people all over the world.
Currently Jenny is back in Dallas readjusting to quiet streets, stores that close before 4 a.m., and the barely-there American style of dress. She is also re-learning that business owners do not know your name and you have to drive to get anywhere.