Chasing Progress and Finding Peace: Notes from My American Journey

What defines a great society? Is it the collective spirit of its people, the vision of its leaders, the strength of its economy, or the quality of its infrastructure? The answer, it seems, lies in the intricate interplay of these elements and more. As I reflect upon my first year in the United States, I find myself drawn by an array of features that have been woven together to create an environment I respect. Come along as I share a few things that have really won me over about this country.

 Designing with Inclusivity in Mind

As a left-handed individual, I’ve often encountered the challenge of navigating a right-handed world. However, upon entering American classrooms, I was greeted by an unexpected and heart-warming sight: a balance of left and right-handed desks. The subtle yet significant gesture spoke volumes about the inclusive mindset ingrained in American design. In addition, the restrooms always have one designed for people with limited mobility, all the buildings have ramp access, and nursing rooms.

Sample of left-handed desks

A Culture of Maintenance

Coming from a place where crumbling infrastructure is a norm, I was struck by the proactive approach to the maintenance of public facilities. Witnessing the scheduled resurfacing of roads is a welcome adjustment from having to drive through craters because FERMA and LGA authorities often falls short. The meticulous upkeep of equipment illustrated a commitment to long-term sustainability that I deeply admire. The other day in my friend’s office, their microwave was replaced even though it was still in perfect condition. In Nigeria, the presence of a microwave in a government building is a rarity, and even if present, funds allocated for its maintenance or change would be misappropriated.

The Tranquil Haven

Having grown up in the serene city of Enugu, I’ve always cherished tranquillity. Yet, the serenity I’ve found here surpasses even some of my fondest memories. The quietude allows me to immerse myself in thoughts and reflections, unburdened by the cacophony of Lagos life. I love my late evening strolls on campus or around town without worrying about the stench from Lagos gutters and open defecation. One of my favourite things to do is to watch the sunset by the Willamette River. Another is taking a road trip to enjoy the scenic sights of Oregon. To be fair though, when I first arrived in my city, I felt it was a step down from my Lagos life but what do we even call ‘Lagos life’? story for another day.

A Perpetual Pursuit of Progress

In the United States, the pursuit of progress is not a mere slogan; it’s a way of life. People constantly seek avenues for improvement, whether it’s enhancing classroom experiences or streamlining services. This fervent dedication to continuous growth stands as a testament to a society striving for excellence. While we may argue that Rome was not built in a day, they certainly didn’t rest on their oars waiting for a mystical being to build it for them.

Mutual Respect & Dignity in Labour

Here, respect is a universal currency, traded not based on titles or possessions, but on the simple fact of being human. Whether you’re a janitor or a CEO, a student, or a professor, each person is accorded the same dignity, emphasizing the inherent value of every individual’s contribution. There is no ‘do you know who I am?’ thrown at people-refreshing to see.

Life expectancy

It is a common sight to see four or five-generation families all alive and living in one city. This is something we don’t enjoy back home due to economic migration, low life expectancy, inadequate access to healthcare, late marriage, and a lot more. Due to the economic viability of small cities, children don’t always have to move away from their hometown thereby enabling them to create lasting relationships with other members of their family.

Laser Focus

People here often work with laser focus and are rarely distracted by their devices. If someone tells you they are doing a 4-hour work, they mean 4 hours of not checking their social media feed, scrolling endlessly. They don’t seem to be glued to their devices as we are in Nigeria, and it is quite impressive.

It’s not all roses and rainbow though, there are a few things that were terrifying to me. First is the sheer size of homeless people, and the other is how drug dependency is destroying life and cities. There are differing opinions as to why this is a growing crisis, I hope the government finds ways to tackle these issues.

This year has not been a smooth ride on a personal note, however, I have enjoyed ‘discovering’ America from the thoughtful inclusivity woven into the everyday design to the reverence for progress and the cultivation of tranquillity.

Don’t forget to read my about my other experiences here and here. Should I start a hashtag for grad school series?

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