Reporter, Kate Aksyonov
Have you always lived in Nebraska?
“No! I actually moved here from Iowa.”
“That’s so crazy! What was it like there?”
This conversation is the inevitable for the new kid. Some might almost consider it a rite of passage. Everyone wants to know who’s who from where, and in Nebraska, living in California or Washington is a lot more interesting to us farm-folk. And then there’s Josh Oarhe: former resident of Trinidad, and now a Nebraskan whose roots are a far cry from the average state-hopping new kid.
Oarhe’s process of migrating to Elkhorn couldn’t be more unique. Born in Nigeria, but raised in Trinidad, Oarhe, freshman, has an insight to the world outside of the United States that is accessible to few native-borns.
His parents began the long process of moving to the United States and searching for a better life when Oarhe was one. They both aspired to be doctors, so they moved to the United States in search of their dream job opportunity. However, that process wasn’t exactly as simple as buying a ticket for a direct flight.
“The process of becoming a citizen has not been as hard on me, in comparison with my parents,” Oarhe said. “They had to apply in embassies and deal with a lot of stress due to the pressure to pass all of their medical exams and take care of 4-year-old me and my younger brother. But through their dedication, they passed their licensing exams and we were able to move to America and then apply for the naturalization process.”
After the Oarhes had lived in Trinidad for five years, they crossed the ocean into the airport gates of New York. Oarhe never really had that ‘Statue of Liberty’ moment; he remarks that he didn’t even know there were states outside of New York and New Jersey, let alone the Statue of Liberty!
“I was five then- and I didn’t know what in the world was going on- but I think I was excited and a little scared because it was a completely different place compared to Trinidad,” Oarhe said.
But, reaching the shores came at a price. Due to the intricacies of the US naturalization process, Oarhe was cut off from everyone back in Nigeria except for immediate family and a couple of cousins that visit from time to time.
“Since you don’t really have them around that much, you don’t really know how life is to have your extended family around you,” Oarhe explained. “But sometimes around the holidays like Christmas when everyone’s saying ‘we’re going to Florida to spend time with our family,’ I can’t really do that because it’s a really complicated process to go back.”
Oarhe argues that leaving the people you have created a connection with is the biggest struggle with moving so much as he has.
“You know, when you lose a friend, you have to know that you have to pick yourself up and try to make some new friends because you don’t want to be lonely in a place that you’re not really comfortable with,” Oarhe explained.
But whether his surroundings are familiar or alien, Oarhe knows that as long as he is with his family, he is home.
Still, his parents try to maintain their culture in all aspects of Oarhe’s life. From playing soccer, to following his Christian beliefs, to stomaching traditional meals (both good and bad), he is happy to retain this cultural presence.
“I’m thankful because I have never been back to Nigeria, so it gives me a feeling about how life is back there,” Oarhe says.
His move from Africa not only has an impact on his familial relationships, but also on his education. Moving from out of state may require some major curriculum upheaval for most foreign students, and Oarhe was no different. Because of the schooling system in Trinidad, he started his education two years before everyone else in the US. Upon his arrival, his first school held Oarhe back with his age-group, but Oarhe actually then skipped Kindergarten and started first grade a year younger than his peers.
“I’m glad that I moved to first grade and that I’m a year younger because, you know, think of me now- I’m bigger than most kids here; if I stayed in 8th grade, I would be a giant,” Oarhe says. “You get this kind of special trait of yours that people admire you for because you’re one year younger, but you can still keep up with everybody else.”
Matthew Perks, freshman, was assigned to show Oarhe around his middle school when he first arrived in 8th grade from Michigan.
“I think of Josh just like any other of my friends,” Perks says. “I don’t notice his age difference at all and really enjoy being around him. He is really nice and smart. I have loved being one of Josh’s friends.”
Oarhe knows that friendship is an integral part of adapting to changes. Moving from place to place has taught him a lesson about life.
“I’ve been one [new student] multiple times- multiple, multiple times- but moving has shown me that life can do some weird stuff to you,” Oarhe says. “You could be in one place, then you can be somewhere else; you just have to go with it.”
From Nigeria to New York, from waiting for citizenship to skipping a grade, Oarhe has a history in breaking boundaries. From all of this, he’s learned one thing:
“It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are personality-wise, physically, or mentally, but if you try your best you can honestly do the stuff that you want,” Oarhe said. “Whatever is limiting you doesn’t really matter because, if you try it, you can do whatever you want to.”