Ghanian Student Commutes to Stay Close to Ghana

BY KATIE MOISSE

Wesley Adjei, a recent immigrant from Ghana, travels nearly an hour and a half to get to and from college in midtown Manhattan, even though the school offered him an apartment right near campus. It wasn’t that the school’s apartment wasn’t affordable or spacious enough—it was. But Adjei decided he would rather live in the Bronx’s Little Ghana because it feels like home.

“I didn’t move straight on campus because I had to first settle with the culture, because ours is different,” said Adjei, who moved to New York alone as an

Wesley Adjei, a recent immigrant from Ghana, travels nearly an hour and a half to get to and from college in midtown Manhattan.

Wesley Adjei, a recent immigrant from Ghana, travels nearly an hour and a half to get to and from college in midtown Manhattan.

18-year-old freshman last year. He is one of only a few international students at his college, and the only one from Africa. But in Highbridge, where he lives with family friends, he is surrounded by his people.

Highbridge and neighboring Morrisania, Morris Heights and Tremont, are home to more than 3,800 Ghanaians, according to the 2000 census, earning the area its name, Little Ghana.

Adjei admits his decision to live off-campus was driven by fear that he and his customs wouldn’t be accepted. He had lived with roommates before and done just fine: at a boarding school back home he comfortably shared quarters with other Africans. But the idea of living with Americans was as daunting as his macro-economics class.

“I didn’t know how I would fit in,” Adjei said. And so he decided to stay in Highbridge before moving on campus.

Danny Aguire of Urban Impact, a New York-based outreach program that offers free English lessons to West African immigrants, said concerns like Adjei’s are common among his students. He said at first the cultural differences seem huge, but then the similarities become more obvious.

Now in his sophomore year, Adjei said he’s almost ready to move to campus housing, hopefully by next semester. He said he’s made several good friends who he would enjoy living with, and says his early doubts seem silly now. Better late than never though. “There’s a lot of stuff on campus that I’m not able to participate in,” he said. “It makes me a little distant from the student population.”

After getting his bachelor’s degree, Adjei hopes to attend Columbia University to earn a master’s degree in business. Eventually, he’d like to take what he learns in America back home to Ghana. But for now, he is taking the D train home to the Bronx.

Photo – Katie Moisse

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