Building in Woodstock, UK

Facing Identity in the UK

Uju Enworom CC'18

"Spending a year abroad at Oxford certainly taught me a lot not just about my major, but about myself and my identity."

Spending a year abroad at Oxford certainly taught me a lot not just about my major, but about myself and my identity.

Generally, in the US, when people ask where I am from, the answer they are usually looking for is Nigeria, as, though I was born in the US, both of my parents were born in Nigeria. But when I went abroad, the question was the same but the answer became different. In the UK, I usually answered “Where are you from?” with “The US”.

Not only was it odd to figure out if I should say “the US”, “America”, or “the States”, but it was certainly an interesting phenomenon to go from being a Nigerian in America to an American in England.

There was also tension between the privilege that comes with being an American citizen while abroad, and the fact that going from Columbia to Oxford meant I was entering an environment where there were even fewer people who shared my racial/ethnic identify. Regarding American privilege, I was certainly very conscious of what stereotypes there may be about American arrogance and hyper-nationalism, and endeavored to combat them through my willingness to engage in honest conversations about America’s faults.

The lack of racial diversity in Oxford, though it posed no serious dangers for me while I was abroad, made me appreciate the comparatively extensive diversity at Columbia and in New York City. My positive experiences with the general push for increased diversity at Columbia, helped me appreciate various campaigns at Oxford that were pushing to increase the access minority identities and disadvantaged socio-economic groups have to Oxford and higher education in general.

My study abroad experience as it related to my Americanness also provided many playful opportunities for me to poke fun at American stereotypes, politics, and culture. I had several insightful conversations about America and its influence on the rest of the world. Overall, the experience gave me a unique opportunity to assess what it means to be American in a way I previously did not have to.