Nigerian Addie O-Keys learns new life
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Oct 15, 2012 | 775 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Addie O-keys
Addie O-Keys
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A teacher once told Addie O-Keys everyone is a walking story. These words have helped guide O-Keys through her years as a foreign student attending Lee University.

“Sophomore year, I asked myself who I really wanted to be,” O-Keys said. “I decided I needed to be able to separate myself from things holding me back and those that would make me better.”

A considerable amount of O-Keys time is spent in self-reflection. The Nigerian native said this allows her to understand herself outside of the opinion of others.

She urges those around her to never be afraid of who they are, regardless of where they are in life. O-Keys admitted it is something she has been working on in her life.

“In a country like this, it is so easy to get distracted by so many other people’s ideas of who you should be,” O-Keys said.

A 17-year-old traveling to a foreign country for a college education may be unthinkable to some. O-Keys said this is how it is done in Nigeria.

“I began school when I was two. My little sister began when she was 1 1/2,” O-Keys said. “Once you can hold a pen, they start letting you scribble on paper. You already know how to write one through five by the time you are 2.”

Children began attending “Reception” at the age of 2. Several years of nursery and primary classes followed. According to O-Keys, students begin attending high school at the age of 10. High school lasts for six years. The average Nigerian student graduates at around age 16 before attending college.

Parents in Nigeria pressure their children to choose one of three careers: medicine, accounting or engineering. O-Keys’ father strongly encouraged her to pursue medical studies to become a doctor.

“He would say, ‘You should go to med school. Ever since you were a baby, I said you would be a good doctor,’” O-Keys said of her father. “...Three of the four schools I applied to offered me computer information services.”

The degree works well with O-Keys as she enjoys knowing information other people may not. Her studies also allow her to aid others who have difficulties managing computers.

“I always knew I wanted to help people, and I thought I could only do it in medicine,” O-Keys said. “Then I figured out you could help others in any field.”

Computer Information Systems opens several doors for O-Keys’ post-graduation. Opportunities include being a programmer, network analyst, tech writer or help desk manager among other positions.

As a senior, O-Keys is preparing for graduation by applying to jobs now. She has applied to many entry level tech positions.

“Every night before I go to bed I pray, ‘God, just show me which area you want me to focus.’ I feel like I am at a stage in my life where I have so many questions,” O-Keys said. “They are not doubts. I am just anxious to hear what life has for me.”

Considerable interests also make it difficult for O-Keys to pinpoint which path she should take in life. Areas like fashion, music, traveling, foreign languages, directing and documentaries distract O-Keys on a regular basis. She said she enjoys learning about her interests, even if she has no plans to pursue them.

“I love when people have their own style and put pieces together. It is all about individuality,” O-Keys said. “They look so good and it makes me want to have my own personality.”

Individuality is big in O-Keys’ life. She said it is OK for her to admire someone, as long as she does not try to be them.

“Americans seem to have freedom to do anything they want. In Nigeria, parents try to make you who they think you should be to protect you,” O-Keys said.

O-Keys has learned a lot as a student in a foreign country. She has also experienced her fair share of culture shock. Americans’ penchant for smiling at strangers initially made her uneasy.

“In Nigeria, if someone smiles at you like that, then you need to run,” O-Keys said. “Everybody in Nigeria goes about their own business, like people in New York.”

A friend explained to O-Keys people in America, especially in the South, smile at strangers. She told O-Keys it was not something they had to do, but people were generally nicer in the South.

“I’ve met some really good people here in the states. I’ve had strangers become family. I came here with the mindset of not trusting anyone, but people here are so open,” O-Keys said.

It is anybody’s guess what O-Keys will accomplish in her life. O-Keys has many interests and more than her fair share of undisclosed dreams. Thankfully, she also has more than enough time.

“I’m excited about my future. I’ve already been through so much,” O-Keys said. “... When I get older, I will always remember those who helped me and who were nice to me when they did not have to be.”

She has already begun giving back.

“I used to say, when I get rich I will do this or that. I realize now I do not have to be rich to help others,” O-Keys said. “I give my time, my love, a listening ear.”