Our Jasper Nation

Kofi with his little brother and sister in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Kofi Owusu Acheampong.
Kofi with his little brother and sister in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Kofi Owusu Acheampong.

While he now resides in Horan Hall, Kofi Owusu Acheampong, a junior computer science major, grew up on the other side of the world in Obuasi, Ghana. Obuasi, nicknamed “The Gold City” is a mining town where the mining company, AngloGold Ashanti, is responsible for providing jobs to the region.

The city of Obuasi is seen as a place where making money is easy because of the opportunities that the company provides, but aside from work opportunities, the company also covers housing, electricity and hospital bills for its employees. Acheampong grew up in this mining city and attended the company school from a young age. When asked about similarities between his hometown and the big apple, Acheampong smiled, responding, “New York City is New York City.”

One of the first major differences Acheampong noticed after stepping foot in New York City was the transit system. In Obuasi, there are no subways. Instead, the main form of transportation consists of commercial vehicles, like taxis, that transport 10 to 20 people at the same time. While Acheampong enjoys the excitement of the city, he really appreciates certain aspects of his home that are different than New York. With year round temperatures hovering between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit it is easy to see why.

While Acheampong is slowly becoming accustomed to cold weather, he still hates winter. Upon arriving in the United States for the first time, he said, “I felt like I was in a refrigerator as soon as I got out of JFK [airport].”

When thinking back to his childhood in Ghana, some of Acheampong’s fondest memories are from the time he spent as a child at the playground behind his house. Living in a residential area, kids in the neighborhood would come out to play soccer and basketball at the playground.

“It was just a normal day but the normal days were the perfect days,” Acheampong said. “Every experience, everything I know, every connection I made happened on that playground…everything happens there.”

Kofi with his father and sister. Photo courtesy of Kofi Owusu Acheampong.
Kofi with his father and sister. Photo courtesy of Kofi Owusu Acheampong.

Before coming to the United States, Acheampong did not really know what to expect of New York City because the thought was just a fantasy for him. He gained his first exposure of American college life by attending Goldey-Beacom College in Delaware. After spending a year at the college, he transferred to Manhattan on what was practically a one-day decision.

Acheampong and his roommate were talking about how much they disliked the experience they were having at college, and despite attending a small school, they agreed that they did not really know anyone. Another thing they both agreed on was the decision to transfer.

After seeing the movie “Goodfellas,” based in the city, Acheampong decided he wanted to explore the city he had seen and heard about in movies. Acheampong applied to the school on the common application before even visiting the website, he simply edited his college application essay and hit submit. “I mailed copies of transcript, applied…and I got it,” Acheampong said.

For anyone visiting Ghana, Acheampong suggests seeing the Cape Coast Castle because of its rich Ghanaian history. Trying the food is also a must, considering there are seventeen different ethnic groups in Ghana that contribute to an incredible variety of food choices. “I haven’t even tried everything in Ghana,” he said. With such endless food options, Acheampong does point out that “you’ll definitely like some and hate some.”

The thing Acheampong misses the most when he is at school is definitely the Ghanaian cuisine. He misses the flavors of his home so much that it is not uncommon for him to spend money taking a cab into the city to eat at a Ghanaian restaurant before returning to school.

Acheampong’s favorite authentic Ghanaian meal is Fufu, which is made of cooked plantains and cooked cassava, which is similar to a yam. The dish is pounded to a fine texture, mixed up and eaten with soup and either meat or fish.

With aspirations to eventually work as a web developer, Acheampong is not sure which country he wants to settle down in. There are obvious challenges being an international student and not a citizen of the United States, but given the opportunity to do web designing here,

Acheampong said, “I would take it any day…the US creates great opportunities compared to Ghana.”

Acheampong expected to come the United States and see the culture that is present in movies, complete with parties and people constantly having fun. While it may be different than his initial expectations, he is happy to have the chance to experience a different culture and live in a place quite different than his hometown.