Facing the freezing: Nigerian student finds Iowa home a happy experience

by Steffi Lee, Editor-in-Chief

Simpson College sophomore Ishaya David remembers landing in Des Moines two years ago, thinking it was nothing like what he expected.

The American action movie aficionado imagined an urban environment would surround him in his new home.

“They show places like California or New York,” David said. “You see so many buildings and then when I came to Iowa and I was driving to Simpson, I saw so many cornfields.”

But the Nigerian native says having Simpson and Iowa as his home has been a happy experience. The 22-year-old isn’t a stranger to college – he’d already been attending pharmacy school in his motherland.

“When I was done with high school, I applied to a medical school and pharmacy school,” he said. “Back home in Nigeria, you don’t have to be pre-med or pre-pharmacy to get into schools like that.”

David found Simpson through his uncle who works with the United Methodist Church. After his uncle visited Iowa a few years back, the church in Iowa and the one in Nigeria wanted to have a partnership, where students could attend Methodist affiliated colleges in the U.S. David applied and secured a full-ride scholarship from Simpson.

“I was a little bit nervous because I was obviously leaving home, but I wasn’t nervous that I was going to college,” he said.

But even though he is overseas, away from everything he has ever known, he’s an outgoing student. He stays immersed in plenty of activities on campus. He serves as a community adviser in Kresge Residence Hall and spends his free time with different organizations.

David is studying biochemistry, in hopes of returning to medical school or pharmacy school, but this time in the U.S.

“I’m thinking of the University of Iowa, but I’m also thinking of getting out of Iowa because of the snow,” he says with a laugh.

David isn’t always fan of the snow and misses the warm weather in Nigeria. But it hasn’t stopped him from trying new things. When he was a freshman here, he joined the track team after some encouragement from his friends and one of the coaches.

“But now I’m no longer in track, because it’s kind of cold, we have to run outside, and I ain’t about that life,” he said.

Soaking in everything both Simpson and Iowa have to offer have made his experiences as an international student worthwhile. Although he hasn’t been home since he’s moved here, he stays in touch with his mother and his three brothers through Skype and Facebook.

“My brother is telling me he wants to go to college in the States and he wants to go to Simpson College since he sees my Facebook photos, and I’m like, ‘No, you want to go to Florida,’” he said, reflecting on the winter weather that’s already here.

But even as he jokes about how the winter is hard to deal with, he credits Iowa with making his life in the U.S. one without much negativity. Of course it’s hard not being able to hug your family after the occasional bad day at school, but the “Iowa Nice” mentality lifts up his spirits.

“I think Iowa’s just the right place for me to be,” he said. “When I was coming here, I was picturing so many gangs, so much violence. That’s what you see on TV. That’s the stereotypical American you see on TV. But coming here, the location is a very good one.”

What sticks out about Iowans to David?

“Everyone has a smile on their face,” he said.

It keeps him working hard toward his dreams.

“My goal at some point is to be able to set up an NGO and work with drug abuse, HIV and AIDs in Nigeria,” he said. “The dream is to start it in Nigeria and to be able to take it as big as I can.”