Senior Jesse Agyapong reminisces about childhood

Lina Al Taii, International Editor


A situation common to many international students at AHS, senior Jesse Agyapong has an experience of living outside of the U.S.. Agyapong spent nine of his childhood years in Ghana, moving there when he was two years old and returning to the U.S. at 11 years old.

“”I lived there for around nine years, and we lived in three different houses in three different towns during that time,” Agyapong said.

Though he lived in three different towns during this time, one city which stuck out was the large city of Kumasi.

“”I lived in a town really close to the city of Kumasi. It was one of the largest cities in Ghana,” Agyapong said, “It was a very open place and there were always people outside. People were really friendly with each other. There were a lot of street vendors. The area that I lived in had a lot of open space and really big houses but the closer you got to the city the smaller the houses got and less space there was. There’s also a lot of freedom there, even for little kids. Sometimes I would go out to play with friends from morning until before dark. Throughout the day I would only go home to eat.”

Kumasi is a big city in Ghana, similar to how Washington, D.C. is the capitol of the U.S. Throughout his time in Ghana, he remembers Kumasi the most because of how lively it was.

“”The towns I lived in were all close to Kumasi. We first lived in my grandma’s house but I don’t remember anything from there. The first place we moved to is where I lived the longest. It was a very social place and I was always at my neighbors’s house with other kids to play games, watch movies, etc. The second place before I moved back to the U.S. was pretty similar except less people lived around compared to the other,” Agyapong said.

A whole childhood spent growing up in a separate country brings many positive influences towards his outlook on culture and everyday life in the U.S., because he has the unique experience of growing up with the culture and everyday life in Ghana.

“”There’s a lot of superstition in Ghana compared to here,” Agyapong said, “People are also very religious and the superstition influences religious beliefs. There’s also emphasis on respect for older people and using your left hand is seen as bad. You also have to please a lot to older folks. Other than that it was pretty much the same as here.”

This difference in culture gives Agyapong a more open-minded outlook on other cultures, and helps him have a more well rounded context of cultural norms and beliefs in different societies.

Another drastic difference between living in Ghana and living in America is the education and school-life.

In Ghana, Agyapong recalls that the buildings for levels of education were separate, but the open playing area was open to all.

“”There were different buildings for different levels of education and in the middle of all of it was open ground for us to play and such. The students stayed in one classroom during the whole school day with the teachers of different subjects rotating. We only left the classroom for PE and lunch and the break times that we got. Also, the teachers were stricter and used corporal punishment on students who did something they considered disrespectful or wrong,” Agyapong said, “Even though there were drastic differences, as a young boy it was easier to adjust to the new environment and feel at home in the U.S.. One aspect of childhood which does not change no matter where one grows up is the ability to adjust easily and learn new things quickly.”

“”I got used to the system pretty quickly here, and the only hard part was that I had no friends. Even though I was used to most American norms because of the time I spent with my cousins, I did not know how to act around strangers,” Agyapong said.

Although the experience of living in Ghana was important for him to grow up with his family and culture, eventually he moved back to live with his mom and to gain the opportunities that come with having an American education.

“”My mom didn’t really live with us in Ghana. She gave birth to me in the U.S. while the rest of my family lived in Ghana. She sent me to live with my dad as a two year old because life was hard for her and raising me at the same time would’ve been tough,” Agyapong said, “I wasn’t really raised with my mother around, she only visited three times within the nine years and it was a month at a time. I came back to live with my mom because I eventually had to because I was a citizen and life in Ghana was getting tough as well. Also, education and ways of living is much better here. My second brother joined us in 2011, my dad in 2014, and my oldest brother in 2016.”

Though living in the U.S. has its perks, the aspect of cultural identity and family which comes from his time spent in Ghana is important to hold on to.

“”I’m not really as close to my extended family as a whole but I do miss my cousins and close family friends who I considered my family. I haven’t seen them since 2010 and I might possibly visit this upcoming summer or the next,” Agyapong said.

This international experience was life-changing, and Agyapong does hope to return to visit in the future.

“”The whole experience was a blast. The food, the people, and the scenery were all perfect and i will never forget it,” Agyapong said, “The experience in Ghana is something I think about when I am getting ahead of myself or being unappreciative. The experience was amazing. It has made me try to be as helpful and generous as I can be each day. It also makes me try my best to accept anyone and everyone.”