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strangers Markosa was eating a pizza in an Italian restaurant. With every bite that went from the shining plate into his mouth, he was making plans for his tommorow. He was not only satisfying the hungry call of his tired stomach but also grasping as much as he possibly can about the European culture. For someone coming from Newzealand, Europe fall into the category of another world. He was continuously thinking about the next day’s events. Several obstacles were cleared earlier to become a professor, but the coming up struggle is going to be the hardest one – he had to take his first lecture. He imagined a class full of bright minds, sent by the administration to judge him. These judges with young faces will question his authority on the subject. May be they will demand an evidence to make his case that he was the suitable candidate for the place. Will he be able to given them enough proof, this was the question which was bothering him, since he got the confirmation letter. Suddenly, a piece of pizza choked his throat. He forgot about the cultural shock that was happening in the present as well as the possibility to get nailed down in the mother earth in near future. The only thing he wanted that time, was a breathe. With the help of a big glass of cola his stay on earth was extended for a while. The rain hadn’t stopped even for a minute that day, holding a big umbrella, with half filled stomach and confused mindset he came out of the restaurant and started walking towards his temporary residence for one week, a city hotel.

(Other corner of the street)

Akkora went to visit a sick child in the hospital, the only friend she was able to make in two years of her stay in that city. She met him at the bus stop with his parents, he was about to get crushed under a heavy loaded truck when her eyes caught the attention of the emergency situation. She jumped like an olympic athelete and saved the child, surprising herself as well as others. Since than, the family was forced to keep up a relationship with her out of gratitude. With the little one she had the best time of her life, that small being was able to rescue her from the difficulties of being in foreign country just by being a child. His being in the hospital made her completely isolated. After the visiting hours she was walking towards her college hostel thinking about the next morning and her classmates. She thought, those vultures will suck her blood out without even touching her. There looks, body language and everything else gave her a confirmation million times that she was not welcome, neither in the group nor in the country. She wanted to work alone on the project but the professor refused because it was supposed to be a team work, after all they have to learn everything happened, happening and that will happen just in those three years of graduation. It was possible only with a team work. Her steps were falling on the road with less and less power, as the Hostel building was coming closer, she didn’t even wanted to see her hostile room-mate. She saw someone coming from the other side of the road towards her.

Suddenly, she became bit cautious of the fact that it was night and she was alone. She even tried to hide her face from the umbrella and was ready to use it like a sword, if required. Stranger came closer and closer but before she could scream the polite voice said, “Hallo, I am new in this city. I have lost my way, do you know where the city hotel is located”. Her almost gone life came back in her body, she replied, “Yes, I know! its around the corner. I am walking towards that direction, you can follow me, if you like”. The stranger followed without even discussing.

On the way he said, “My name is Markosa”. And she said with some hesitation, “My name is Akkora” and the conversation string started without much effort. They spoke about their native lands, beauty of the new city and eventually problems of getting accustomed to the new culture. From the road corner they saw the hotel, to thank his new stranger friend, he invited her for a coffee at the kiosk, exactly where they were standing. Since, it was right on the street, in an area which was familiar, as well as the Kiosk man was a known man. Akkora felt safe and accepted the offer. They both sat at the bench with a warm coffee near the bus stop and continued with their conversation. While talking, Akkora couldn’t resist to share her not so good experience with his stranger friend. She was sure, he will anyway disappear in the city crowd in half an hour, just like everybody else do, there is nothing to fear. Her secret will stay secret forever, even when it was shared. She told him that having a black skin and a tag of being from Nigeria, has become a big hurdle in her integration process at the college. In her country she was considered a bright star, and she felt a pride in singing the national songs of her native land. Infact, she was so proud of being a Nigerian all her life until she came in this part of the world. Her experiences has given her only deep emotional wounds but no friends except a little child. Markosa heard her experiences with lot of interest, he almost forgot about his worries that time. But it did made him think that will this land accept him or will he be also in the same place as his new friend is, in near future. Carrying an empty glass of coffee in hands they greeted each other goodbye, without an exchange of any contact details. The fear from stranger always play an active role when the new relationship decisions have to be made.

Next morning had stored a surprise for both of them. They again met each other in the class. Markosa was asked to teach the same class in which Akkora was a student. As soon as he entered in the class, greetings and all kinds of looks were exchanged. Akkora couldn’t believe her eyes, she wanted to leave the class right at that moment but her legs didn’t supported her enough and she sat there like a statue. Days went by, Akkora became comfortable and noticed a big change of behaviour in her classmates. She started enjoying the college, evening parties, get-together and the new hostile land became her second home before the second semester completed. Akkora became quite friendly with her room-mate too. Her grades and health improved significantly. New professor Markosa received an award of being the most understanding and supportive Professor of the semester.

One evening, they again crossed their paths near the same kiosk. In memory of the last meeting they decided to drink a coffee on the same bench. Akkora couldn’t hold her thoughts back and asked Markosa what did he do to change the mentality of everyone, that too in just few days. He smiled, and answered the only thing he did was a private meeting with each student at different timings. During these meetings he realised that each one of them was facing, if not the same but similar problem like Akkora. Foreigner students felt they were not being accepted because of their physical appearance, different behaviour and also because they were natives of the poor, under-developed or developing countries. While the students from the developed countries thought that they are not being accepted because they are different, there working style, their way of speaking, behaviour was completely different and the native students also had similar problems. Each one of them had their personal issues. Professor advised each student that in order to become a part of the group they must stay as they are. Trying to become like everyone else could weaken the internal strength. One must concentrate on what they have come so far to do. Even if they feel the negative vibes during the group meetings, they must send a positive vibration through their thoughts. They must dress well, look clean, eat healthy, get involve in different activities in the college as well as outside, try to help others, and share their adventure stories. He said, “One must never be ashamed of their culture or country, one must share with others what is happening in their part of the world – good or bad, it’s a learning about the world we all are part and parcel of. One must try to make conversations interesting and try to add humour in conversation. Everyone likes a smiling face. If each one will not react according to others reaction, stay as they are, entertain the group, think about everyone and send positive vibes, they will be able to handle their issues in a better way”.

Akkora said, “Oh,So, that’s what happened, all the students applied your advise in their working groups. It has changed the complete scenario. You are a great professor”.

Markosa replied, “And you are a great student. This is what applied education is all about, isn’t it”.

Professor also advised Akkora, “It was in your head that you are black and from Nigeria, and you thought it is also in the mind of others when they are around you. But the fact in fact is, in their head it was more about their own story, issues and schemes to handle their own self and come out as a strong personality, in whatever way they possibly could think of. You all are different but same same!! You all are grad students, in a process of growing up. But grow up properly, see through, try to find reality, do not presume and unnecessary stress yourself”.

Ending this interesting conversation they both greeted each other goodnight. They went towards their home with a good feeling and thanking their destiny that they met each other!!!

Author: Rashmi R-R

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Note : This story is a result of an inspiration received after meeting a complete stranger – a student from Nigeria, for 10 minutes on a street. We both had briefly lost our ways, found each other on the road. While walking towards the tram station, we spoke briefly and I knew a lot about her. What a brave girl!! I do not remember her face properly now, since we were walking in the dark, and when the light came, we said “goodbye”. But I remember her eyes, they had a sparkle, a long story of struggle and a belief to get there – a place where she wanted to go. She left a lasting impression on my mind. Her name was Akkora (that’s what I remember). While writing, many people started coming in my mind whom I had met earlier, somewhere in my life. They all helped me to build up this story and then I imagined what a good professor would do in such a situation. A lot could be done!! We just have to do it!!

Dedication – This story is dedicated to all the teachers around the world, who are making a contribution not only in the education but also in the overall development / life of each student. Students are like wax they are easy to mold!!

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