(Written by Michelle Reiter, Staff Writer for The Courier. Story originally published on May 9, 2017).
When you are a Nigerian king and have come to America for the first time to see your daughter graduate, a few things need saying.
One, it is cold here.
“It is my first time coming to America,” said His Royal Highness Igwe Donald Nwochi. He and his wife, his son-in-law and daughter, Princess Florence Nkechi Nnonah, gathered Saturday with at least 15 others to celebrate her graduation from the University of Findlay. “America is the best,” Nwochi said. “But for a few days it was raining and cold.”
Nigeria’s temperatures are much more moderate, in the 70s and 80s for much of the year.
Second, Nwochi is proud of his daughter.
“Very proud,” he said. His daughter, Florence, is intelligent, he said, and though Nigerian governments often send citizens abroad for master’s degree programs, King Nwochi decided to do it himself.
Princess Nkechi got her bachelor’s degree in accounting in Nigeria and came to the University of Findlay to get her master’s in business administration.
Third, the availability of electricity and heat is impressing in the U.S.
“You can just turn on a light,” he said. In Nigeria, heat and electricity are not universal.
King Nwochi said that the title “king” in Nigeria is somewhat like our mayor. They are elected, but in their case, once elected, the appointment is for life. He was elected in about 2007.
Kings, however, rule a region or village, not the whole nation, which has a president like the United States and a senate and house of representatives. King is a prominent local position that secured his daughter’s title princess.
And through she might have been the only titled princess graduating from the University of Findlay on Saturday, Princess Florence was, in some ways, just another master’s degree student.
“It’s been very stressful, very difficult,” she said. “But I’ve made so many nice friends. They’ve been very helpful.”
Many of her friends came to the Circle of Friends restaurant on Saturday to help her celebrate.
Princess Florence was gracious and warm to her well-wishers, and clear about what she has loved and found challenging about the United States.
The food is challenging, she said. It is different from traditional Nigerian food, which is rice-based with spices and meat. Princess Florence mentioned swallow, which is a starchy, easy-to-swallow accompaniment to soup, made with ingredients like cassava, plantain flour, rice meal, what meal or pounded yams.
American food is very different, but over the year she’s been here she has grown more accustomed to American food, though she did not rave about it.
Occasionally, she was able to get the right ingredients to cook Nigerian food.
The second adjustment for Princess Florence was the weather, which, as her father noted was much colder than Nigeria. She kept coats and heaters near her often to deal with it.
Shopping is also different here. In Nigeria, vendors line up along the streets, and people can shop every day. But here, people buy in bulk, she said, and get their shopping done at once.
Princess Florence said the best part of the experience has been both the friends she has made and also experiencing how people live out their Christianity here.
She is Christian, but was impressed by American Christians.
“People are really committed to serving God,” she said. “You know how some people are very pretentious about their religion. But here they are so committed. People have been a great help to me.”
Princess Florence hopes to get a job in America, work for a while and then return to Nigeria to be with her husband and the rest of her family.