Better Make Room
Mar 20, 2018 · 4 min read

Undocu•me•nted: From the Bronx to Berlin

By: Chima Egbuzie

“Being undocumented dictated my thoughts, my decisions, and my interactions with the people around me.”

I identify as a Third-Culture Kid, an individual who spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. I grew up with my grandparents in Nigeria and moved to the Bronx, New York City when I was fourteen to continue my education. My high school, the Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy (BLCPA), was a personal journey in terms of assimilating to the American culture and adjusting to a new educational system. My best memory was an accidental situation where I was placed in a film class, taught by Alix Duggins, instead of a French class. Back in Nigeria, I learned French, in addition to Igbo, my native tongue, and English, the official language. Ms. Duggins introduced the class and I fell in love with her explanation of storytelling. She explained that storytelling can be a tool to give voice to those who were silenced. This was a significant stage in my adolescent years, because being undocumented dictated my thoughts, my decisions, and my interactions with the people around me.

I struggled with my new black identity in the United States. People assumed that I was African-American because of my dark skin, which made me question my identity because I felt American, but legally I was only African. I seemed to exist in a different category of black culture. Transitioning into college, Clark University, I grappled with these thoughts because no matter how hard I studied or how good my grades were, it would not change my legal circumstance and would not lead to a brighter future. This compelled me to express my inner conflict through writing a short story, 9Digits, for which I won the first place. It centers on undocumented students who deal with common struggles of college life during a political era where their existence is threatened by government deportation. Not only did winning first place gave me a sense of relief, it also reassured me that people were listening to my narrative.

“I decided to major in Screen Studies at Clark University because I aspire to create intellectually stimulating content to educate individuals.”

During my sophomore year, I decided to major in Screen Studies at Clark University because I aspire to create intellectually stimulating content to educate individuals. I continued to hustle and to trust the process of my creativity and not focusing on areas, like my legal status, that I could not control. On April 17th, 2017, I received an email notification that I was no longer undocumented but was now a legal, permanent resident of the United States. My eyes were filled with tears because I could work, travel, drive, but most importantly, I would not feel different from my peers.

This past summer, I put my education into practice at the International Center of Worcester, a non-profit organization that promotes citizen diplomacy in Worcester. As the media consultant for the organization, I independently managed their social media for a project called the Global Citizens of Worcester. This project was created to share first-person narratives of Worcester residents to highlight the global identity of the city. I worked closely with my supervisors to implement an effective marketing agenda to publicize the project. In addition to this internship, I was a Summer Transition Coach for college-bound students at a non-profit organization called Let’s Get Ready. In the process of working with first-generation and low-income students, I connected them with resources and helped find solutions to problems they encountered.

“I have found my voice through film.”

As a current junior, I am studying abroad in the beautiful city of Berlin, Germany. I am learning about a new culture through my internship, Raised by the Beat, and also interacting with Germans through local events. I love my video content creation internship because I enjoy producing and publishing videos. I am learning how to contact German dancers, of many dance styles, on possible collaborations while also being the creator of the videos.

This summer, I hope to intern in either Los Angeles or New York City. I have found my voice through film and I hope to inspire current students who are still in the same legal situation. Trust the process and never give up.

Better Make Room

Written by

Michelle Obama’s college access campaign that celebrates higher education and elevates the voices of Gen-Z students. @BetterMakeRoom → www.bettermakeroom.org