Just Moved to Yankee!

And what comes to mind when you hear this phrase?

Me? I see a packed suitcase and an airplane landing at JFK. Honestly, I see Akeem with his animal skinned turban screaming from a balcony “Yes! Yes! F@#! you too!” (Classic!)

Whereas the term “yankee” may more famously be known to refer to northerners in the U.S. during the Civil War, it was also a derogatory name the Brits used to describe their rebellious colonies in the Americas. In fact, the fun kid’s song I learned in preschool, “Yankee Doodle” was the proposed first national anthem (Thank you Francis Scott Key!) Today, when people say Yankee, they are referring to The United States of America.

This is certainly what Kemi and Dumebi had in mind last year when they named their organization, Just Moved to Yankee (JMTY) which helps new African immigrants adjust and succeed in the U.S. Kemi, who was just 15, when she arrived to attend college in West Virginia, found herself feeling lost in the sea of information or perhaps a better description would be the desert of ignorance. When she was a student she observed that the issues affecting international students were not adequately addressed. Support systems were not set up to assist immigrants in succeeding beyond academic excellence. Dumebi, on the other hand, arrived in Dallas, TX for graduate school and experienced a range of emotions from excitement to disappointment to loneliness. While she was happy to be in the land of opportunity, she realized staying connected with people from her ancestral land was critical to her psychosocial well-being.

Kemi and Dumebi connected while doing graduate work in Texas, a hub for international students, and collectively worked to make sure that international students would not have to face the challenges they faced. Given the opportunities that already existed for other immigrants, the two women focused specifically on helping other African immigrants.

I feel like a lot of schools do not give international students the right information to thrive. There were so many mistakes that I would have avoided as an international student if only I had the right information.

-Kemi

Using social media as their primary platform, Kemi and Dumebi post helpful tips and cautions for immigrant students and those entering the job market. Their posts often follow international news that impact students like the current administration’s recent attempt to strip visas from international students. Their posts offer strategies to achieve success in careers, presents reviews of companies seeking to hire, shares idea for legal side gigs, and inspires entrepreneurship. For Kemi and Dumebi, success is not just about grades, but achieving your purposes for leaving home and your family. Because jobs to international students are not guaranteed, JMTY has partnered with an organization called F-1 doctors to help international students secure jobs in the medical field.

An example of JMTY post

As best they can, JMTY also answers questions and attend to concerns their instagram followers send them. In addition to their instagram posts, they hosted a semi-formal networking brunch where guests could ask burning questions of a Nigerian American CIO about working in corporate America. The duo definitely had more in store, but COVID. Currently, Kemi and Dumebi host Instagram Live Chats in the place of live networking events. When things return to normal, the team plans to continue cultivating community in person to assist African immigrant students

The ultimate goal of JMTY is to “. . .guide [international students] through the school selection process, course selection, search for scholarships, visa interview prep, and ultimately, connect them with members of our community who can help them when they eventually move to the U.S.” However, JMTY does not only focus on the scholastic success of African immigrants, but they also addresses their overall well-being. Being African in America also means that one may need to adjust to being double-stereotyped (as an African and as a Black person) and manage the effect of being marginalized on one’s self-esteem, self-efficacy, and success. For example, in one post, JMTY addresses the challenge of seeking a corporate job with an African name and an identifiable accent. Dumebi shares her story of learning to Anglicize her name to accommodate Americans struggle with non-English names. In another post, the ladies feature a follower’s personal message in which they are seeking advice on wearing braids to an interview. Not offering any direct advice or judgment, Kemi and Dumebi create a safe space for African immigrants to discuss their racial experiences, whether positive or negative, as well as be a community to one another Nonetheless, the ladies are grateful for the opportunities presented here in the U.S.

With all its injustice, we cannot deny that America is still a land of opportunities. America has allowed us to live at a much higher standard than a lot of us would have if we were in our various home countries. We have met some of the best people here, had some of the best experiences here, and as people who came here for school, we are better educated because of the U.S.

The ladies have pushed through the barriers and achieved their own personal success with Kemi working full time as a Senior IT Financial Analyst at a healthcare company and Dumebi working as a Strategy & Operations Associate at a financial services company. The duo were featured on the podcast “The Tales of an African Princess” hosted by Dr. Ozi, a Microbiologist who came to the United States from Nigeria to pursue her dreams. To learn more about Just Moved to Yankee or to support, you can follow them on Instagram, or LinkedIn. Click. Like. Follow. Share!

Published by Tayo Banjo

We don't give stories enough credit these days Stories make the world go round. Stories make a person. Stories can make a life. I just want to tell my story and share other's stories so that one person who feels like no one understand them can look up, exhale and say "I knew I wasn't alone."

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