This piece is part of an ongoing series called With Love From. You can read the rest of the articles here. If you would like to send some love from your corner of the world this semester, please contact Precious ([email protected]), Helen ([email protected]), Lyon ([email protected]), Adaobi ([email protected]), or Arden ([email protected]).

The pandemic hit. #ENDSARS hit even harder. But the city of Port Harcourt still sends us its love through Daniel Ope (M’22) who is spending his semester there. Port Harcourt is the capital city of Rivers State, Nigeria. It is home to some of the most colorful cultural festivals, historical museums, and a robust oil industry. Daniel says it is also characterized by helpful and hospitable people. So, definitely a warm place to visit, not just because of its weather but also the interactions among people.

Returning home for the semester, Daniel was met with a mix of surprise and excitement. People at home were surprised at how much he had grown, and excited that he’d be spending the semester at home, especially his friends, as they could now catch up on lots of things. He also mentioned his surprise at noticing much more infrastructure in the city, and sarcastically, the ever-changing fuel prices. 

For Daniel,  being remote has had both downsides and upsides. On several occasions, he has struggled with internet connection and electricity, which have affected some of his classes. However, this has helped him cultivate more patience and understand that there are things outside his locus of control. In his own words, he has become ‘more chill and patient as a person.’ He has found thinking about worst-case scenarios to be very helpful in the sense that when preparing for such scenarios, he is better able to respond to these challenges. 

Also, being remote has left him working more often. He would normally go out to explore the city when on rotation, but he hasn’t been able to do much of that especially because he has found himself spending more time on Minerva work than he would when in the residence hall. Lightheartedly, he said, “this is like the first semester ever that by week six, I haven’t used any absences or extensions. By now I should have used four extensions or something.” So, on a positive note, he has become more productive. 

Exercise is another thing he has had slight trouble with. He used to exercise a lot in gyms in the rotation city but with the nearest gym now being a bit far from his home, this has changed this semester. He has had to switch to a more home-structured exercise routine that is less intense than what he had been doing before, and intentionally prioritize frequent exercising. 

Another thing he’s worked on is doing a lot less Netflixing and more of videos on political and academic topics, and while doing this, he tries to consider the alternate sides of a story, as he has found TedTalks by speakers of opposite stances on the same topic quite interesting. He is currently reading How to think like Einstein — a gift from someone who saw his interest in Physics — and is having a good read.

“This is like the first semester ever that by week six, I haven’t used any absences or extensions. By now I should have used four extensions or something.”

This remote semester has also helped him understand himself, his social network, and his friends better. He has had interesting and deep discussions with his family and with himself. He’s been able to bond more with his brother over comedic memes – and trust me, Nigerian memes can be extremely hilarious! Being remote has also allowed him to see who he misses most. In the residence hall, he didn’t really have to make a huge effort to interact with people because everyone’s together and he could catch up at any time, but being remote, he says it has been interesting seeing the people he makes the effort to text or seek opinions from on different topics, especially as he may not have frequently met with some of these people while he was in the residence hall. His advice to remote and non-remote students is that they should “try to message at least one person every day to know how they’re doing…You don’t know how much that could mean to that person that day. If someone comes to your mind, there may be a reason why they came to mind, so just send a text message. Even if it’s just a hi, that could go a long way”. 

One other challenge he has had with not having friends and the community around is not having people around to discuss class content with. However, overcoming this challenge sometimes means working through the process of understanding the concepts alone, and though this may be hard, it gives him a sense of satisfaction. So, being remote has had quite a mix of both good and bad.

“Try to message at least one person every day to know how they’re doing…you don’t know how much that could mean to that person that day. If someone comes to your mind, there may be a reason why they came to mind so just send a text message. Even if it’s just a hi, that could go a long way.”

Fast forward to the #ENDSARS movement that rocked Nigeria in October, Daniel says that it was a difficult time for him. He was unable to focus on academic work and had little motivation to do anything during the protests. This was partly due to the compound effect of receiving so much sad information and knowing a couple of people in parts of the country where the situation was severe. Not only were his focus and motivation affected but his mental health was also affected. He explained that all these problems heightened when he was not able to get timely responses from some Minerva staff he had reached out to, especially at the times when he needed their responses most. At some point, he wasn’t sure of whom to reach out to. Thus adding to his final words of advice, he says that “staff should also proactively reach out to students especially in these kinds of situations to make sure students are doing okay and not just let things escalate before taking action… at least for the sake of the students’ mental health.” 

If you would like to learn more about Port Harcourt or hear more about Daniel’s remote experience this semester, feel free to reach out to him at  [email protected] Also, if you would like to learn more about the #ENDSARS protests that happened in Nigeria a while ago, feel free to engage with this resource https://artxlagos.com/Tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy all the love Port Harcourt is sending!

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