Far from familiar: Travel, trouble and pizza

Nigerian student visits Chicago, wrecks bike


Soleymane Mamane Illia, a junior english major, sits outside “Cloud Gate” at Millennium Park over the weekend.

The Shield interviewed three international students to see how they were acclimating to life at a U.S. university. In this weekly series, The Shield revisited Souleymane Mamane Illia, a junior English major from Niger, Africa, to find out about his trip to Chicago and his recent experiences.

The Shield: How was your trip  to Chicago?

Illia: The trip was really awesome because I went with friends. We rented two cars and we were driving and playing games in the car. It was really fun. My favorite part was the two places I visited, The Skydeck and the big bean (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. These two places were my favorite. It’s because it’s two of the most famous places in Chicago and I consider them a must see.

The Shield: Did you have any “Chicago Pizza?”

Illia: When we first went to the hotel, the first thing they told us when we asked them about the food was the Chicago pizza, and it was really awesome. I like it…my favorite American food is pizza. It’s really good.

The Shield: Have you had any new experiences?

Illia: I got in a bike accident with my roommate. It was a Saturday and the weather was so fine we decided to rent bikes from the (Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center) and just go to the trail to have a ride.

We were having fun and riding so fast that I first lost control of the bike because I had my hands up and they were not on the handlebars as we were going down the trail. That’s why I lost control and I fell down. My roommate tried to avoid going over me and he hit the brakes and flipped and fell.

We went to the hospital and it’s really different because if that happened to me at home, maybe I would spend less than $5 for them to take care of me. I got some stitches on my (chin) and some scratches, but I spent a lot of money. Each of us spent $75 despite the insurance. If we didn’t have insurance, we would have spent $150.

The Shield: Are the hospitals different here?

Illia: It depends. We have public and private hospitals in my country. The difference is because for public hospitals you don’t have to pay money so it will be crowded every time and full of people. The kind of service in a public hospital means you have to wait a little bit because of the people, and I think that’s the only difference. But in case of an emergency, I think that it’s not a big difference. If it’s an emergency, as soon as you get there they will take care of you.

The government is struggling to give free healthcare to people…but they are trying. And now there is a law for children under five that everything is free in my country…It’s a lot of money and it’s so sad. I think maybe this is one of the characteristics of capitalism.

The Shield: Is there anything you would like to add?

Illia: I think it’s like the cultural differences; everything’s different. I was already aware of this before coming here because I know about different people, different cultures and different ways of perceiving life. It’s really fun because in my philosophy classes, they talk about societies and cultures, and now I’m kind of experienced in it.

There are different societies in the world, different backgrounds and beliefs, and I’m really experiencing it. And it’s really cool to see something you learn from others and others will learn from you. Many people don’t know about your culture or your country and what’s going on, so people are so curious to ask you about it, and I’m also proud to tell them about it.