Your grandma’s sweet potatoes are not like Nicole Tchegang’s sweet potatoes.
Tchegang, who came stateside from Cameroon in October 2011, said they are often served with a peanut sauce or with other vegetables. Turkey is also not as common as chicken, she said.
This year, however, she will be spending the holiday with Marty Owens, founder of the nonprofit Randy and Friends, and her family.
“She would like to experience an American Thanksgiving,” Owens said of Tchegang, who became a citizen in August.
Tchegang came to Hall County on the diversity visa lottery program, a State Department program granting some 50,000 “permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States,” according to the department.
She was able to stay with a family friend in South Hall, where she knew little English, had no transportation and was without work.
“I was blessed with that family because I am still living with them since I have been here,” Tchegang said.
She took English classes at University of North Georgia, while also doing work study and serving as a French tutor.
The other big challenge was learning to drive, as she has diminished use of her right leg. She learned to operate the pedals with her left leg and was able to get a driver’s license in 2015.
“For five years, I was depending on people to go out. I thank God because during that time, I have people who were willing to help me every time,” Tchegang said.
In August, she took the oath of citizenship in Atlanta with Owens by her side.
“I was happy, because the only thing that would (previously) make me different from an American citizen is that I was not able to vote,” she said.
Having Tchegang work as the Randy and Friends receptionist for the past year, Owens said she admires her immensely for her courage in coming here.”
“She’s very thorough, and her smiling face when people walk in makes them all feel welcome,” Owens said.
Tchegang keeps in contact with her family through Skype and other international communication applications, but she has not seen them since she left Cameroon. With an American passport, she said she hopes to return, as well as travel to Europe.
She is studying at Lanier Technical College toward an associate degree in health information management technology.