ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- A teacher in Ghana has aspirations. She wants to see the world and all that it has to offer and thinks of what her future has in store for her. She yearns to see new places and experience the sights and smells that come with them – to meet new people and form new relationships.
In 2013 her travels brought her to the U.S. Three years later, she enlisted in the Air Force.
Senior Airman Bernice Asiedu, a 28th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, spent a large part of her life in Ghana. There, she had the opportunity of being a teacher, but she also wanted to study abroad.
“Growing up in Ghana was a lot of fun,” Asiedu said. “It’s very different in Ghana compared to here. I miss a lot about it, but I’m happy to be here, and I’m excited to see where life takes me.”
When Asiedu first moved to the U.S., she’d transferred to a country that was completely foreign, not only in language but also in culture. Adapting to life in the U.S. wasn’t always easy, but in several ways, her homeland gave her a boost.
“It is a culture of respect,” she said, describing Ghana, “You can see it in the way people talk to elders. We are trained to put our hands behind us when we are talking to them. We don’t back-talk them, even if we are right. That really helped me in the Air Force.”
The senior airman had to adjust to more than just cultural changes – food is different in Ghana as well. Asiedu said that many of the foods eaten in the U.S. are not as common there.
“We don’t have fast food restaurants really,” Asiedu acknowledged. “Most of our food is made in front of you, and you eat at home with your family. We do not go out to eat very often. At school we had vendors selling food, but they always cooked it in front of you. It was never prepared beforehand.”
When she came to the U.S., Asiedu had to start all over again, but she didn’t let that get her down.
Throughout all the turbulence of adjusting to her new life – all the ups and downs along the way – Asiedu stuck with it. She’d gained patience as a teacher for young children in Ghana. It was a virtue that remained helpful even after she left the profession.
Wanting to better herself, she joined the Air Force to gain life experience and higher education.
“I always love school; I really enjoy learning new things,” said the brown-haired Airman. “I wanted to study abroad, and the U.S. was somewhere I wanted to see. The Air Force seemed like a good way to start my new life here and get into a school in the U.S.”
Asiedu came to the states because of her love of traveling. She was able to come to the U.S. because of the Electronic Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery. Established in 1990, the DV program makes 55,000 immigrant visas available to countries with low U.S. immigration rates over a five year period. This is done to help encourage a more diverse group of immigrants to enter the U.S.
“I came here because of a lottery program that the government in Ghana provides its people,” Asiedu explained. “The way it works is you put your name in with other people’s names. They draw several names and you are able to get citizenship in the U.S.”
For roughly five years, Asiedu played the odds as she applied time and again through the DV program. In the year she got selected, nearly 14 million people applied. Chances of her name being drawn were slim to none. When she won her entry to the U.S.; however, it wasn’t just Asiedu that won the lottery.
“She has so much to bring to the table,” said Airman 1st Class Joseph Kerlavage, a 28th CPTS financial operations technician. “I like working with her because she gives us little bits of wisdom that help [me] and my coworkers out. When things get difficult, she reminds us why we are here, the part we play, and our value. She definitely helps us operate more effectively as a team.”
Asiedu’s upbringing taught her not to get upset by the little things in life. She tries to teach her coworkers the same lessons she learned, and she thinks it will help them become better people.
“People here seem to get upset about all the small things in life,” the easy going Ghanaian said. “Things seem to work [themselves] out, and you should focus on the good things in life. Everything is temporary, and you should never let them get you down. Sometimes the people I work with have this problem and I just tell them that it’s alright and it shouldn’t rule your life.”’
Diversity in the workplace is something that can bring into play new and better ideas. It can spur “outside the box” thinking, which can stimulate innovation and enrich organizations’ problem solving capabilities.
Though Asiedu’s time in the Air Force has not been long, it has been long enough to impact the people around her. She has made a new family in the Air Force and has given back much to them.
“Working with her is definitely a unique experience,” Kerlavage said. “She was a teacher in Ghana, which makes her very good at communicating with others. She is also a good leader because of her experience. She brings a lot to our work center. She is very positive and I think she is a big part of our team. She is able to bring everything she has learned over the years to the Air Force and help us win the fight.”