Settling in America has Been a Journey

Nigerian mother with her daughter at graduation

I was born in Nigeria. I grew up with my mum. She raised me and my siblings by herself. I saw her work so hard to become who she is today. She could afford anything she wanted. For me, I thought everything would be handed to me. When I was 24, I moved to the United States through my dad. I was excited! But when I arrived there, I realised that one had to work for practically everything and over 90% of income went to paying bills.

I went to college in America. My mum, like many other Nigerian parents, insisted I studied nursing. I tried my best in the beginning, but eventually, I got kicked out of the programme because I couldn’t dedicate 100% of my time, which was what getting a nursing degree required. After that, I switched my major to Psychology and Substance Abuse Dependence. I mentioned none of these to my mum because I didn’t want her to feel disappointed.

On the day of my graduation, my mum and sister were in my Brooklyn apartment getting ready for the ceremony. My mum was looking through the graduation ceremony brochure and asked, ‘How come your name is not under the nursing department’? I stopped for a minute! Then my sister said, ‘Oh, you didn’t know she switched majors’? That was when I told her how I couldn’t cope with nursing and had to change my major. She wore a look of disappointment, but she didn’t say a word.

At the graduation ceremony, when I was called up on stage, I looked back and saw my mum standing up in the crowd, screaming my name. It made me breathe easier to see how happy she was.Still, there are times I tell her how I pay bills with almost all my salary, and she says, ‘Well, maybe if you had studied nursing…’ However, I know she’s proud of me because she says it all the time.

I’m also happy that I didn’t have to go through what some people go through to get documented in America. Recently, I interviewed another Nigerian for a job. She told me her name, but her work documents said otherwise. I pretended like I didn’t notice because I understood where she was coming from. She was qualified, so I gave her the job.

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