My turning point came around the age of 7 when I tried identifying with other African-American kids in my Waterloo neighborhood. These kids were black, like me, but I did not relate to them and their struggles. It was lonely. I longed to know more of my history, be close to my people, and feel a sense of belonging, so I moved to Nigeria.
Moving as a 3rd grader from a lovely, small city in Iowa to Lagos, Nigeria was a difficult adjustment, to say the least. No home phone. No reliable transportation. Electricity problems galore. No generator. No running water. Pests inside and outside the home. You name it. The infrastructure was cold and unwelcoming. While I experienced culture shock, I was struck with how other Nigerians could live in such an unreliable environment, and yet be happy. I soon learned that happiness in Nigeria often comes from small joys: parties, food, the convenience of drivers, nannies, and/or house help, music, language, fashion, fabrics, sounds, laughter, and people. Despite the difficulties, I learned a lot about my culture, had fun, and picked up the Yoruba language.
Living in Nigeria, I met people from other tribes (Igbo, Hausa, Edo, etc.), other religions (ex. Muslim), and other countries (ex. Liberia) who were welcoming of me and my background. Their kindness moved me and I fell in love with Nigeria and its people. However, after several years there, I realized I felt more comfortable with the infrastructure in the States, and at the age of 12, I had the opportunity to return to the States to continue my education so I took the opportunity, never knowing it would be 15 years till I would visit again.
Since returning to the States, I resettled in Maryland to pursue higher education. I have had my share of successes, mistakes, and failures while in Maryland but overall, Maryland has been a great place to live. My move to Nigeria greatly influenced my decision to pursue my higher education in the state of Maryland. While I still miss Nigeria terribly, there are many ethnic conveniences in Maryland like restaurants, food stores and concerts that help ease my homesickness.
My move to Nigeria allowed me to love both myself and my people through the appreciation of my culture. By loving myself and my Nigerian people, I’m finally able to love and respect people from other cultures (including African-Americans). I’m a proud Nigerian-American woman from Ogun state living in the diaspora. My choice was to stay in America. Though I have friends in Nigeria, most of my social and support network live in the States. It wasn’t the easiest decision but I’m here, I’m happy, and can visit Nigeria. I’m living my best life so why not enjoy the best of both worlds?
Queen Ola is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Health Systems Management at the University of Baltimore. She’s of Nigerian heritage, lives in Wheaton, Maryland, and holds an MBA from Howard University. She loves God, singing, going for walks, fashion, basketball, interior decorating, and meeting new people. Her passion and purpose is making a positive difference through her contributions in the field of health care. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram at @therealqueenola.