As a graduate student at Bentley University, Dami is using her education to educate others. She works with The ARISE Africa Foundation to help break “the stigma around STD testing in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.” Here, she opens up about other stereotypes surrounding Nigeria.
GXC: What is the hardest part about living in a US?
Dami: For the average person, the hardest thing maybe not being able to see their family from time to time, but it’s different for me. I’ve been independent from a young age (boarding school at 7), and it’s less of a struggle for me. The hardest part for me, despite this independence, is trying to make ends meet on my own with limitations like: finances, ineligibility for internships in college (need a US citizens or permanent resident), ineligibility for jobs because employers do not want to take on the responsibility of sponsoring the H1B working visa etc. Basically, it’s harder seeing the opportunities and not being able to get most of them (despite one’s qualifications) due to being an international student.
GXC: What do you miss most about Nigeria?
Dami: The food! Nigerian foods are savory and spicy, similar to Indian food. Nonetheless, there have been an increase in the number of African stores in the US, offering Nigerians groceries to make our traditional food. That has been very helpful!
GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Nigeria?
Dami: When I came for college, one of the biggest misconceptions was that Nigerians, just like every other African, are uneducated or not intelligent- perhaps due to media portrayals or a strong and different accent. However, that changed very quickly because it became apparent that this was not the case, as Nigerians not only surpassed their classmates, but tend to be among the most diligent and top performing students (and Africans) in the States. Big ups to those that keep putting us on the map!
GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Nigeria?
Dami: It is not as dangerous as the media portrays the country to be. Yes, there are ethnic conflicts, Boko Haram kidnappings and acts of terrorism for example, but that is not the norm of the day and the latter only happens in a particular region (Northern part) of Nigeria.
GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about Nigeria?
Dami: That we live with wild animals or have them in our vicinity (safaris). Another stereotype is that most people live in rural areas although a majority of our cities are akin to American ones. We also tend to live in bigger houses and have more space.
GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in the US?
Dami: If you work hard, advocate for yourself and take opportunities as they come, you will be successful.
GXC: Lastly, how has this experience changed your perspective on the world?
Dami: In contrast to Nigerian culture, I’ve become a more open-minded thinker to cultures and people different from me. I’ve also learned to be more respectful of people’s time, space, and career choices. It’s more about what a person wants to do rather than what society expects of them.
Interestingly, I’ve also learned to be less materialistic/vain and more aware of it in others when I visit Nigeria. Since I never was the materialistic type growing up, I’ve become more averse to, and aware of the vanity of trying to impress people with one’s appearance. Nonetheless, I am a fashionista, but I don’t let it define me nor ascribe my worth to my external appearance. I invest more in books and I’m eager to expand my thinking on various subjects. An example, was when I went home last Christmas, and my family was surprised to see me handing them unconventional gifts – books/cooking spices instead of clothes or shoes.