The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
The subject of this week’s Abroad Life moved to the UK eight years ago. She talks about choosing the wrong school, racism, leaving religion, and going the extra mile to make sure her sister wasn’t stranded.
How long have you been in the UK?
I’ve been in the UK for almost eight years. I was 17 when I got here. I was lucky to go to a secondary school in Nigeria where IGCSE was a compulsory final year exam, so I was already automatically qualified to apply for college in the UK. When it was time to choose, I had two options: the school where my best friend was, or a school in a different city. I chose the latter. Big mistake.
How was it a mistake?
Settling in was difficult. First of all, it was a very white school. I met two other Nigerian girls there and thought we would be friends, but then I soon realised that even they were different. They’d lived in Lagos all their lives, I’d lived in Port Harcourt. I thought since we were all Nigerians, we’d be able to relate to the same things and laugh at the same jokes. I was wrong. It was hard settling in.
Why did you choose to go to a different school from your best friend?
I wanted my own experiences. I didn’t want to rely on another person to cultivate the types of experiences I had.
Did that turn out well?
I don’t think it turned out badly, although If I could turn back the hands of time and make that decision again, I probably would have chosen to go where my best friend was. It would have saved me a lot of stress. One time, I even had to fight my roommate for being an absolute bitch.
I’d love to hear that story.
My sister came here after me, and we were recently talking about how there was a lot of underlying racism even we didn’t notice. It was bad. But as for my roommate, the racism wasn’t underlying. She was Asian and very openly racist. She would constantly talk about how, where she comes from, people that looked like me were constantly bullied and beaten. She told me about how she used to bully one mixed-race guy in her former school. And then one day, I was in the room watching a movie on my laptop when she came in with her other friends, turned on the TV and made it very loud. When I asked her to reduce the volume, she started saying all her usual trash and then took my laptop and flung it on the wall. I beat her ehn.
Damn. Did you get in trouble?
No, I didn’t. Whenever my mother was in the UK and visiting my school, she used to bring gifts for the hostel workers. You know how Nigerian mothers are. So they already liked me and just overlooked it. When the issue died down, the girl requested a change of rooms. She said she was scared that I would beat her again.
A queen. Did anything major happen in college?
It was in college I realised that religion is a scam. We were doing a course on antibiotic resistance in evolution and I thought to myself, “If microorganisms can evolve, why can’t we?” The concept of creation started becoming fuzzy to me. I talked to my friends about it and they all thought I was crazy. After college, I went to university and joined the Christian union. I was trying to give it one last shot.
One day a lady came to give a testimony. She said someone she knew was diagnosed with cancer, and that after they prayed and went for a new test, the doctor said she didn’t have cancer. She had been given the wrong person’s test result. It was just a mix-up. I thought to myself, “How is that a testimony?”
My parents are pastors. My mum has been disabled since before I was born and she still believes that one day, she’ll miraculously get healed. If she did, then that would be a miracle. I couldn’t see any proof that there was a God, or heaven, or hell so I just left it all behind me.
How did leaving religion feel?
I like to say that I’m still a very spiritual person. I meditate a lot now and wait for my soul to speak to me. People have said that I left religion because I wanted to do things Christianity won’t let me do. That’s not true. Many Christians that I know in the UK are only Christians on Christmas and Easter. Even Nigerians. Every other day, they’re like every other person.
My morality became mine. I now did things because I thought they were right and not because I thought they would take me to heaven.
How did that affect the decisions you made?
When my younger sister came to the UK, I was still in university. She got an apartment which my mum sent me money to pay for, but I was meant to pay in monthly instalments. My mum sent all the money at once. Somehow, both of us ate so deep into the money, I didn’t see a feasible way to pay for the next month’s rent if something drastic didn’t happen. I had a job that paid about £300 every two weeks and that wasn’t going to cut it. So I said, “Fuck it” and reached out to some girl that was into sex work on a Facebook group that I was in. She seemed to be making a lot of money. She introduced me to stripping.
I was considering it, so I asked my boyfriend at the time if he’d been to a strip club before. I wanted to know the rules regarding touching, harassment and sex. He said most strip clubs have a strict no-touching policy, so strippers are generally safe.
When I went for my audition, I was surprised to meet girls that were just as skinny as I was. A few of them were drop-dead gorgeous and had amazing bodies, but that was it. The majority of us were just normal girls. That helped with my confidence. On my first night, I made £40. I was so excited.
In about four months, I was making at least £500 a week easily and doing about three nights a week.
My boyfriend at the time broke up with me when I started though. He was scared I’d meet someone else.
There was a guy that was popular around the strip clubs in that area. Everyone knew he was rich. One day, he came with his friend to the club and his friend picked my stripping partner for a private dance, so he had to pick me. We had a nice time and we developed a relationship where, if I was broke, I could call him and he would send me money. But that was all.
When did you stop?
I stopped in 2019. The industry is in decline and people would rather watch porn. I figured I’d quit while I was ahead. I also moved away from that city and met my boyfriend in 2019, so everything just played out perfectly.
Does your family know that you’re an atheist?
My mum knows. When I went home a few years ago, she noticed I was missing church services, so she sat me down and asked what was going on. I told her. We’re still talking about it and trying to see how we can maintain a relationship.
What do you miss about Nigeria?
I miss Nigerian food and I miss church music.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.
If you’re a Nigerian living abroad and you want to share your stories, please click here.