The euphoria of going to school in England was briefly suspended by the UK embassy. What do you mean by my “documents cannot be found?” This was obviously the devil’s handiwork. Or maybe God did not want me to attend Fresher’s week – the week where first years do no school work but make friends and party hard. I would never know whose handiwork it was, but as I later received my visa and boarded that airplane to England, I was too excited to care.
Like any Nigerian child going to a school abroad, I was given ‘The Talk’- The money talk. A subject my friends also acknowledged.This was where my parents referred to the Naira-Dollar rate and reminded me of how high the exchange rate was. For added effect, my father summoned a calculator, added up my school fees, accommodation, allowance, books and transportation cost in Naira and Pounds. “You are going to the UK oh!” they say, and should behave yourself, avoid bad friends and most especially boyfriends (how dare you play with your destiny!). In subtle, yet pronounced ways, my parents jog my memory on the fact that they are neither politicians nor Dangote, so I should work hard and harder than they in fact do.
These warnings only become real when I’m about to spend £300 on that pretty pair of Russell and Bromley shoes on sale. I immediately hear my mother’s voice silently whispering in my ears, “child, you are going astray”, sharp sharp I behave myself.
Like any other young Nigerian student, I was told of that Aunty in London who should be called in case of emergency. I have come to realise how instrumental they can be, especially in times when I miss home and can stop by just to ‘come and say hi’. The joy of returning with containers of jollof rice and vegetable soup, is honestly quite inexplicable.
After navigating the complexity of the British transport system, another challenge that baffled me was attempting to understand the British accent. At first, I found myself constantly saying ‘ehn?’ but days when my aje-butter genes kick in: ‘come again’, ‘sorry I didn’t get that’, ‘pardon’. I understand their visible frustration but unfortunately can’t help it. Considering how you have to spell your name or surname almost every time if it’s complicated. After a while, you get used to the ‘C for car, H for hotel, I for Internet, D for Dog and another I for Ice cream…’CHIDI’ method. Or you give yourself some cool nickname like ‘CJ’ – Chidiegwu Jibunoh.
Notwithstanding the struggles on the foreign front, there is always that relative who reminds you to buy ‘something’ for them. As much as I love my extended family, I sometimes wonder whether they think I’m in the UK to work or do some type of business. Some even have the cheek to give specifications of the brand, colour, size, and number of bags they desire. Abeg with all due respect Aunty, Jesus is the burden bearer.
Irrespective of the several times I had been in UK for summer or Christmas breaks, there’s still so much to learn, adapt to and talk about. Having to learn a new phone number, grasping the importance of post codes, Google maps and hot chocolate is the proverbial ‘beginning of wisdom’.
If you are schooling in UK or somewhere overseas, please share your experience about the culture shock and the little things you had to get used to.
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