Move Back To Nigeria: Willing to Quit Her Prestigious Masters Degree Program, Toyin Olaleye Shares her Move Back Story

Move Back to Nigeria is a new series on BellaNaija. The aim is to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decision.

A lot of Nigerians in the diaspora have questions about making a change at home in Nigeria. Many suggest really good ideas on how to make things better; others would like to contribute to making a difference back home but are just not sure where to begin.

This week, the spotlight is on Toyin Olaleye, a writer and communications practitioner who moved back to Nigeria after growing up in the United States. She shares her interesting account of moving back to Nigeria and after a challenging stint, moving back to the US. Read on for her interesting and humorous account. We hope you enjoy the feature.

Let’s start with introductions: Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Toyin Olaleye and my background is in communications. I am an individual who is very passionate about Nigeria which may be considered interesting especially because I grew up in the US. I also have a passion for helping people, writing and speaking.

Can you tell us about your educational background?
I left Nigeria in the late 90s as my whole family moved to the US, where we have since resided. I initially wanted to major in Biochemistry, to become an Anaesthesiologist. However, after a year at school I realised I did not particularly enjoy it and so I decided to do something more fulfilling, which for me was Communications, Journalism, TV and Writing. I went on to study Corporate Communications at the University of Baltimore and graduated in 2010. I am currently doing a Masters in Writing at John Hopkins University.

What is it about communications that interests you?
I have always had a natural flair for communications. While in High school in the US, I did a lot of talk shows, and was part of a Nigerian group involved in planning and hosting events. It was basically a passion for communications that made me switch career plans.

Alright. So after graduation, what came next? A high-flying media career?
Interestingly, I actually upped and left for Nigeria a few days after my graduation and this was because I graduated a semester earlier than scheduled and decided to use the opportunity to visit Nigeria, seeing as I had never been back home since my family moved to the US.

Why did you feel you needed to be in Nigeria at that point, particularly without any work experience?
It was primarily curiosity. I wanted to see what Nigeria looked like since I couldn’t remember what I had left behind. I had also talked to Nigerians in the US who constantly visited Nigeria, and they often regaled me with fabulous tales of the country, mentioning the youth service corps as well, so I thought I would go for the NYSC as a way of transitioning and moving back to Nigeria.

How did you find the Youth Service corps?
I was really enthusiastic about taking part in the Youth Service scheme as a result of all the stories I had previously heard, however I must say that it was a really stressful experience, the most stressful experience of my life to be precise. It was so stressful that I cried on the first day and even thought of quitting the program midway but was encouraged to soldier on by my uncle whom I was staying with. He encouraged me to continue, as it was the only way I would get a job if I ever planned to move back to Nigeria. There many factors that contributed to my experience: For instance, the lack of hygiene was appalling, as I was in Abuja camp and it turned out to be one of the most unhygienic (and disgusting) places I had ever stayed. The almost inhumane treatment of the corpers was also astonishing and to worsen matters, I was really picked on, particularly as I didn’t grow up in Nigeria.

On the flipside, I enjoyed certain aspects of the service year, as during that period I was shuttling between Abuja and Lagos working on a radio show called Digital Passion which aired on Cool FM and Inspiration FM. I also hosted a program called Melody Shelters which aired on Silverbird last year, and got to visit many states while doing it.

NYSC will certainly always be a controversial issue. What happened afterwards?
Unfortunately, after my NYSC stint, I couldn’t get a job, and even though I thought my ‘connections’ would render my job hunt successful, there were just no jobs available. I then realised I had not properly researched and planned my move to Nigeria and it is just one of those countries that needed adequate and thorough planning. Apart from the unsuccessful job hunt, I found living in Nigeria quite challenging and so I did what some may consider the ‘easy route’, I decided to go back to the US to get a Masters degree and hopefully come back better prepared.

If you had to mention a few specific challenges you faced, what would they be?
The main challenge for me was cultural as I found it difficult to satisfactorily communicate with some of the people I met and this was most likely due to the fact that we had very different backgrounds and experiences. There were also a lot of people who looked down on me because I had studied abroad which was really hard for me to deal with because I am naturally a sociable person, and had come back to Nigeria with the best intentions. My being unemployed and idle was also quite frustrating. I also had to get used to being dependent as I did not have a car and my uncle did not let me drive any of the cars because the road culture was totally different from what I was used to and he was sure I wouldn’t be able to handle all the ‘gra gra’.

Having described your challenging experiences so succinctly, you go on to mention a desire to return, what drives this?
Ultimately, Nigeria is my country and there are a lot of things I know I can do when I go back. Although it can be a difficult place, one just has to be very savvy to succeed and survive in Nigeria. Right now, I am in negotiations with an organization which could potentially lead to my moving to Nigeria in the next few weeks. I would definitely put my masters on hold if that happens, as there is nothing like good work experience and also because this is in line with my life choices, which is to be of service to humanity.

It definitely speaks volumes that you would be ready to put your masters on hold for a potential position. Apart from this particular plan, do you have any other project you would be looking to implement in Nigeria?
Yes I do. A group of us are currently looking into issues related to women and children in Nigeria. We are thinking of setting up schools and shelters to help people and although we still have a long way to go, it’s a project we are passionately invested in. Also as a writer and analyst, I would love to come back and set up a writing firm in Nigeria, as I think that a lot of the business writing needs to be more professional. I have observed a lot of substandard work on this nature which means the companies are either not employing qualified professionals, or they simply don’t care how they communicate with their clients and members of the general public, through writing.

Fascinating Stuff! You seem to enjoy writing, how did you pick it up?
I have always loved writing and this started right from when I was much younger, I remember spending more hours on writing assignments than other subjects, and winning some awards in writing essays in middle school. In my communications major, I registered for some 400 level courses while I was a freshman, and though it’s not allowed, I actually performed excellently in those courses to the surprise of everyone. I went on to write a book in 2012, about being an African in America, and right now I am in the editing process of the book, while still blogging frequently. I have also written for an online newspaper called African Examiner and I have occasionally contributed to BellaNaija. Right now whilst studying for my MA, I am a writer at Hopkins, so you see, writing is something I am quite passionate about.

Who do you particularly aspire to be like in the communications and writing sector?
It would have to be Nigerian OAP Toolz, as I have seen her grow from strength to strength in the media and I admire her professionalism. I should also mention Nelson Mandela and even though he is not a writer, I admire the impact he has made on a global scale. I have learnt from these people and would ultimately just want to be a successful version of myself.

That’s admirable. On a final note, as someone who has made the move back to Nigeria albeit somewhat unsuccessfully, what can you say to people who might be considering moving back to Nigeria?
I believe that to move to Nigeria you have to actually really want to be there, as you are going to face certain issues which might set you off balance. Also you should be prepared to adjust to the kinds of people you meet and also learn to be really patient in your dealings. This is because you are bound to come across uncomfortable situations, to put it mildly. You basically have to develop a thick skin because initially some people would want to look down on you.

I would also advise against going to Nigeria with the sole aim of making money, instead think of the bigger picture and be ready to be part of the change the country needs. Ultimately, I must add that Nigeria is an interesting country with great people and so while it may be a difficult to adjust, it’s certainly exciting. Plus I love the Sharwarmas in WUSE 2 ha!

Thanks for speaking with us, best wishes moving forward.

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53 Comments on Move Back To Nigeria: Willing to Quit Her Prestigious Masters Degree Program, Toyin Olaleye Shares her Move Back Story
  • Blossom August 9, 2013 at 10:09 am


  • daare August 9, 2013 at 10:23 am

    The Headline is very misleading especially as u read the content ………… Also John Hopkin might be prestigious in Medicine that doesnt mean it is prestigious in MA writing . My sister went to John Hopkin MBA program and it was rubbish . She struggled to get a job in the states after her MBA blc it was not a top MBA program for recruiters. This whole headline is very misleading

    • MissT August 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      You do have a point ……..John Hopkins is number 1 for medical but for MFA & writing it is ranked way below at number 17 . Not very highly ranked
      Back to the topic, i like the way she shared her experience in Nigeria and honestly . Nigeria is hard PERIOD and very limited opportunities . Moving back is for the BRAVE heart because it is better to drink garri in my little room in london than to drink garri in Lagos. Best of luck to all who made the transition

    • Kristiana August 12, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      I totally agree with you…..I was gonna do my MBA at Hopkins but I changed my mind because their MBA program is so not on par. University of Maryland, College Park has a better MBA program than Hopkins but in reality Hopkins is a better known. Not all prestigious schools have the best degrees and programs, so people should not be carried away by that.

    • mama September 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      nigerians are amazing…daare how in the world is the headlines misleading? evry school is known for excelence in a certain area so cos your sister is struglling with getting a job will others do the same thing? if your sister reasons like you then you are dullards in your family……i give you an assignment to go back and read the headlines for a week again maybe by then your brain will comprehend it…..the article is about her experience and did not even attempt to glorify John hopkins university…so what the heck are u yaking about….

  • Temitope August 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Its not misleading. She made a move back and left due to stated challenges. All the best Girl

  • Fellow MA in Creative Writing Student August 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Toyin, Life in Nigeria can be tough, but you’re very determined and I know you’ll be fine. Please, don’t quit your writing program midway. Complete it before moving back home. I wish you all the best.

    @ daare The John Hopkins Writing Program is prestigious and well-known. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of its graduates.

    • Daare August 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Chimamanda is a product of University of Nigeria, Drexel Uni , Eastern Connecticut state , John Hopkins and she later did another master in Yale …….. She is a product of all schools so calling John Hopkins as the yardstick is irrelevant.

  • prim August 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Each school is Known for a field of learning- Hopkins for public heaLth and medicine. Not Writing. Always do your research well.

  • Product of public Education August 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Relationship status??? Single, married, divorced, complicated…..or in transition, baby mama etc. pls BN some of us need to know so “they” won’t comeback and start asking us whr the potential hubby dey o! Same for dudes trying to move back too.

  • Idak August 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    How can you become an anesthesiologist after majoring in Biochem? Don’t you have to read medicine first?
    Secondly, I got the impression from the article that she finished her degree a semester early,so why the heading that she quit school?
    Thirdly, this passion thing is not enough reason relocate. Plenty of research is needed to compliment the passion because for every success story there are half a dozen passion fuelled relocations that did not work out.

    • Uche August 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      She graduated a year early from undergrad yes but the article states that she is “willing” to quit her masters to move back something she said in the article.

      In the US, you have to havea first degree first (can be art or in her case biochem) before going to medical school. So you can def become an anesthesiologist after majoring in biochem as long as med school comes in between!

      Don’t be in such a haste all the time. Read through properly next time 🙂

      • Idak August 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm

        You sound like you have been waiting to attack. What is the “always in a haste”about? I obviously did not missed the willing to quit part. Big error on my part. Would you accept an apology for that monumental error?
        The biochem part is an error on the part of the writer. Lazily leaving out salient part of reading medicine after doing a B.Sc in BioChem can’t be my fault and probably i am not aware of the American education system.

      • Idak August 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm

        You sound like you have been waiting to attack. What is the “always in a haste”about? I obviously missed the willing to quit part. Big error on my part. Would you accept an apology for that monumental error?
        The biochem part is an error on the part of the writer. Lazily leaving out salient part of reading medicine after doing a B.Sc in BioChem can’t be my fault and probably i am not aware of the American education system.

      • Kristiana August 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm

        You’re right! In the US one can have a first degree in Biology, Biochemistry etc. before proceeding to Medical school. I believe in Nigeria it’s different, Medicine is a “one-shot” program.

    • Zara August 9, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      Firstly, are you serious with that question??? Anyone with a common sense knows that with a BS in Biochemistry she will have to attend medical school before becoming an Anesthesiologist, the writer didn’t have to include it. She was a pre-med! Duh?
      Secondly, you’re definitely the only one that got that impression because the headline states she quit her master’s program. Her bachelor’s program is what she finished a semester early. Are you sure you read and really understood the article? Smh!
      Thirdly, she admitted she didn’t do enough research the first time which means she will do a lot this second time around.
      I agree with Uche, read and understand an article before making unnecessary remarks.

      • Idak August 10, 2013 at 4:50 am

        Was this really necessary even after my apologies for getting it up? Or you just wanted to put a foot in too with a few choice insults of yours?

      • Irokoroots August 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        @Zara what a rude and unnecessary way to make a point.

    • Osa August 10, 2013 at 2:23 am

      You have to calm down.

  • Jaydee August 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    For all the “John Hopkins is ONLY healthcare” believers. Here you go:

    • Uche August 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Lol please what does this prove? People are arguing the “prestigious” label you know…

  • lol August 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    @idak…yes it”s possible cos here in The US,u need to have completed a program in a science course before going into medicine, so BcH is one of the courses.

  • lol August 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    and @uche,take am easy,nobody knows everything…There are somethings u don’t know too.

  • Motunrayo A. August 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Toyin Olaleye only mentions Johns Hopkins twice in the whole article and y’all are over it like white on rice. You have completely ignored the crux of the matter, which is that she is willing to stop her program midway (even if na jakande) and try to invest her time and talents in Nigeria. She did not give up on Naija despite haven lived in deplorable conditions during her time in the NYSC, rather she came back to the US to arm herself with a better degree and more job experience. She is smart and she is going places. If you have nothing better to say please do not make comments. You definitely are more grammatically correct and you went to school, biko, fix your country now! Cyber-bullies, encourage her. Ride on my sister!

  • Concerned9ja August 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    does it matter what school you attend??…all it does is give you the foundation…the rest is left to you…using one’s initiative…your school wouldn’t help you at interviews…start a business..etc

  • Soraya August 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    My dear, please stay back in the US- Nigeria is shit- I am there at the moment and can tell you that I don’t plan on coming back to ever live there- in fact, my bf in Europe has proposed, so I will go back, marry him and NOT, I repeat, NOT think of moving back to Nigeria. Security is a problem. Electricity is a problem. Water is a problem. Transport is a problem. Job is a problem. Relatives too are part of your problems. The mentality of Nigerians is a problem. In short, NIGERIA IS A PROBLEM!!!!

    • deborah August 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Like whatever 1st world country you are in became developed overnight. Nigeria has serious issues but i take it personally that you call my country shit.

    • Oyinkan August 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm


  • Osa August 10, 2013 at 2:21 am

    @Idak You can do nursing to become an anesthesiologist doesnt have to be thru Medicine.

    • izzy August 10, 2013 at 3:13 am

      You mean to become a nurse anesthetist abi? Cos the only way to become an anesthesiologist is actually through medicine.

    • Idak August 10, 2013 at 4:41 am

      No you can’t

      • mama September 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm

        Idak you miss know it all just goofed this time….lol….next time read and understand before commenting……she said willing to quit, heading never said she quit…..

  • NNENNE August 10, 2013 at 3:36 am

    @ Osa.. Nurse Anesthetists are different from Dr Anesthetists.The former is a masters degree , has limitations and functions under the later, which is a medical specialization after residency. Just clearing things up.

  • pj August 10, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I wish all the people with a huge passion for Nigeria the very best as they embark on their journey back to Nigeria. For me i am not going back to Nigeria anytime soon. I will maximize my own masters degree here biko!!!

  • lulusky August 10, 2013 at 5:45 am

    bring someone that moved back to Nigeria recently nd is making it already nt all dis trial and error people.. mtcheewwww

  • nita August 10, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Nice!!! I admire your believe in Nigeria. I believe U will make it Big in Nigeria. Just plan better this time. Wishing U d best of Luck.

  • Fisayo August 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Toyin are you sure about quitting your Masters Degree Program and moving back to Nigeria right now???

  • Oyinkan August 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Ha ha. This is my story as well. Just got back to the US in June after serving in Abuja. It was intense, but a good experience. I don’t ever see myself living in Nigeria, but I will definitely be visiting more often. I would also be interested in business opportunities that didn’t require me to be based in Naija.

  • baby August 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I like the fact that she was honest about the difficulty in getting a job… a lot of times people feel a foreign degree is the solution to unemployment in nigeria which doesn’t fly.. Above all I admire ur resilience. Best wishes

  • pineapple August 11, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Toyin could you recomend a good writing book that will help in improving writing skills

  • toyin August 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    hi, id be happy to…u can send me an email… I need to know if you are referring to books that can help you with creative writing or (books that can help you improve on grammar, punctuation etc)

  • damepenelope August 12, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Thanks @deborah for your comment.What I don´t understand about some people is why they have so much disrespect for their fatherland.The funny thing is that they are not really accepted in those countries they claim to feel so comfortable in. Developed countries built and developed by citizens of that country and well,some foreign help. Things are not the way we want them to be today,but I know that ´´Nigeria go better´´.Richard Quest on CNN mentioned Nigeria as being one of the nine global growth determinants by 2025.
    I am neither a public office holder nor a politician,so this is not about image laundering or anything of the sort.It is just that I have lived outside Nigeria for a considerable amount of time,successfully, visited some countries,interacted with my fellow country people and I KNOW how a lot of Nigerians live abroad. The way the white folks see and treat us is a different matter all together.Don´t be fooled by pictures posted on facebook, not all that glitter is gold.Remember Mark Twain wrote(not quoting) that it is the basest of metals that excite the eyes with an ostentatious glitter.You want to move back,good.You want yo stay back,fine.But please, talk about the only true home we have with some love and respect.

  • cynical August 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Another fake laced article and total waste of precious time

  • guest August 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Great interview. For those hammering on John Hopkins not being among the top schools for writing, I am here to argue the fact it doesn’t matter where one goes to school. You need work experience in addition to degree to be successful in the US. I am of course using myself as an example. I admire this lady for her eagerness to returned back to Nigeria despite her challenges. I know people who went back and successfully adapted and lived well but even that has not changed my decision on Nigeria because the government has to change for the best. The folks who moved back also admit during our conversations that it is not always easy living in Nigeria… security, healthcare, electricity etc are contributing factors. I wouldn’t trust treatment in a Nigerian hospital as I am aware of people being misdiagnosed that cost them their lives. Good luck to those interested in moving back.

    • Ready August 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      But you guys with your foreign healthcare talk…I know politicians go there for treatment because it’s not their money they’re spending, but for the average person in the US, let’s not front, America is not called the place with the most expensive healthcare for nothing. Unless you live in Europe, I’m sure you’re scared to go to the doctor…many American residents don’t have health insurance sef.
      And on a lighter note, I watch House…I know misdiagnosis happens a lot in that country.

  • toyin olaleye August 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    lol..@ I watch House…but um yeah id take expensive healthcare any day cus when I was in naija i def experienced the misdiagnosis thing…

    btw the process for becoming a medical doctor/anesthesiologist or whatever for those who asked in earlier responses is four years of undergrad (bachelors degree in a science) 4 years of medical school and then 4 years of residency….so yeah id trust a physician with these kind of qualifications any day

  • guest August 12, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    When I posted my response, it was base on the experiences of my life and not some show. I happen to have a great job that comes with an excellent health insurance. I have doctors that I trust and are educated and have over twenty years of experience. Most importantly, I have never been misdiagnosed but I know of someone who was and unfortunately he passed away as a direct result of it. He lived in Nigeria with his wife and children… so if someone is going to response to my post…let it be on some realistic experience or intellectual information and some nonsensical remark that serves no purpose here. Thank you.

  • guest August 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I meant not some nonsensical remark that serves no purpose here on this blog!

  • peggy August 13, 2013 at 3:51 am

    I must say that that is a pretty bold move. I often thought of relocating when I initially moved to the US, but after adjusting to the standard of living here, having my independence, freedom of speech and opinion, I will find it extremely difficult to just go back and live in Nigeria again. When I was in the University I did realize bathroom facilities was a nightmare but it got better as we progressed to our final year. I can’t even imagine NYSC camp, which I did not bother participating in.
    However, I do admire Toyin and her determination to give back to her country as well as her passion for writing . I also intend to do the same in my own way. I totally agree that Naija is a fun place to be despite its failings.

  • sandra August 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Hi Toyin, please could you also recommend a good writing book that could help in improving my writing skills?

  • Boomerang August 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Lovely article! Thanks for keeping it real Toyin! I moved to Nigeria last year after spending half my life in the US. I am still deciding wether to stay here after NYSC or go back. To be honest the prospects here are really low unless you have something going on for yourself and not waiting on some employer to hire you. I hated NYSC CAMP! I had never seen anything like it before! Even though I lived in Nigeria as a child it was a rude awakening and I was miserable my whole 3 weeks in camp! Anyways, I am determined to make it Nigeria or dust off my blue passport and head back West lol.

  • themanecaptain September 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    too bad you had a terrible time at NYSC. moving to Nigeria or similar countries after spending your whole life in another country is a challenge. I am living in Canada and i’ve only spent 11years year, and I still can’t relate to Nigerians that are here, let alone those back home. It will also be more difficult for a woman to live there, as I can’t stand the way men treat women. As i like challenges, I wouldn’t mind spending a few weeks or months in Nigeria to see how I do.

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