Deep down, I always knew I would live in America. As a three year-old, I was strikingly drawn to the brownstone row-homes and strange accents in Sesame Street. In my childhood play, I would create a world in which many of the characters had Southern drawls. The earliest vacation I remember was a family road trip across the States in 1992. It was an incredible time of laughter and discovery. I had traveled elsewhere before, but it was the first time I would truly take in the environment around me. Everything seemed so big in comparison to London. Big roads, big trucks, big houses, big portions. We would cite moments from that trip for the rest of our lives. From then the seed was sown. There was a big America, with big opportunity and I felt I belonged there.
My mother, father, and two brothers are four of the most important people in my life. They have shown me what fierce love looks like, and how to serve God in all circumstances. For the majority of my life, I could not imagine what it would be like without them there daily. We were so tightly woven together – and we were all we had. To some degree, we operated under the assumption that I would be there forever. I had everything I needed in South East London. I always thought if I’d move out by myself, it would be down the street - but never out of the city, let alone the country.
Here is the thing about dreams. You don’t chase dreams, dreams chase you. You’ll find that no matter how much you pursue something, if it’s not for you, it won’t happen. But if it is for you, it’ll happen in ways you could not have conjured up yourself.
I want to share how one of these dreams, the dream of living in America, chased me.
When it came to choosing universities, I wanted to study at King's College London. Originally, the plan was to apply for a medical degree, but I didn’t have the grades to do so. I settled for Biomedical Science, since there was an option to fast-track to studying Medicine afterwards. This sounded good, and felt like it would be acceptable for my Nigerian father and Bajan mother. If you don’t know already, there is an unspoken (but vocalized) rule in Nigerian households that you must be a doctor, lawyer, accountant or engineer. Every other career is secondary to these fields. And no matter how successful you are, you will have always missed the mark if you have pursued other vocations.
Sidenote: Who really knows what they want to do at 17?
Results day came. I failed. Miserably. My grades were nowhere near what they needed to be for my first couple of choices, let alone the three universities I had declined months prior. I was used to shame at this point, but I was introduced to a level of shame that would severely damage my confidence. From then, I would constantly battle with anxiety when it came to exams, coursework, (read: PhD thesis), and convince myself that failure was my fate. I knew I was smart, but nothing I had produced thus far proved that.
We went through the clearing process to see if any universities across the country had space on their programs. I had in my mind that I should go to Queen Mary’s University of London, because a friend of mine was already there. They said they’d call me back. I’m still waiting for that call.
My father took me to the open-day at the University of Surrey – a place I hadn’t heard of. My father, naturally disappointed, was still fighting for me, and determined that I would be attending somewhere that Fall. I have never quite understood his level of faith in me. It’s like God told him something I’m still not privy to. He and my mum have always believed that I would do something of significance. It’s encouraging and burdensome all at the same time – but I’m thankful for it.
Our tour guide was a lanky white boy who studied Biochemistry with a focus in Neuroscience. I dragged my feet as we walked around the green modern campus. In my head, this was a waste of time, and I was still convinced I would be going to Queen Mary’s.
Then he casually mentioned something.
“So I just got back from my placement year at Harvard.”
“Excuse me?” I said.
Suddenly, I was interested. Harvard? I was asking more questions about the placement year in America, than anything else about his experience at Surrey. He explained that the university had a partnership with several American schools, and a select few had the opportunity to go during their third year. In that moment, I decided I was going to the University of Surrey.
Perhaps everything was aligning after all?
Story continued: HERE