Jane Njoku, in this report, writes about her experience while on an educational sojourn at the University of Bangalore. She chronicles her experiences in India, and the culture shocks that she encountered upon her return to Nigeria.
I grew up in a close-knit family in Aba, Abia State that values the power of education and excelling at whatever one does. Growing up, I had four siblings (I am the fourth born) and we all had the same drive to succeed, something we imbibed as kids from our parents.
My parents were career-driven; My mother is a nurse and my father was an accomplished police officer so, one had to measure up to their standards. They both did everything in their power to make sure my siblings and I got a quality education, so they were very meticulous in choosing the secondary schools we attended and universities as well.
After I graduated from secondary school (my father was late by then), I was ready to take the required Joints Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams to attend university here in Nigeria and study Mass Communication. When I approached my mother with my plans, she told me that she didn’t want me to continue schooling in Nigeria and insisted that I was going to study India.
So in 2015, at 17, my mother sent me to study Journalism, Psychology and Optional English in Bangalore, India. The whole process leading up to me travelling was astonishing; everything felt like a dream and filled me with so much wonder. I didn’t believe what was happening until I was inside a plane headed for India.
Arriving in India was a whole different world; it was like everything I had seen in the movies came to life. I thought I was exposed until I got to the airport in Bangalore and didn’t know how to use their currency (rupees) or understand how anything there worked at all.
But the people were very friendly; they approached me calmly and asked whether I needed help. Their politeness was how I believed that I had, indeed, left Nigeria.
On my first day in India, I ate roasted corn garnished with lemon and red pepper sprinkled on it. The man who served me had six fingers on his right hand, when I pointed it out to my sister’s friend I was with, she told me that it was a normal thing there. Of course, I couldn’t stop staring at him.
However, the Bangalore experience didn’t start for me until I began school. I remember the first day I walked into my college on 14th of July, 2015. It was a fun mix of students; some of the girls put on their kurtas (their traditional wear) and some wore western clothes. The professors wore sarees, with their stomachs visible and I wondered if that would have been acceptable in Nigeria. But others saw it as normal without flinching.
The lecturers were friendly and very approachable. My class mentor at that time was happy to have me in her class and she made sure I got the extra notes I needed to keep up with the rest of the students.
Studying in India was fun, but any foreigner would find themselves asking, “What? I didn’t hear you” repeatedly until one begins to understand their accent.
Language barrier aside, I have to truly commend the Indians for keeping the cost of living low for students in Diaspora. The huge difference between the cost of living in India and Nigeria made luxurious things I did back home like eating at restaurants, shopping for groceries, housing, fuel, Wi-Fi, transport affordable in India.
There, I could eat at a proper standard restaurant for one thousand rupees which is N5,200 (five thousand, five hundred and twenty naira). For basic eateries, you could get a good meal and drink for one hundred rupees N600 (six hundred naira). Shopping for groceries, I can spend less than three thousand rupees, N15,600 (fifteen thousand six hundred naira), if used a food coupon.
Society wise, everything in Bangalore looked structured and the system worked. But I can’t just paint the pretty picture and not tell it as it is.
There were times in India I felt lonely and downcast, mostly because I couldn’t always fit in. I faced discrimination and racism to some extent. No one tells you that when you’re in India as a Nigerian; people stared at my braids as a lady, sometimes they’ll approach me and touch my hair. Sometimes, they would make comments in their language because of my skin color, and when you say you’re a Nigerian, they’ll ask if it was located in South Africa.
On my own part, I did see some things they did as strange like when they worshipped their idols, cows in temples, or walk around with markings on their face or flowers in their hair. I saw people walking barefoot on the streets and giving people considered to be transgender money because they thought it would bring them good luck.
India was interesting but opening up myself to some experiences really changed me for better and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the best three years of my life.
The first time I arrived Bangalore, I wanted to run away because I was scared of being in a different culture/society, but I never realised how much you could fall in love with a place and not want to leave until I had to come back to Nigeria for the mandatory NYSC.
I think the things people here in Nigeria won’t tell you as a fresh returnee are how people may not understand your perspectives on issues and think one was trying to show off.
Nigeria, although I was born here, has changed a lot. Getting basic things are now very expensive and insecurity are some of the problems I have struggled with since my return. Also, re-adjusting to the Nigerian lifestyle is taking longer than a three-year journey to India in total.
Now that I have been posted to serve in Ibadan and I hear that it is a good place to live in, maybe if I am receptive of good energy, in one year, I will be writing another one of these for my adventures as an ‘Oyo Kopa’.
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