- Posted February 19, 2015 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Offspring of the Nigerian-American Dream
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
I am the first American child born to two Nigerians that migrated to the U.S. because they wanted a better life for their children. Today, including my parents, we are a family of eight. Although my siblings and I grew up with two cultures, the benefits outweighed the challenges and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.
Looking back at my childhood, growing up inside an immigrant household in NY was awesome. I was the first born in the U.S. therefore, until my sister came to the states, I was the “acting” oldest sister and that came with responsibility. My mom and dad worked very, very hard while also putting themselves through school so I helped them out a lot. By the age of 9, I knew how to cook and assisted with taking care of my siblings so I grew up pretty fast.
Since my parents were learning how to navigate life and business in America, I often found myself doing a lot of research and sharing any useful information that I came across with them. The school system was very different from what they were accustomed to in Nigeria so when it came down to identifying beneficial programs, preparing for major exams, or applying to college, I relied heavily on administrators, libraries, and my peers.
When it came to interacting and socializing with other kids, at times it was very, very interesting. I wasn’t considered a “real” Nigerian amongst Nigerians because I didn’t speak Yoruba (my parent’s native tongue) and I wasn’t seen as an American amongst Americans because of my name and features. As a Nigerian-American, I was stuck somewhere in the middle. I even recall wanting to change my name to something more common because of experiences like having teachers mispronounce it regularly or, unlike other kids, not finding it on paraphernalia during school outings.
As I matured, I grew to truly love and appreciate my name, culture, and upbringing. Despite having the disadvantage of moving to a new country and starting over, my parents did a fantastic job raising my siblings and I. They taught us to trust God, value education, work hard, be confident, and love and respect others. Prior to coming here, my parents were already educated in Nigeria but they submitted to starting over from scratch in America. I watched them work H-A-R-D (sometimes with multiple odd jobs) as they put themselves through school and provided for our large family. It all paid off because not only did they graduate from school and become medical professionals but they also put six children through college. Interestingly enough, although we're very creative, almost all of my siblings pursued some sort of STEM career, too.
There is a lot more to our story but I’m pleased to share that last year we celebrated my dad’s retirement and it was awesome to honor and celebrate his life for all of the sacrifices that he made. We now look forward to doing the same thing for our mom. My siblings and I truly appreciate them and we’ve all pursued learning more about our culture in different ways. For example, my sister created a MeetUp group called “All Things Yoruba” for people interested in learning more about the culture and language. In 2011, I created “Offspring of the Naija-American Dream,” an online group to help other first-generation Nigerian-Americans stay connected and I’m in the process of building ImmericanDream.com for others with similar interests.
I am a proud of my beautiful heritage. Being raised as a Nigerian-American shaped my perspective of the world, fueled my ambition, and taught me not to take anyone or anything for granted.