A Young Black Girl from Nigeria Becoming … Project MyStory

Coming to the USA Part 2 – Encountering Discrimination

Hello! When my mother’s Nieman Fellowship year ended at Harvard University, I remember saying that I did not want to go back to Nigeria. But we did. Looking back, I do not regret going back because I would have never seen my grandma again. We arrived in Nigeria in July 2009, and she died in December of the same year. I miss her so much.

Fast Forward – after a year, I moved back to the USA in August 2010. My mom and I arrived on a Saturday, but we lost the apartment we were to live in. For one week, we stayed with a family with two children in my age group that we met during our 2008 trip to the US. By the second week, we rented our own apartment in South Boston where I attended the school there. Even though my school was pretty diverse, I was still different, and was treated differently even by staff of color. They did not accept me. Being there was totally different from the Martin Luther King School, Cambridge. At the MLK School, I was younger, knew several kids affiliated with Harvard, and was in the same classes with them. I also think the school had more students and staff from different nationalities. And I think they were more accepting of difference, the cultural events point to this.

Reading about UAlbany, I saw that the school was diverse both in student and staff populations and this was one of the reasons I chose to come. I have been studying from home during my freshman year and have not had direct interactions with the whole campus population. All I can say for now is that I have had mixed experience and I am taking everyone in the way they present themselves to me. I am not going to hold any biases about any group and I hope that I will have an good overall student life experience at UAlbany when I come in-person.   

While at the new school in South Boston, since my mom was attending school in the Cambridge area, I went to an after-school program three days a week. Within a few days of enrolling in the school, my homeroom teacher sent a note home saying I was slow in learning, counting my fingers and “we cannot wait for her”. A few days later, she sent a letter in the mail, requesting an ADHD evaluation. The school insisted I had to complete this otherwise they would not allow me to return to the classroom. We went to the medical center where the staff that completed the screening cleared me of ADHD. I did not have friends and felt really lonely and isolated. At this first school, I was bullied and punished for being a child, and a nice one too. I like to help and I would always offer to clean up after lunch when I went to daycare or after school programs. I was reprimanded and they told me “to help only when I was asked to”. They actually sent me home with a note. My mom and I cried because we were shocked, and hurt too.

One time, I did not see a kid that we used to ride on the school bus for a while. The next time I saw him, I asked where he had been, and the kid said he was sick. Then I asked if he saw the doctor or took drugs. This was misinterpreted and taken out of context. They said the kid was badly hurt by my statement, that I implied he was on drugs. We can call this a case of cultural difference. While Americans would typically say medication, we use drugs or medication interchangeably in my home country, Nigeria. I wish they, especially the adults, cared to ask instead of making assumptions about a child’s kind acts.

Image of hands and arms of different skin tones forming two hearts

Indeed, we all must face our limitations in terms of our understanding of our global world, knowing that the world does not revolve around one person or one nation. We live in a global community and the more we are open to see and embrace other cultures, the more we would be educated and enlightened.

As a former British colony, Nigerians speak British English and use English spellings and pronunciations. For instance, British colour, American Color; underwear is called pant in Britain, but British trousers are American pants. Part of the reason I also chose to major in Globalization Studies is to become more aware of our global world that is actually getting smaller by the day. I hope we would all work together to conquer ignorance as it is a big cause of prejudice and discrimination.  

UAlbany’s Nondiscrimination Notice: The University at Albany (“University”) is committed to fostering a diverse community of outstanding faculty, staff, and students, as well as ensuring equal educational opportunity, employment, and access to services, programs, and activities, without regard to an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status, domestic violence victim status, or criminal conviction. Employees, students, applicants or other members of the University community (including but not limited to vendors, visitors, and guests) may not be subjected to harassment that is prohibited by law, or treated adversely or retaliated against based upon a protected characteristic.


Established in March 2015, Project MyStory is a community building effort to help students better acclimate to UAlbany and to work more effectively toward their goals. We began in UAlbany’s Academic Support Center (ASC), where you will see many of the posters featured above. We are now co-housed in ASC and in the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS).

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