The interlude between the end of high school and the start of university poses a tricky one for many international students in terms of adaptability in a new environment. As a 17-year-old naïve Nigerian girl, I’d had this fairy-tale, picture perfect, alluring image of exactly how university and student life would be like.
Recently, I’d come across a statement which perfectly describes this image: ‘flying into student life with absurdly high expectations’, a description which sat perfectly with my emotions at a time which now feels like a whole lifetime away! Nothing-and no one- had accurately prepared me for the unexpected reality university would throw me into, one which I had struggled with, over time, to get accustomed to.
As much as the experience of meeting new people in a different country, as well as engaging with various other cultures can be intriguing and fascinating, the culture shock and glaring differences also posed a daunting experience for a first timer like myself. For instance, calling lecturers by their first names? In Nigeria, we’d always add a compulsory respectful Mr or Miss/Mrs to anyone’s name. And why are people in a hurry all the time?
Therefore, being a part of the Nigerian Students’ Society (NSS) here at Leeds introduced a whole world of opportunities and networks possible, after a few weeks of constantly getting lost, longing for home and just generally being confused. I’d almost immediately fallen in love with this idea of ‘home-away-from-home’ and the community-feel the Nigerian Society embodied in each of its events.
NSS transcends race, religion and differences in culture, providing an amicable atmosphere for culture lovers, African Enthusiasts, the curious, as well as Nigerian Indigenes alike. In particular, one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences was participating and subsequently organising the Colour Me Nigerian Cultural Fashion Showcase two years running. Colour Me Nigerian is a proud initiative, started in 2016, which allows young Nigerians and British-born Nigerians get in touch with their roots, through a varied and colourful display of the beautiful traditional attires of the various Nigerian ethnic groups.
In commendation of this event hosted, Roxane Barrault, a third-year medical student described her experience as a ‘unique one, which allowed her to discover a rich, bright and amazing culture’.
In this same light, Ramy Awad, also a third-year medical student, expressed that ‘being able to experience a whole new culture and interact with so many new people was amazing’.
NSS certainly does a good job of creating an avenue for many non-Nigerians to experience first-hand the nature of the differences in the Nigerian culture.
Over the years, NSS here at Leeds have been party to high profile names in the Nigerian industry such as Fela Durotoye and Wole Soyinka, and also hosted conferences which allowed Nigerians to get in touch with literary and political debate, as well as social issues affecting Nigeria and how Nigerians in the diaspora can impact these sectors. Working with the Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp as well, by donating clothes, shoes, as well as money, have also allowed Nigerians here interact and effect change in our motherland.
Moreover, the Nigerian Society has also established links with some of the biggest and largest Nigerian Societies and Networks here in Leeds, as well as in the UK, such as the Nigerian Community Leeds (NCL) and the Nigerian Networking Community, UK (NNC). These links, in turn, have been of great benefits to both Nigerian students and the diaspora in general, in terms of job creation and opportunities like internships, part-time roles as work experiences. It also had its own way off exposing Nigerian diaspora to networks, contacts and connections they would ordinarily not have accessed whilst in the UK.
Attending various socials, workshops and conferences hosted by NSS in its own way takes off some (of course not all) of university-induced stress that both new and returning students could be facing. It has its own special way of allowing you mix with people who have already experienced or are currently experiencing university or even those who may just be starting out, it gives you the surety of home away from home amidst other similar Nigerians.
I think everyone needs a bit of a ‘Nigerian Society’ around them-Nigerians and non-alike. It really opens you up to a captivating and exciting appreciation of cultures within the Nigerian culture, a society made up different ethos, tribes and cultures-NSS as a pure representation of this colourful mix!
NSS Postgraduate Representative
NSS Events and Logistics Manager