Where I come from, going abroad was the biggest achievement anyone could have. Anyone who went abroad was treated like a king or queen when they came back to the village. I used to watch in amazement as they were given a hero’s welcome right from the airport and dream of days when I would get the same treatment. No one in my family had gone abroad but my mother was hopeful that I would be the first.
Being the last born, I was extremely close to my mother. She sacrificed the little she had to give me the best life possible. While my other three siblings studied in public schools, I went to a private Catholic school since I was a bright student. I didn’t take her sacrifices for granted. I knew that I was her only hope so I worked hard in school and made sure that I always scored well on exams.
It finally paid off and I passed my final exams with flying colours. I got a scholarship to study abroad and my mother couldn’t contain their excitement.
“You’ve made us proud, my daughter.” She said during a family gathering before I left the country.
“Thank you. I’ll make you prouder, Mum.” I answered.
“Maybe if we went to private schools, we could also go abroad.” One of my siblings said.
They were always envious of me and how close I was to my mother. In fact, I never really had a relationship with them especially since they were significantly older than me and I belonged to a different father. To them, I wasn’t their sibling. Nonetheless, I tried to be cordial with them.
“I’ll invite you when I settle there,” I said, trying to be friendly but my offer was met with sneers.
I tried to ignore their negativity and enjoy my last days at home before leaving for London. However, my siblings’ words started getting to me. They warned me not to end up like some of the people who had gone abroad and returned with nothing. Even though I knew that I was serious about my life, I still had a fear of the unknown. What if I do end up like them? What if it doesn’t work out?
My mother noticed that I wasn’t as excited about travelling and comforted me. She assured me that I would be happy in the new country.
“I have always told you that you would be the first one in our family to travel abroad, didn’t I?” She asked and I nodded in response. “Don’t worry about anything else. Your mother’s prayers are enough.”
The day I was leaving for London, my mother escorted me to the airport and after a teary goodbye, we parted ways. My anxiety kicked in almost immediately. That was my first time away from home. I started questioning whether I was ready to be out in the world alone. After all, I was only 18 years old.
London was cold. I instantly remember shivering like a leaf when I got off the plane. I almost got lost in the gigantic airport and it took me more than two hours to find my host. They were a white family that had volunteered to host me through a church program. However, they weren’t the most friendly people. I thought that the mum would be like a mother figure to me but she treated me just like another guest in her house.
I started school a week after I arrived which was one of the best days I had experienced since arriving abroad. My hosts lived only a short distance from my school so I opted to walk and enjoy the views. I also didn’t like the big, red buses. They scared me and I would have rather walked 10 kilometres than enter them.
Walking into the university made me hopeful about the future again. I got to meet other people who had come from other countries which made me feel less lonely.
“I’m from India.” One of the new students introduced herself.
“I’m from Kenya,” I said when it was my time to introduce myself.
“Wonderful. We have a huge community of foreign students in our school so make yourselves comfortable.” The student orientation guide said.
Even though there was a huge community of foreign students, no one socialized or even tried to make me feel welcome. I watched as my classmates formed cliques as I struggled to make new friends. Even the Kenyans at my school pushed me away.
“Is it my accent? Do I sound like a villager?” I asked my mother over the phone.
“You know, people are different. Maybe they don’t want friends. Besides, you’re there to study, not to make friends.” My mother advised me.
So far, living abroad was nothing as I imagined. No one seemed happy and I wondered whether I had made a mistake. Even though I was experiencing challenges, I still managed to top my class. I thought that my good grades would win the admiration of my peers but it only alienated me more.
They nicknamed me “Miss Know It All” since I answered almost all the questions and I had become the lecturers’ favourite student. One of the lecturers liked me so much that he offered me a job as his assistant.
I was finishing my first year of a four-year program when my lecturer took notice of my academic capabilities and offered me a job. We had interacted before but I didn’t expect him to give me such an opportunity.
“You can help me grade exams for other students over the holidays.” He said.
I was so excited since I not only got some extra money but also I finally had someone I could talk to, even if it was about schoolwork. That was the first time someone paid attention to me. It felt great and I thought I was headed in the right direction.
However, this would be the beginning of a nightmarish experience abroad. My host family discouraged me from taking the job and instead asked me to help them with their business.
“Do you know what your peers will say when they find out that you graded their exams?” The mother told me.
“Just come work with us if you need extra money.” The father chimed in.
However, I knew that working for them would be unpleasant since they weren’t friendly towards me so I decided to take my lecturer’s offer.
During the holiday break, I continued to go to campus to help him with grading exams. We quickly became good friends and I grew very attached to him that I didn’t notice any red flags in our relationship.
See what happens next My Life Abroad Was A Nightmare Part 2
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