Things went so well during my first holiday abroad that my hope was restored and it was all thanks to my lecturer. I started spending a lot of time with him even outside of campus. He would take me to dinner many times after we were done with work and during the weekends. He even offered to show me around the city.
“It’s so boring here. It’s nothing like my country, Kenya. I was used to going to the park or the lake on weekends with my friends.” I complained to him.
“Do you want me to take you to all the nice places around the city? I promise you’ll end up falling in love with this place.” He said enthusiastically.
“I doubt it. I already had a bad experience.”
“I’ll change that.”
He took me around the city just as he had promised. We first went to see the Birmingham Palace since I had always wanted to see it in person. Everything seemed so new and different even though I had been in London for almost one year. While we were taking pictures, one of those big, red buses that I absolutely hated passed by and I panicked.
“What’s wrong?” my lecturer asked.
“I don’t like those buses.”
He laughed after finding out that I was scared of them. We finished the day by taking a bus ride to campus where he had parked his car.
“Thank you so much. I had a lot of fun.” I said as we stood beside his car. He then pulled me in and pinned me against the car. He stared into my eyes for a while which made me uncomfortable. I tried to move away but he held me back.
“We’re doing this again next weekend?”
“Of course,” I said. He reached in for a hug before we parted ways.
When I got home, I found my hosts waiting for me in the living room. They asked me to sit and gave me a look that let me know exactly what they were thinking.
“What’s going on between you and that lecturer?”
“He’s my friend, my only friend. Nobody includes me in their plans and all my classmates hate me. I have no one to talk to but him.” I explained, trying to stay calm.
“He’s not your friend. He is a lecturer and having a relationship with him is inappropriate.”
I may have been an obedient girl but I was pushed beyond my limit and I could no longer accept the rules that my hosts had imposed on me. They were more strict with me than my own mother and no matter what I said, I couldn’t change their mind.
“What about my work?” I asked.
“We offered you a job in our business and it’s still available. However, if you keep working with that lecturer, we can’t host you any more.”
I knew that they didn’t like me but I didn’t expect that they would kick me out just because I was trying to make my life abroad a little easier.
“Okay, I’ll start looking for a new place this week,” I answered and got up to leave.
“Remember what brought you to London.” My host said as I walked away.
My mother didn’t know that I was leaving my host family until the day that I was moving out. I had managed to get a cheap apartment and buy some furniture with the money I had earned over the holidays. As I loaded my things in the moving van, my mother called me.
“What are you doing? Why are you moving out?” She yelled through the phone and for a second, it felt like she was right behind me.
“I’ve told you about how I feel here. I need my own space.”
“That family is very good, my daughter. Don’t let other people mislead you.” She cautioned me.
“I can take care of myself, Mum.”
“Remember that you’re living abroad. Those people are very different from us.”
“I’m fine. Stop worrying about me.” I yelled then hung up.
I felt like my mother didn’t understand my situation since she wasn’t there and that she was taking other people’s side even when I tried to explain things to her. That was the first time that I felt like she was not on my side yet it was the one time I needed her to support me the most.
When I moved out, I felt even more lonely than before. My neighbours were mostly labourers who woke up at the crack of dawn to go to work. The girls were mostly nightclub workers and they slept during the day. The neighbourhood was also sketchy and I barely left my house unless I was going to the supermarket or school.
“I’m so scared of this place,” I said to my lecturer over the phone.
“I’ll help you look for another apartment. A beautiful girl like you should live in a high-end apartment.”
“Thank you. I don’t know how I would survive here without you.”
“Anything for you. Have you eaten?”
“Let’s meet at our usual restaurant.”
I dressed up and went to meet him. As usual, we had a good time and he made me laugh which helped me forget about all my problems since I arrived abroad. Before I realized it, it was almost midnight and we were still at the restaurant.
“You can’t go to your apartment right now.” he said, “Let me book a hotel room for you.”
I agreed since I didn’t want to risk travelling to that side alone. We went to a nearby hotel and he booked a hotel room for me and then escorted me to my room. He came in and then pulled me to the bed. Before I could even say anything, he started kissing me. I gave in to him since I thought that he loved me and he would take care of me.
The following morning, he went to the university and I went back to my apartment. I stayed a couple of days without going to the university. Going to school was a challenge for me since I had to walk quite a distance to take the bus and the area wasn’t very safe. My lecturer had promised to pick me up every day from my place but that wasn’t possible. Additionally, things changed after the night we slept together. We didn’t spend as much time together apart from work. I confronted him about it and he came clean.
“The university gave me a warning. Someone said that I was having an inappropriate relationship with a student and they threatened to fire me.”
I knew it was the family that I lived with. However, I didn’t know why they went out of their way to make my life a living hell.
“You can’t work with me anymore,” He continued, “but I asked one of my friends and she agreed to hire you as her assistant.”
It felt like I was back to square one. All the progress I was making in settling down abroad came crashing down. I became depressed and rarely left my house. I stopped going to classes or work. My rent accumulated for months that I got evicted and started living in homeless shelters. Life in the homeless shelters was a complete nightmare. All my belongings were stolen on the first day that I arrived. I didn’t have any clothes, phone or documents. I lived in those shelters for two months before I met a social worker who informed me about a recruitment agency.
“It’s not glamorous work but it will earn you some money,” she explained.
I went to the recruitment agency and got a job almost immediately. If only I knew about it sooner, I wouldn’t have suffered in the homeless shelters. I got a job as a street sweeper where I worked for almost a year before the recruitment agency offered me another job. For the past year, I had formed a good relationship with the social worker and my recruitment agent. They noticed that I was brilliant.
“How did you end up in a homeless shelter.” The social worker asked
“I was a bright student with a promising future and I threw it all away,” I said in tears as I narrated my story to her.
“It happens. Many people come here and waste the opportunity.” She consoled me.
“We think you could be a great tutor,” she suggested.
I perked up after hearing her proposal. As much as I appreciated the sweeper job, I was ready for anything else.
“Would you be interested?” the recruiter asked.
“Of course, I would,” I said excitedly.
“There’s a family that’s looking for an affordable tutor for their son. this is their number. Call them as soon as possible.”
I went back to my single-room apartment and made the call. they were pretty straightforward about their expectations which made me less nervous. The following day, I went to their address where I was welcomed by a fairly young British couple.
“Bradley really needs help with his math. He’s in Year 12 and he needs to get his grades up if he wants to join the university,” they said.
I listened attentively as they gave me instructions on the tutoring arrangement. after an hour, we were done and I started my job. The job was pretty easy compared to sweeping the streets. I also got to be part of a family if only for a few hours. The son was a bit hostile towards me at first but we slowly bonded after he realized I was nothing like his uptight teachers. In fact, I start tutoring him on other subjects for free since his parents couldn’t afford any more lessons.
I became known in their neighbourhood as the tutor and got more jobs through their referral. This job paid me so much money that I was able to pay my rent, feed myself and save the rest. I planned to save enough to allow me to re-enrol in university and finish my degree. It took a couple of years but I managed to do it with the help of some of my clients. They learnt about my plan and arranged a fundraiser for me.
You can imagine the shock on everyone’s faces when they saw me on campus. The lecturer who had messed up my life nearly ran from fear but I wasn’t focused on him or anyone else. I went back with a laser focus on graduating. It was a long road but it finally happened and three years later, I was a university graduate. My mother even attended the graduation. She forgave me for the many years that I didn’t contact her and was simply happy to see me alive and well.
When I got home, I got the hero’s welcome that other people who had come from abroad got thanks to my mother. She managed to convince my village people that I had extended my stay abroad because I was working and pursuing a Master’s at the same time.
A goat was slaughtered in my honour and the villagers crowded around me singing my praises. During the celebrations, I donated some money to the school since they were building a new library.
I avoided talking about my life abroad but anytime someone asked about my experience, I lied. Now I understand why many think going abroad is paradise until they actually go. Nonetheless, it was a lesson that I learnt the hard way and I would never make the same mistake twice.
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This story first appeared on our blog as My Life Abroad Was A Nightmare Part 1 and My Life Abroad Was A Nightmare Part 2