Oct 29

Why I gave up a comfortable life in the US to return to Nigeria

Nigerian-American millennial, Didi Ajayi gave up a comfortable life in the United States to move back to Nigeria.

My name is Didi. By profession, I’m a lawyer. I attended the University of Georgia where I got a degree in Psychology, and went on to Law school, and I got my JD.  I then moved back to Nigeria and went to Nigerian Law school and became a barrister at Law after doing the bar exam here. Then I started practicing.

I worked at a law firm here in Nigeria, but recently became an entrepreneur – I co-own a legal consulting start-up company. In my spare time I like to blog. After I moved back to Nigeria I wanted to document my experiences living in Nigeria, so I started a vlog series about this. I wish I knew the things that I know now, before I moved back. Like things I could have avoided or known about how to make my transition easier. I wanted to do the vlog for people in the diaspora, who are considering moving back. Showing them what living here is like. Although there are some bad sides, there are lots of good sides, and that’s the reason why I’m still here.

Why did you move back to Nigeria despite having an amazing life in the US?

Although I’m American and grew up in the US, I was actually born in Nigeria. My dad lives here, and half of my siblings grew up here in Nigeria. When I lived abroad, I used to spend some of my vacation time here in Nigeria.

Every time I visited, I really enjoyed my stay, and I saw that there was potential here even though some people didn’t really this. I would say I moved back because I’m a bit idealistic. Some people usually say I’m a bit too optimistic.

I had always been interested in moving back home. So my dad suggested that while attending Law school in Nigeria, if I was really interested in testing the waters and working here, I could look for internships at law firms and just see how it goes.

As fate would have it, I eventually ended up working at the law firm I interned at. I enjoyed my experience so I thought that since I had worked in the US, there was no reason why I could not do that here.

I think there’s something interesting about working in a developing county where everything hasn’t fully developed. You can actually be a pioneer and make you own stuff here, whereas in the US it’s a lot harder to do so.  Here, there aren’t as many obstacles if you want to establish yourself.  Also, there’s some certain level of comfort just knowing that I have family and people here that I really didn’t have in the US. Even though my mom and my sister are still in America, I decided to move back.

What challenges did you experience when you first moved back?

I had so many! I think my moving back experience was kind of different from a lot of people that moved back here, as most were probably doing their NYSC.

In my own case, I moved back and went to law school in Abuja. I had never gone to to boarding school or anything. So being at the law school felt like living on campus for the first time, which was very different. It almost felt like I was going to high school not even college. I felt trapped at some point.

I was so used to having internet. On the first day I came into the country, I used up all my data because everything was running, all my apps etc.  So I had to get used to that.

I was pretty much used to the people in a sense because I was coming home during vacation. But when I started working here, I didn’t realize that co-workers and people in general, would could care so much about details about your personal life. This took some getting used to, as I was accustomed to being a lot more private about intimate details about my life. It was a norm for me to keep my personal life very separate from my work life.

Those were the things that I think were the biggest things I had to get used to when I came back.

What has been the best thing about returning?

Definitely, meeting my husband was my highest point of moving back, I definitely would have never met him without moving back because he has actually never been to the US. He grew up in the UK.

I think that moving back made me discover certain aspects of my character – this is like the most adventurous thing I have ever done. It made me step out of my comfort zone in a way I was never capable of. I was always that type of person that when there’s a road map set, I follow the road map. E.g: Go to college, go to graduate school, work, get a job… and that would have been my story till the end of my life.

When I applied to Law school, I had no vision of the future. I just knew that I wanted to do this and see where it goes. My move back showed me that I am adaptable and that sometimes, you do have to step out. And sometimes a risk is worth it in order to get a bigger reward.

Also, it challenged me to have to step out in order to make major changes. It convinced me that no matter what the situation may be, I do have the capacity to make it, and even thrive.

What were the biggest things you had to get used to?

I had to first of all, stop thinking in dollars. I used to convert everything into Naira, thinking everything was cheap. But the reality was that I wasn’t earning money in dollars, especially when the exchange rate changed. Driving was also a big adjustment. I was really scared when I first started driving in Lagos. In Abuja, it was easier because the road was wider, but Lagos was scary.

What advice would you give those considering returning?

Do your research, we are fortunate to have Internet access and you have Google. Also, reach out to people who have moved back. Visit before moving back.

Your mindset would determine how this goes for you. In addition to having a positive outlook, you also have to be quite open to possibilities.

Have fun. Try and enjoy it. Meet and mingle with people you probably normally wouldn’t interact with. Live in the moment.

Source: Queen Moremi