Joining the One Percent
by Adeorike Oshinyemi
When I got my admission email for Queens University in small town Kingston on the outskirts of Toronto, a quick Wikipedia search into the demographic of the town let me know that I’d be one of the few black people at the university- to be precise, the population of black people in Kingston is 0.9%. This fact was slightly daunting, but being the only black person on my course at Warwick University meant that this would not be completely alien to me. Admittedly, when my dad and I arrived, we did receive subtle stares on the first day; whenever we’d see other black people it was as if we secretly shared looks that said “thank God, I’m not the only one!” However, I was lucky enough to spend my year abroad at a university with a huge exchange programme that enables me to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. All in all, being black in a predominantly white, affluent town wasn’t the hindrance I thought it may be. The fact that I am a black girl of Nigerian heritage from London just became another fact that enabled me to have interesting and insightful conversation, allowing me to open up about my background and culture to people from all over the world who may have not had the chance to grow up in a diverse setting.
One Year, Two Cultures
by Maddy Crabbe
My return to London in September 2016 marked being away from home for 11 months. I studied abroad in Canada for eight months and worked as an English teacher in Italy for three. I really enjoyed studying abroad, and although it was challenging at times and I had serious bouts of depression, I was able to pick myself up with the help of friends I’d made along the way, as well as a steady growth in my self-confidence. My best memories of my year abroad are from joining the University marching band. My proudest moments were performing at Toronto Fashion Week and at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal, for which we won an award. I began solo travelling halfway through my year abroad, with trips to Kincardine, Washington D.C and the Niagara Falls. I found these times a really good time to reflect, and enjoy my own company. Towards the end of my year abroad, I felt the desire to continue travelling, so after receiving a job advert for teaching in Italy, I applied to work last summer as an English teacher at summer camps. I had the best summer of my life teaching adorable children, immersing myself in the culture by living with various kind families and embarking on an adventure so different to anything I’d ever done before. Despite having some problems coping with racist attitudes and micro-aggressive behaviour in Italy, I had a wonderful time and I am sure that I will go back next year to do it all over again.
by Deborah Shorindé
I can count the short trips I have taken to Nigeria on two hands.
The motherland therefore did not mother me directly. Rather, it kneaded me through the faithful scolding of my exasperated mother, the unfailing bravado of my father, and the aunties and uncles of no blood relation that I often bowed low to. They carved out hopeful spaces of belonging in South East London, and I never really noticed their efforts to create a home for me while away from their own. I was a child of diaspora: awkward, anxious and unsure yet, youthfully overconfident in the same instance. The decision to move to Oakville, Canada was my father’s, and I am still not quite sure where it came from. Regardless, it was a warm, comforting refrain to my awkward ears. My weirdness, blackness and gender were all ailments that had left me spoken about but rarely spoken to in my South East London high school. However, my resolve did waver. I was happy to turn my back on my city, to shake the dust and power on. I was also terrified that I would never find another city to call my own.
Heralding my departure on the 27th of July, the London 2012 Olympics began and my family and I set off for Oakville. My expectations never quite made it off the plane. The humidity hugged me tightly, as if we had known each other for years. Filling my lungs, seeping into every fold, Oakville’s weather was the first sign that my months of dreaming, wishing and expecting had been futile. The landscape was vast and sparsely populated, while the roads were shockingly wide. In the months to come I would be left reeling, grasping for home in whatever I could find. Moving here was not the dream that I had woven together in my mind’s eye. I could not see myself in the bodies that bumped and brushed against me in my new high school’s hallways. I was one of sixteen black people in a school of 1500 students, and I was often reminded of my difference. I longed for a more densely populated city like Toronto or Mississauga, where signs of life danced into view or earshot often, and the chances of seeing a cute black boy were significantly higher. Ironically, a year after moving I myself chose to move to Waterloo, a university and a town that mimicked a lot of the features and associated disappointments of Oakville.
I do not blame timing, lack of knowledge, my family or myself for these experiences. To admit this feels strange, but Oakville and Waterloo and the experiences that they exposed me to are now a part of me. They are a part of my voice, that takes up space and fills up a room. They are a part of my mind that no longer accepts my own expectation and understanding as truth. Finally, they are a part of my hunger and appreciation for South East London, my city and my home.