Over the past 21 years, I have had the privilege of living in the US and Germany. I have been reflecting on my journey living abroad and thinking about things I do not talk about often. I acknowledge that there are many experiences of immigrants that I will not be covering because not all experiences are the same, yet we have many similarities.
In this blog post, I will share things about my experience and other immigrants that I have come across on my journey. We could talk about this topic for a very long time. Check out my other Her Relocation blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
#1: You will always stand out
If you live as an immigrant in another country, you will undoubtedly stand out. It is a massive adjustment to now be noticed, especially for those who have lived in countries where we blended in. The status of an immigrant follows you everywhere you go. I have learned to accept that as part of my life experience.
#2: You always think about your differences
As immigrants, we have many differences from the majority of the people in the countries we live in. The differences range from race, ethnicity, language, social-economic, religion, background, and many others. We are very aware of our differences every single day.
#3: You live with the thought of being denied a visa/stay and having to go back to your home countries
Part of most immigrant journeys starts with a temporary visa or approval to stay for a limited time. With that comes the knowledge that your stay could be revoked, and you may be asked to return to your home country. In fact, even after you get a passport from your new home country, the thought stays in the back of your mind.
#4: You don't have access to a lot of things
When I went to university in Germany, the access differences from my German counterparts were very noticeable. I always wished I had the knowledge, networks, financial support, and access that other students had. We make it work, but the path there is more challenging.
#5: You do not know some systematic structures and processes
I still think back to when I arrived in the US and faced challenges getting a credit card because I did not have credit. This was totally new to me as Germany does not have the same financial structures. I have a very long list of things I wish I had known early. Even after living abroad for over 21 years, there are still some things that I don't know and learn.
#6: Finding a place to get your hair done might be a challenge
Immigrants who have a different hair texture from the predominant group in the country they now live in will understand this. My friends did my hair for many years because I could not find a place to get my hair braided when I moved to Germany. This contributed to me deciding to cut my hair low because it helped me.
#7: You will miss food and other things you enjoy
This was actually the first thing that came to my mind. My immigrant experience would not be complete without me talking about food. It is one of the things that connects me with my culture. 21 years ago, when I started my journey as an immigrant, food from different countries was not as readily accessible. Interestingly, till today, there are some foods that I have not eaten since I left Nigeria.
#8: You may face discrimination
This post would not be complete if I didn't mention the fact that many immigrants face discrimination for their race, ethnicity, language, social-economic, religion, background, and other differences. A lot of immigrants do not share their negative experiences. My hope is that people will have more inclusive experiences.
#9: People often underestimate your abilities
The status of an immigrant and someone who is different sometimes makes people think that you are unable to achieve big goals. Every time I hear about immigrants that have paved their way and are doing great things, I am very proud. I have had the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds who are amazing at what they do.
#10: Your view of the world is multifaceted
One of the things I appreciate the most about being an immigrant is that my perfective has been enriched by every country I live in and all my experiences. There is something special about learning new cultures or languages and building a new life from scratch in a new country.
Our world is more multi-cultural now than at any other time in history, and it's a beautiful thing. Seeing fellow immigrants makes me appreciate my journey even more. A lot of people experience good and bad things daily. Please contribute to making the world a place where everyone, irrespective of their background. To all the immigrants out there, keep being great!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US. It serves as a reminder for us to prioritize our Mental Health. I have been reflecting on my thoughts about mental health at this stage in my life and the lessons that I learned on my journey.
In this blog post, I will share five things that I know about mental health that would have saved me some painful experiences if I had learned them in my childhood.
#1: Check-in on your mental health often
Interestingly, it is very easy to go through life and forget to check in on how you are doing mentally. It took me a while to realize that I was not aware of the state of my mental health. Sadly, I got to a place where I was really struggling before I started making changes. Knowing that I have a lot going on in my life, I am now very intentional about making sure my mental health is good. When I start feeling the impact of neglecting myself, I take action to get back into alignment.
What am I doing differently now?
#2: You need to unlearn a lot you learned about mental health
We all learned what we know about mental health from society, family, and friends. Some of the lessons serve us well, and others do not. It is our responsibility to unlearn some of those lessons and learn ways to care for our mental health. One of the things that I had to let go of was that it was a sign of strength to hide your feelings. By observing the people and hearing conversations around me, I learned to suppress emotions that led to me feeling a lot of internal stress and negatively impacted my mental health.
What am I doing differently now?
#3: Do not let the stigma around Mental health stop you from getting help
There is still a lot of stigma around getting additional support when you need it. The way people talk about therapy and other mental health resources that can help your mental health can sometimes be discouraging. It is crucial to acknowledge when you need help and get the help you need. This is something that will help you live a great life and thrive.
What am I doing differently now?
#4: You need a community of people who care about mental health
Surrounding yourself with people who are aware and intentional about maintaining their mental health will make a huge difference. They help you see that you are not alone with whatever struggles you have, and we can all be there for each other through the good and bad days. Having honest conversations about how I'm doing mentally has really made a difference in my life. When I have check-ins with my support community, it helps remind me that things will always get better.
What am I doing differently now?
#5: Show yourself some compassion and grace
Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves, which makes things worse for our emotional well-being. In situations where I spent time judging myself for feeling a certain way, it did not help me at all. It was easier for me to understand other people struggling with their mental health and give them grace, but I struggled to do the same for myself. When I feel down, I need to stop judging myself for how I feel. Being kind to myself relieves my stress and improves my mental health.
What am I doing differently now?
Talking about our mental health needs to become a regular aspect of our lives. We share other physical health practices such as exercise or a healthy diet; imagine a world where people feel more comfortable sharing their mental health and getting help when needed.
Call to Action
How are you maintaining your mental health? Prioritize your mental health
What have you learned about mental health that you want to unlearn? Unlearn things that do not serve you
This past weekend while I was trying to put my 19-month-old son to sleep unsuccessfully, I started thinking about how easy it was to get upset and be in a bad mood. I was looking down on him and decided to focus on the good things that were happening in my life. A lot is going on in our lives that can make us feel frustrated if we focus on them. If you feel the weight of life on your shoulders, you are not alone. One thing we can control is our mindset. Sometimes, we need to actively remind ourselves of the good that is happening in our lives.
In this blog post, we will ask ourselves ten questions that will help us adjust our perspective and focus on the positive things in our lives.
#1: What was the last thing that made you smile?
Think back on the happy feelings you feel when someone does something nice for you or has a great experience. As I write this post, I am smiling at the things in my life that have made me happy recently. One realization that I had is that with a child, many cute moments make us smile.
#2: What was a recent compliment someone gave you?
Although I believe that we should not base our happiness on what others say to us, I do value the external perspective that people can give you by recognizing a great thing that you have done.
#3: How have the people in your life contributed positively to you?
The people that we surround ourselves with play a vital role. I feel very blessed to have great people in my life who have added significant value. My family and friends are a crucial part of my journey, and they make me feel supported. The amazing people in my life are a gift in many ways. I am grateful that I have great people who are my life companions.
#4: What was one recent accomplishment at work?
We spend a lot of time working towards our professional goals. It is time to celebrate all we have accomplished at work this year. We often let our professional accomplishments go unnoticed.
#5: What was the latest new memory you created?
We live in a time where we get to capture moments in pictures, videos, or other digital ways. Look back on your recent pictures and re-live the beautiful moments you have had.
#6: What was the last very delicious meal you ate?
Food is one of the highlights of my life. It might just be me, but it makes me happy when I think of good things that I have gotten to eat.
#7: What was the last fun activity that you did?
Doing something you really enjoy is a great way to evoke happy feelings. Think about a great time you had recently.
#8: What new thing have you learned lately?
Growing and learning new skills are necessary to live the amazing lives we desire. I am always excited when I acquire a new skill or a life lesson. Adding knowledge to my toolkit helps me prepare for the future.
#9: What was the last thing you did to celebrate yourself?
It is very easy to remember to celebrate with others and forget about yourself. I have always admired people who made it a point to celebrate all of their milestones. It could be a birthday, promotion, anniversary, or other pivotal moments in your life. Think about how you felt when you celebrated yourself.
#10: When was the last time you were your authentic self?
Being our authentic selves makes us happy and feel fulfilled. Celebrate the moments when you were true to yourself. You are who you were destined to be.
Final Thoughts - MC's Story
Writing this blog post reminded me of the amazing things that have happened in my life this year. I am very grateful for all the "highlights" and great memories. My life is far from perfect. However, it is filled with many happy moments and memories. The next time that I am feeling down. I will come back to this post and ask myself these questions.
Lessons on becoming a Mother
Happy Mother's Day to all the amazing mothers and caregivers!!! Being a mother has been one of the journeys in my life that have turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. Getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term was scary to me initially due to my prior health history. The interesting turns continued with having a baby during a global pandemic. Now I have a toddler who is discovering the world. I am very grateful for all my experiences.
In this blog post, I will share ten questions that I reflect on very often about motherhood. This is only the start of a great learning life-long journey.
How has being a mother changed my identity?
The concept of motherhood is beyond the point when the child joins the family. Over my pregnancy and the 18 months of my son's life, I have reflected on how motherhood has changed who I am. While the code of who I am and my values have not changed, and my perspective has shifted significantly.
What does being a good mother mean?
One thought that keeps me going is that I am the best mother for my son. We both get to define our relationship, learn from each other and grow. The image of a perfect mother does not exist because our journeys are different. I have seen that even my twin sister is s very different mother to her children.
Can I be a good working mother?
As far as I can remember, my mum worked and cared for my sister and me in my childhood. I have been fortunate to see working mothers who have successful careers and are excellent caregivers. This is the path that I have chosen for myself, and I am extremely fulfilled by being able to work on building a successful career and growing my family.
How do I avoid the pressures of motherhood?
For my mental health, I try not to put myself in a place where I feel I have to be like someone else. After I had my son, I stopped reading posts and articles from mothers who portrayed perfection. I struggled with breastfeeding my baby and felt judged by what I was reading. Shutting out those external stressors made my life much better. Everything you read, watch, or listen to is a snapshot of someone's life that they choose to share with you.
What is one thing that keeps me going?
My son is one of my biggest motivators. I want to give him all he needs to live a happy, kind, and fulfilled life. I have always been self-motivated and driven to do my best. However, now more than ever, I know why I am working hard at accomplishing my goals.
What is my favorite part of being a mum?
When I feel like the world stops and everything is perfect, my son smiles at me. In those moments, I am reminded that our son lives a great life and is happy. What more can I want beyond knowing that he is being who he was destined to be.
Who are my "tribe" on this motherhood journey?
Having a baby during a pandemic made our circle very small. We spent the first year of our son's life mostly indoors. My husband has been a strong partner on this parenthood journey. We both jumped right into caring for our family to the best of our abilities. I have learned a lot from my mum, sister, aunties, friends, and the great women in my life.
What am I currently learning?
I am learning to accept that my situation is unique and have given myself the grace to be flexible. I have to do some things in this phase of my life as a mother and career. Instead of seeking balance, I am accepting that some things might need to be prioritized higher than others at certain times.
What do I need to unlearn?
Many mothers will tell you about the guilt that plagues them because they think they are falling short of the standard of a good mother. I wonder who set the expectations of what motherhood should be like. There are a lot of variables that make all of our experiences different. Getting rid of the guilt is the only way for us to find happiness and be content.
What do I want to do more of?
The last 18 months have been an awesome journey, and I am excited about the future. I want to build many more happy memories with my family. Having fun is not something that comes easy to me, and I know that I need to be very intentional about enjoying life. I am committed to savoring every moment we spend together as a family.
I feel very fortunate to have a little human who I get to watch grow. Every day of motherhood is a gift. Some days are challenging, and we need to make difficult decisions. However, there is a lot of joy on this journey to becoming the mother I am meant to be.
Over my lifetime, I have had the privilege of living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US. Twenty-one years ago, when I moved to Germany and started my experience as an immigrant, I had no idea where I would be. My journey has had many highs and lows. I know for certain that this is the life I was meant to be living and would not change it for anything.
In this blog post, I will share five ways being an immigrant impacted my life. Check out my other Her Relocation blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
Allowed me to see more of the world
Since I left Nigeria in 2001, I have been fortunate to visit ten countries on four continents. Growing up in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria, everything that I knew about the world was what I saw on TV. Seeing the world's beauty, learning about new cultures, and eating good food has made my journey amazing. I am looking forward to other countries that I will get to see over the next years.
Made me independent and taught me to work for what I want
Leaving home at the age of 15, I had to grow up very quickly and make decisions independently. I learned a lot by being brave and learning from my mistakes. My upbringing prepared me a little for the challenges I faced. When I hear people talk about things they inherited or have gotten without working for, I wonder what it feels like. Over the years, I have had to work very hard to get financial stability, achieve professional success, and live my life. I now know that if I want something, I can work towards it, and I do not need to wait for someone to make it possible for me.
Helped me own my identity
My cultural identity was something I was unsure of growing up in Nigeria. I was born in Germany to a Nigerian single mother, spent my childhood in Nigeria, and moved to Germany when I was 15. Not knowing my German roots always raised questions in my childhood. When I moved to Germany, I embraced my Nigerian identity, especially the food. Years later, when I moved to the US, I celebrated my German culture. I can now confidently say that I am German-Nigerian.
Taught me how to adapt to change
When I was younger, my response to the question about what one of my weaknesses was to say that I was scared of change. After 21 years of constant change, I now know that I am very resilient and adapt very well to new situations. I have lost count of the number of times that things changed in my life. I have experienced multiple transitions from moving to new homes, changing jobs, meeting new people, and settling into new countries. I have become very used to change and no longer fear the impact of life changes.
Changed the trajectory of my life
Looking back on my childhood and humble beginnings, life was very different from how things are now. Being an immigrant has given me the greatest life that I could never have imagined I would have. Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I did not leave Nigeria to start a new life in Germany and then also when I moved to the US years later. The last 21 years have made me my best self.
There are many aspects of my journey that I have taken for granted. Reflecting on the ways my life has changed reminded me of how strong all my experiences have made me.