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Choosing Home: Toluyemi Nathaniel shares her experiences Living in China, returning home and working with Softcom

As the perception continues to change on Africa’s one-dimensional portrayal as a struggling continent, the tide of brain drain from developing to developed nations is reducing as a growing number of highly skilled and educated Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians etc. flock back to their countries of birth after some time away. They left, either as children with their immigrant parents or for study and early career opportunities. They return, in search of an identity, of bigger opportunities, to seek their roots, and determined to make a change. The countries they come back to are certainly the winners in this affair, as these are typically the very best and brightest. Toluyemi Nathaniel remembers when she had the awakening moment of making the decision to return home to Nigeria. It was close to the end of her 2-year stay in China studying for a Master’s Degree in International Economics and Business. In substantiating her refreshing sense of duty towards her country, Tolu reveals that she wasn’t forced to return because her program was over. This is a common occurrence in some cases and she had the chance to further her education there, but declined to. Curious to understand how she found herself in China in the first place, Toluyemi talks about the reasoning behind the decision to leave for that particular country. She also talks about the period of her stay in China, her return back home, and her work as a Procurement Administrator at Softcom. [bctt tweet=”For me, I just had to come back. I love Nigeria and I can’t imagine being somewhere else for so long without itching to return – Toluyemi Nathaniel” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] Was it your choice to go to China or was it out of your control?   “Deciding to go to China was 100% my choice. It was actually my first time out of the country, but I didn’t want something familiar, which is what the UK or America would’ve been for me. In fact, immediately after I got there, there was this episode at the airport where there was a mix up with me reclaiming my luggage. Officials gathered trying to solve the problem, but they were all speaking Chinese, which I didn’t understand at the time. This didn’t frighten me, but instead did the opposite; I was, in fact, more interested to understand the language. In its own way for me, it was about fulfilling a sense of adventure I’d long craved. I’m a thrill seeker at heart, so China was a place I really looked forward to living in”. Tolu’s take on a seeming over-familiarization of foreigners with Western culture is valid in the growing sense that with its global connection, European culture has grown with an all-inclusive urge to adopt, adapt, and ultimately influence other cultural trends around the world. In comparison to a country with a rich cultural history and background still waiting to be explored by most, it’s understandable why the Asian country will be a better pick to experience an original cultural adventure. It’s all well and good, however, the intricacies of living as a minority in the most populated nation on earth remains a reality that can’t be written off. Last year, Quartz published a comprehensive report on a growing fear in some parts of China of a “black invasion bringing drugs and crime” due to the increasing number of African migrants. What it’s like studying and living in China as a young black Nigerian woman?   “That can honestly be a bit tricky to navigate because the Chinese aren’t used to seeing black people. They are almost fascinated when they see one, and still do things like rubbing a black person’s skin, asking if it is ‘dirt’. I’ve had a few people do that to me. Sometimes, they just stare at you because they’ve never seen someone like that before. In my case, I was fortunate because Tianjin (where I stayed) has one of the highest percentages when it comes to the number of different national ethnicities. I met other Africans, and some of my classmates were black people. There are blatant cases like when cars don’t wait to pick you up, or when I was told to “sound American” at an interview trying to get a job as an English tutor on campus. As an African woman living in China, there’s this contention of you constantly trying to decide if it’s racism or simply ignorance which I guess is the same for most black people there.” Overt displays of racism from locals can be too much to handle for some living in the diaspora. For these people, the danger of being targeted by racial violence can be the deal breaker between settling and returning home. Tolu, however, insists that she doesn’t regret her decision to move there, and says she’s gained a new perspective on some issues because of some of her encounters. [bctt tweet=”Majority of the population being dominated by people who’ve gained some know-how in important areas of technology ” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”] “There’s a lot of how things are done over there that will be strange to us. There are things we can copy and a couple of things we shouldn’t copy. It’s a fascinating array of differences in culture and practice that if a balance can be found, a lot of problems will be solved. But the process of finding that balance comes with the firsthand participation in a challenging change to one’s conventions and ideas of the world.” The case for diaspora-return driven development in Nigeria is compelling, and the advantages cannot be denied. “All I kept thinking of was how much can I change over there? I just feel sometimes, it’s more difficult to change things you haven’t experienced. Everyone that has made a change in this country is people that lived through the Nigerian story and made up their mind to change things when given the opportunity. I decided to join that group.” she continues Returnees come to represent a bridge of