September 18, 2011. It will take a long while before this date is gone from my memory. This was the day I arrived at London Heathrow Airport ready to start school in England for the first time, writes Brooke House College student Dolapo Akitoye.
I had seen this airport before countless times but this time around, I felt like the ground should open up and take me in.
I was filled with mixed emotions. I was extremely nervous and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect.
Thankfully, I was with my mum who was there to support me. Still, thinking of my dad and my siblings back in Nigeria, I was a bit unhappy as I was definitely going to miss them for sure.
It dawned on me that this was not a joke. I wasn’t here on a vacation. I was here to study.
As a child, I was always eager to go on vacations but I really didn’t know my geography.
I only heard of the big cities that everyone spoke about – London, New York, Beijing.
So when my mum mentioned ‘Brooke House College, Market Harborough’, to me, my confused reaction was priceless.
I really didn’t know where this place was. It was my first time of hearing it.
I sat up on my bed and opened my laptop eager to know about this environment that I was going to be living in for the next two years.
How would it be like schooling there? How different from Nigeria would it be? Would I be welcomed?
These questions clouded my thoughts as I looked up the images of Market Harborough.
I saw a picture of the Old Grammar School, photos of the streets, the shops and the churches. Five words came to mind: Quiet. Serene. Peaceful. Spiritual. Traditional.
It was a lot for me to take in and the ‘Doubting Thomas’ in me came alive. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” I thought.
After what seemed like an endless cab ride, from the airport I finally arrived at Market Harborough.
It was beautiful. It was exactly how I pictured a Sunday morning. It was quiet and tranquil.
A smile crossed my face. The environment had just welcomed me. Still, I couldn’t help but become nervous again. How would I cope?
I had never lived in another country. I had done my primary and secondary education in Nigeria.
I had my primary education in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on the east coast of Nigeria.
I had my secondary school education in Ogun State, an hour’s drive from the capital, Lagos.
My parents felt I needed to be in a boarding school so as to be able to learn independence.
After my secondary education, my parents decided that I should school in England so as to experience a different style of learning and to be able to meet people from all over the world.
It was a really big change for me. I was used to a wonderful weather each day as it never gets lower than sixteen degrees in Nigeria.
A former British colony, English is the main language in Nigeria, although our parents still speak our tribal languages to us.
Nigerian parents expect the best from their children both educationally and morally and so doing well in school was not an option.
Our teachers in school being parents as well, spoke to us exactly how out parents would at home.
In school, I had to live in a hostel with five other people in my room. It wasn’t cramped up as the rooms were really spacious.
I learnt how to live with different personalities because each year I had different room mates.
It was very important for us to do well in school and so every week day, after having lunch and an hour of siesta, we had to go back to class to read.
After dinner at night, we had to go back to class to read as well for two hours.
We only could rest during the weekends and even then we still had to go and read in class on Sunday night.
Success could not be taken lightly. It was something that I got used to and I could handle.
Each class held an average of 20 students and so I learnt how to study with a lot of people around me. It was also fun being with a lot of people as well.
We studied at least 15 different subjects shared into nine periods each day. It was a lot but at least we got to know a bit of everything.
It was necessary to guide us into ideas on what we wanted to study later in life. This helped me in choosing to study journalism in the university.
Spirituality in Nigeria is important to every family in Nigeria just as much as eating is to every human being and so even in school, spirituality is encouraged.
The Christians had church services on Sundays and fellowships on Fridays. The Muslims had services on Fridays and fellowships on Sundays.
It was an essential part of our daily routine.
Nigeria as a country comes alive in the night as its beauty is seen very clearly. Driving down the streets of Lagos at night, music from different corners serenades the car and the roads never go to sleep.
This was the kind of atmosphere I was used to and so I couldn’t help feeling anxious.
It was all different for me in Market Harborough - the weather, the food, the culture and even the classes but I knew that with time I would get used to it.
And I did. A few weeks later, I was standing on the streets of Market Harborough that was no longer an enigma to me.
I was reminded of my thoughts when I saw those pictures of the town on my laptop. I didn’t doubt it this time, I believed it.
After a hectic last year in Nigeria, tranquility was all I needed and I had come to a place that gave me just that.
It isn’t a big town but I realised that I could get anything I needed. Coffee? Starbucks, Costa and Caffé Nero are not far away.
Food? What kind? Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Fast Foods? All available.
Clothes? New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Peacocks and more are here.
Groceries? Tesco, Sainsbury, Cooperative, Waitrose and more provide me with everything I need.
The churches help in providing the spirituality that I seek.
Although the night life is different from what I am used to as the people as well as roads go to sleep, I am assured of one thing - my safety.
My questions finally got answers. Market Harborough is peaceful. It is a ‘home away from home’.
I have been here for more than a year now and I am grateful to my parents for bringing me to a wonderful town such as this.
Everybody here is welcoming. I have been able to mingle with people from different cultures as Brooke House College is an international school.
I enjoy schooling there. I am studying my A-levels. I learn English literature, sociology and politics as it gives me an insight into what I want to do in the university.
I live in a shared house with wonderful people. I have my own room here. It is different and it took me a while but I absolutely love it here. Living here has been wonderful for me. It is an experience I will definitely miss when I leave.