Hi everyone, my name is Abimbola Fayomi. I was born in Oyo state, before shortly moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, then a few other countries, then soon after, settling in the United States to pursue my education and career. We moved around a lot as a family due to my dad being a diplomat. I moved to the U.S during my 11th grade of high school, and later pursued my undergraduate degree, and masters, then later on, worked in Corporate America for a number of years. Right after my undergraduate degree, I moved to Nigeria for one year, to participate in NYSC, before returning to the U.S to further my education. I lived in the U.S for a total of 17 years before moving back to Nigeria. I am currently a project manager, working in international development, focusing on education and social development.
Nice to meet you Abimbola. So, what was life like growing up in all those countries?
It was great. I grew up in Brazil, China, Zimbabwe, South Korea and then the U.S.A, It was really fun learning the different cultures in the various countries. My favourite was South Korea. We lived in Seoul. I loved the food, culture, and the people. All my siblings were born in one of those countries, except me; the only one of my parent’s children born in Nigeria. So when we joke around, it usually comes up that I’m the true Nigerian of the family.
Great. Where did you go to university?
I attended Liberty University in Virginia, and then I attended Howard University, Washington, DC for my MBA. Going to university in the U.S was a great experience. I studied Accounting as my major and was involved in extra-curricular activates such as being part of a dance group and a gospel choir. I loved having friends from different countries, because the university had a lot of international students.
That’s awesome! What came next for you?
After my MBA, I worked in Operations/Supply Chain Management in the Aerospace/Oil & Gas Services industry. I worked for a conglomerate company in Connecticut and Philadelphia, starting out in an Operations Leadership rotational program, before specializing in Supply Chain Management. I definitely learnt a lot in Corporate America and grew as a person, having increasing responsibility in my different roles in the company.
Seems all was going well, why did want to move back to Nigeria?
I started thinking of moving back in 2011. While I was in the U.S., I came home to Nigeria about once a year to visit my family, and it was those visits that made me start thinking about moving back to Nigeria. In 2013, I decided to come home for a couple of months, to see how it would feel like being in Nigeria for a long while. I enjoyed my time in Nigeria, then in 2014, I made the decision to move back and I’ve been here ever since (it’s going on 2 years now).
Was it easy settling back in?
Yes and no. It was easy in the sense that I had family here in Nigeria, so I had the emotional support and I had friends to show me the ropes, etc. It wasn’t so easy in the sense that I had to adjust to the different mindset here, as opposed to the mindset in the United States. One example is the working environment. The corporate culture in Nigeria is different than that of the U.S. For example, in the U.S at work, it’s on a first-name basis. I call my boss and everyone older than me by their first name. In Nigeria, this doesn’t happen. You would have to use a lot of “Sirs and Ma’s”
“The NYSC experience”, tell us about it?
Well well, what can I say about NYSC. I loved my NYSC experience. I was the type of person who entered the NYSC camp, not knowing a single person, and came out at the end of the 3 weeks with many friends, many of whom are my close friends today. I participated in all the major activities from the military-like exercises, to the social-like competitions, to the jogging at 4 am in heavy rain. For one who didn’t spend adulthood in Nigeria, NYSC was a good place to forge friendships, being that everyone else is new in that particular town or city.
You mentioned you work in international development. Tell us about some of the work you do, specifically with Internally displaced persons in Nigeria.
Some of these IDPs are children, who have stopped going to school, due to the havoc and displacement that they have encountered. I work for an initiative, where we ensure that some of these children are still able to continue their secondary education by transferring them to schools in safer regions of the country. We work with international development partners to rehabilitate some of these schools in the North East that were destroyed, and we also implement innovative education strategies for the children in the IDP camps. There are lots organizations, both private sector companies and non-governmental organizations, actively involved in improving the lives of IDP’s.
Has the move back been worth it so far?
You betcha! Yes, it has. Nigeria definitely has its challenges, I can’t pretend like there aren’t any, because there are. It’s just a matter of choice and deciding to stick to your decision, no matter the challenges that come your way.
What do you do for fun and where would you recommend for relaxation?
For me, a good time is being with friends, laughing and enjoying good company. I also model for clothing designers, so I do this in my spare time. I enjoy reading books, cooking, and having intellectually stimulating conversations. I recommend trying out the different restaurants springing up in Abuja. Abuja is a bit more chilled out than Lagos, so if one wants an active social life, I recommend making Lagos the place to be.
Any move back tips for prospective returnees?
You have to have a plan. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. You have to have a plan for what you want to do and how you plan to achieve what you want to do in Nigeria. Nigeria is not a place where you just decide out of the blue that you’re moving back to and you just land here, because there will be challenging days, and when those days come, you have to remind yourself of the reason why you decided to move back.
Secondly, you have to have an open mind. Be ready to adjust to living here, and joyfully accept what comes your way.