They say girls shouldn’t go to school
Serena Enemodia’s Story
As retold to Rylee Fritsch from The Facing Project at Mott Community College
April 14th, 2015
Today I finally understood the reason as to why my parents have been trying to get their visas since they got married. They told me at a very young age that it would take four to five years to get our visas. I really do not want to wait any longer. Terrorism and bombing from Boko Haram has been embedded in my life for as long as I can remember. It makes me feel unsafe but it has become normal to me. It is a part of life for all of us in Nigeria. Boko Haram are bad people. They say girls are not supposed to go to school. They say that girls should get married around 14 to 15 years of age so they can cook food for the men and give them children.
They get mad when they see girls going to school.
But I like to go to school.
I was supposed to go to the gifted school considering the fact that I placed extremely well on the placement test. The school I was promoted to is close to where the Chibok girls were kidnapped. Therefore, my parents are no longer allowing me to be promoted.
Today they kidnapped 300 girls from a school in Chibok. I hear that they are holding them hostage in some woods. I do not know what woods. I wonder what woods? Three hundred girls. I wasn’t surprised when I heard that number. I know the poor regions do not have much security at the schools. My subconscious is asking about what the police should be doing. I mean I would think the police would have been involved but I’ve been told they are corrupt. Other times the police are scared of them and I think that is why they can get away with so much. Soon they will start using them as suicide bombers. I already know this because recently they placed a young girl in the middle of the market with a bomb strapped to her. I know the girl from the market escaped and she was lucky, but those three hundred girls…I will be praying for.
Today is a new day. The status of our visas is still the same. I’ve been wondering why it has been taking so long so I asked my mother. This was her response, “There are a lot of things that have to be in place before you can even think about getting a visa. You must have a reason to go to the United States and you must have enough money to sustain life for the length of time that you will be abroad. They will actually check your bank account to see that you have all the money.
Wow! I am still only 13 so it should be hard for me to understand what all of this means…but it’s not. I hope our family can overcome all of the obstacles pertaining to receiving a visa. I have three sisters and one brother. We really need to leave. It is not safe for us when Boko Haram is still out there.
I have the most wonderful news. WE HAVE OUR VISAS! I was so unbelievably nervous earlier today. I cannot believe the white lady only asked us two questions and did not look at a single document that my dad presented. All she had to say was, “Ma’am, you have been accepted and your visas for your whole family will be ready in a week’s time.” I TRIED TO KEEP CALM when we were in the building but once we stepped out I burst with joy, screaming, and the first person my parents told were my grandparents and they were delighted.
I mean this doesn’t even feel real!
Seriously, we spent all morning properly ironing our clothes, cleaning our shoes. My sisters and I even got our hair done for the first time at a salon. Every thirty minutes my dad would ask us about what we were supposed to say when or if we were asked certain questions. We waited for at least an hour before we could get interviewed because the line was very long. A lot of people were trying to leave the country due to the insurgency. What a wonderful day.
I am in America! I cannot believe this is actually happening…
My first impression of America has been unfortunate. I got sick from something I ate on the plane, the food tastes foreign to me. I do not like it, and it smells horrible. I went to the flight attendant because I was sick and she gave me ginger ale. I looked to my mom and said, “Mom they gave me soda.” All she said was, “Drink it up; there is nothing else we can do.” I found it quite comical that they gave me ginger ale. The flight took two days; we stopped in Dubai and then Chicago. Now we are in Michigan. When we stepped out of the airport, it was super cold, the coats we brought from Nigeria were not thick enough to protect us.
At 5 AM we took an “Uber” to a hotel. We went right to sleep. When I woke up it was around 9 AM and I noticed it was snowing. I shouted with delight, “Mom look it’s snowing outside.” I didn’t know it was going to be so cold, but I immediately ran outside with bare feet. A man was standing outside and he glared at me looking at me as if I was a crazy person for going outside in the snow without shoes on.
August 5th 2016
It is summer break for students in America so I am not in school. I am so excited to go to school. I will start at GEC soon; it is a middle college, at the University of Michigan. To my understanding they will not give me college classes yet because I am considered an international student. I am the first student to be in this situation that has attended GEC, so they don’t know what to do with me. I am sad that I cannot receive college credits while attending high school, but I am ecstatic to be going to high school for free.
All of the good non-government schools in Nigeria are private or gifted schools that you have to pay for. Here my parents don’t have to pay for it. I even get free lunch and breakfast. We had to pay for everything in Nigeria. We also had to fetch water to drink and we do not have to do that here. I almost feel spoiled.
The most wonderful opportunity in this new life is being able to go to school with other girls and not worrying about anyone telling us we aren’t allowed to.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.