True Story: I Was Bullied Because of My Background

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, amazing, challenging things.  This is the story of Aury and what happened after she moved from Switzerland to Nigeria.Tell us a bit about yourself!

My family lives in Abuja, Nigeria currently, but I’ve moved around a lot because of my dad’s job as a diplomat. I find it really hard to tell people where I’m from since I’ve grown up all over the world. Home for me really is wherever my family is. I’m 19 and I’m an Economics major with a theater arts/ costume design concentration. I love to write, I have a blog, and I’m currently working on my dream to run my own clothing line.

How diverse is your city?
My current city is pretty diverse. I’m schooling in Boston and it has a pretty decent number of people from all over the world because there are so many great universities and colleges here. Abuja on the other hand is mostly full of Nigerians, and other Africans. Although there are quite a few people from other parts of the world, Nigerians are clearly the majority.
Tell us about your high school
Although it’s hailed as the best school in the country, and has a highly competitive entrance exam and interview process, it is not a very diverse community. Most of the students were from upper middle class, educated, successful Nigerian families, and although a lot of them have traveled out of Nigeria, most of them have only ever visited anywhere else.
Did you know when you started this school that you were going to be one of very few minority students?  How did you and your family feel about that? 
What’s weird is, that although I am Nigerian by birth, I was not accepted by my fellow people because of the way I acted, the things I liked, the places I’d lived and the way I spoke. I never expected that I would be discriminated against because of my background and was shocked to find out how much I was disliked for it.
How were you treated differently ? 
While a few people treated me differently in a good way (a few teachers would be nicer to me, and a few students went out of their way to be kind towards me), most people treated me very poorly because of my differences. I was teased about my accent, taunted about my interests and experiences, and hated by a lot of my peers as well as a few teachers who resented the fact that I (as least as far as they knew) had led a charmed life. Every day became a living hell and every night became a fight to survive in a totally hostile environment.When my little brother came into the school I was stretched even farther because I wanted to protect from all the emotional damage I had gone through while still being a good older sister to him and helping him to grow up and survive in the difficult environment we’d been thrown into. These people made me hate my life and hate who I was. They made me hate myself for not being interested in the same music that they were into, going to the same schools that they had gone to, speaking the way that they spoke, walking the way they walked. They made fun of me because according to them I acted European/American when I was clearly Nigerian. They were jealous of me because they thought that I had the perfect non-Nigerian life and so treated me like scum in order to bring me down to their level. What they didn’t know is that I envied them for having such a strong sense of who they were and where they came from, a feeling I could only dream of having then. They made me hate my life, and pushed me into this dark hole of despair that led to my diagnosis with clinical depression in the 10th grade.

The worst thing about it was, that I could never escape. I would suffer through all of the abuse during the day and then go to the dorms at night only to have it continue right up until I fell asleep. I would go home and would only push myself further away from my family, going further and further into myself until my relationships at home suffered too. The breaking point happened at the end of the summer vacation between 9th and 10th grade when I went up to my mom’s room and literally broke down in tears begging her not to send me back to that school. She told me what she’d always told me, that this was the best school I could go to and the best place for me to be because of the fact that I supposedly needed stability.

What was your social life like?
My social life sucked for the first three years of school and honestly I can barely remember most of the details because apparently your mind has the ability to make you forget the details of any serious trauma you have experienced as a self defense mechanism, and that’s what happened to me. I can barely remember anything except for the pain. There weren’t a lot of people like me at the school, but I did have a few friends that I bonded with over a few of our shared interests but most of my closest friends were not in my year. Looking back, I realize that the people who were my closest me did not necessarily have to be in to what I was into. They just had to be open-minded, kind and accepting and they were.I know you’re a university student now – how diverse is your university?  Did you experience in high school affect your choice in universities?
Like I said it’s pretty diverse and my experience in high school definitely made this a priority. I wanted a school with people of widely different backgrounds, races, levels of experience and interests and I definitely found that in my current school. All my closest friends look nothing like me and only share a few of my interests but we all love each other dearly and this is all that matters.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s in a similar situation?
I would advise the person to get help as soon as possible. Don’t wait until they’ve crushed your will and lowered your self-esteem to the point where it’s practically unrecognizable. Mob mentality and people’s own insecurities can lead them to act terribly towards anyone they perceive as different. Surround yourself with people who love you, let them know what is being done to you and if it is so bad that you are borderline depressed get out of there as soon as you can. Years later, I am still battling with the scars from then and although I no longer hate the people who did this to me I hate what they did, and strongly believe there is never a good reason to be cruel to another human being.

Do you have any questions for Aury?  Were any of you bullied in high school? 

4 Comments

Lape

Hi Aury,
I'm Nigerian and live in Lagos. I am truly sorry you had such a terrible experience. Although I never went through what you did, I have an idea because people tease me and sometimes say stupid things because I'm different. Unlike most Nigerians, I like pop, dance and rock music as opposed to hip-hop and r&b and I tend to dress like a rock chick (like my nephew says :-)) instead of wearing strictly pencil skirts, blouses and high-waisted trousers (or whatever is trendy at the moment). I survive because I grew up here and know how this place works and I'm sure the teasing I get is no way close to what you got. Finally, I survive because I have a sharp tongue and I'm not afraid to use it 😉 People who say idiotic things know to stay away from me. You sound happier now but I hope you'll find a way to like (if not love) Nigeria again someday 🙂 Take care.

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Jessica

I wasn't bullied in high school. I was however bullied throughout elementary school. It truly sucks regardless of the reason (not that there is any) of what people use to keep you out.

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camillapeffer

I really love all your true story blog posts!
In my experience, people usually criticise what they don't understand, or what they envy. Sometimes you meet a person and they hold up a mirror, forcing you to see what's lacking in your life. Unfortunately, this usually manifests itself in an ugly, hostile outward projection.
I've been bullied before and also done the bullying. I think everyone has been on the giving and receiving side at least once in their life, no?
I also read somewhere the other day that people bond a lot more over gossiping about someone than they do sharing something they love…scary!

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Jessica

Aury,
I am sorry you had to go through such a horrible experience. I am Nigerian-American, and although I live in the US I can somewhat relate. Within the Nigerian community where I live I was sort of the outcast because I wasn't interested in what all the other Nigerian kids liked. They preferred partying, listening to rap/r&b and wearing trendy (and often skimpy) clothes.I preferred alternative/indie rock music and watching Flight of the Conchords. Although I was mocked/outcasted for being me, I did not go to school with them, and only saw them at family/community events. I was once bullied in middle school because I wasn't wearing a&f and Hollister (before I went there I had no knowledge of those brands). It started from there, and then went out of control. The girls that bullied me made my life hell and it got to the point where I had to notify the school authorities.
I am glad that you have good friends in your life now. My little cousins moved from America to Nigeria for school a year ago, and I just pray everyday that they are not going through this.

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