The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
This week, we’re catching up with Tinuke Fashakin, a Nigerian nurse who is on the verge of living the American dream as an actress. She recently moved from Atlanta to California, and she’s giving us all the deets on juggling life as a Nigerian, a nurse and an aspiring actress in America.
Forget Palm trees and boulevards, we want inside gist. What are 3 things about California you don’t see in the movies?
First, homeless people. There are a lot of them on the streets, around supermarkets, in park benches. It’s the most interesting contradiction because there’s a lot of wealth in the state and almost as much poverty around. Then donughts. It is the most random thing but there are doughnut shops on every corner. The TV trope about policemen and doughnuts fully comes alive in California. And maybe distance. Everywhere seems so far. You could be ten miles away and it would take you an hour to get to your destination.
How long have you lived in America?
Plenty long. I’ve lived here since I was 15. I’m a registered nurse now, with about 5 years experience. It’s been a hot minute.
15 is pretty young. Why did you move there?
It was young. I left in SS2, so I was spared the worst of WAEC and JAMB, thank God! My dad got this idea that it was time for his children to receive abroad breeze on a daily and get his money’s worth for education. So he used his status as a Permanent Resident to file for us, even though he lives and works mostly in Nigeria with my mother. That’s how I found myself in the heart of Atlanta shortly before I turned16.
ATL! Okay Childish Gambino. What was it like landing there at such a young age?
LOL. It was a surreal experience. It was my first time in America, my first time away from my parents, from my boyfriend, my best friend. Just away from everyone I knew and loved. My brother and I lived in the home of our Nigerian family friends in Georgia, which was a lot different from the hot, messy, messed up country I was used to. Do you get?
Fully. What was living in Atlanta like though?
There are Nigerians everywhere! So even though it wasn’t exactly home, I was surrounded by enough Nigerian food and enough Nigerian people — even besides those I was living with, to at least get a healthy serving of Nigeria on a daily basis.
Hold up. I heard food. How easy was it to get some amala and ewedu in Paperboy’s backyard?
Man, there are Nigerian restaurants everywhere you turn, and if you were too lazy to go, somebody’s mommy was definitely throwing it down at home. Forget, once it came to food, I was always strapped.
Let’s back it up to when you went to school there. Where does a 15-year-old Nigerian immigrant start from in the US educational system?
Even though you can probably rough it in Nigeria, 15 was too young for me to get into any like tertiary institutions, so I was pulled back a year to 10, which is Nigeria’s equivalent of maybe SS 1, before being promoted two classes ahead of my year. So I went from year 9 to year 11 in about a year.
Did anyone say Nigerian excellence?
Haha. I had all As and my mom made a big deal out of it for like five years afterwards. I was just happy to be progressing if I’m being honest. It was such a different experience from what I was used to in Nigeria though. There I was, almost done with SS2 and I was thrown into a high school with people who should have been my peers and I was writing research papers for the first time, actively learning through computers for the first time, learning multiple languages for the first time. It was wild. Plus they incorporate academics with sports, a whole new experience for me, but with everything, I gra-grad my way through it.
Energy. So you’re a nurse now, what’s the process of getting that certification compared to say, a Nigerian in university looking to study nursing.
I’m not too sure what nursing requirements are necessary in Nigeria. But right after high school, I got my nursing prerequisites, before attending Emory University Nursing School. Oh, but there is one thing I noticed. America allows high school students looking to go into medicine shadow doctors and nurses, something I’m pretty sure doesn’t happen in Nigeria for say secondary school students.
Oh yeah. But back to certification, there’s this certification examination you have to write which is very make or break to get into the nursing profession. Some people never pass it. It gets intense.
Wild. So what’s life like, being a nurse?
Maaan, it is such a rush. I’m a labour and delivery nurse and just about every day or every other day I get to witness the birth of new life into the world. I don’t know why anybody does drugs, it is such a high on its own. Funny story, right before your call came in, I had just assisted in a delivery where the patient was an Igbo woman. It has its moments where things are extremely stressful, but I enjoy it for the most parts. I’m a travel nurse now, so I get to work 8-hour shifts, for three days. Back when I was a staff nurse, it was 12-hour shift, 5 days of the week.
Let’s talk about you being a travel nurse.
So it’s this thing where nurses get the opportunity to work temporarily in establishments like hospitals. Right now I change hospitals every three months. I decided to switch nursing roles when I decided acting was something I was serious about and needed the right education to back it up. So I made a plan to move to California for acting school, from Atlanta while working in a flexible nursing role that allowed time for me to focus on attending an acting school as well as the profession. Plus, it feels great to have some control over your time, not having to ask permission for days off, not being limited to two-weeks off, it’s pretty liberating.
Wait. You’re combining nursing and acting? Is there a second head I’m missing from your pictures?
LMAO. I wish. A lot of the time, it feels like I’m working two jobs. When I’m not helping to pop out babies and check patient temperatures, I’m back at home studying scripts and movies like my life depends on it. Which, it kind of does. Right now I’m studying Shakespeare literature for class and oh boy! the work.
How’s acting class going though?
You know I said nursing was a high? Well, acting has the same effects. I’m currently a student at Identity School of Acting and every time we have to rehearse and give showcases, it produces a high like you wouldn’t believe. I recently participated in and won a showcase in my school, and well, I’ll send the pictures, it was an indescribable experience.
And living in California?
Well, another interesting experience. Again, it was uprooting myself from family and friends I already made in Atlanta, but maybe it’s me doing odeshi, but I quickly adjusted and it’s quite the place to live in. Everyone’s so tan and so healthy, it kind of forces you to level up. Back in Atl, I would eat all the Nigerian starch and palm-oil soups in the world, but these days I’m taking green smoothies and cauliflower rice. It’s wild,. I’m finally eating consistentlY like a nurse would. Lol.
So would you ever leave nursing for acting?
Well, it’s something that will probably have to happen eventually, but I’m up for it.
Get those acting coins sis! Last question, would you ever move back to Nigeria?
Man, I’m in Nigeria just about every year anyway, so it never feels like I’m away from it too long. I’ve toyed with the idea a number of times, but I guess I’ll have to wait to see where life takes me.