Please note: This interview has been edited for increased clarity and readability.
Bolu Adewumi’s views are still fully represented.
Bolu Adewumi is a second-year international management student at the University of Warwick and an executive for Warwick Nigerian Society. Bolu collaborates with other members of the student-led organisation to find new ways to celebrate cultural diversity.
Bolu has successfully navigated through identity confusion by self-discovery and accepting the ambiguous conditions of being a third-culture kid. Bolu’s TEDxWarwick talk: ‘Embracing the Fluidity of Culture and Identity’, encourages the idea that each individual is more than just their ethnic makeup or culture. She talks about the pressure to submit to ethnic trends out of a desire to establish a strong identity.
Bolu highlights that often, identity pressure may not be coming from others but from within. Therefore, learning to accept who we are is a process that requires patience and support from people you are comfortable to develop around.
When joining a big society like ACS, did this initially boost your confidence in finding your Nigerian identity or overwhelm you?
I would say that it was overwhelming to be in such a massive space like that. But once I started finding my people, it began to feel less big.
What does being a third-culture kid mean to you personally?
I think it is just accepting that I won't know everything. I won't know everything about Nigeria, I won't know everything about the UK, and it is about learning how to be at peace with that.
Would you say it is a definition that changes over time?
I think it can. If you move abroad, for example, and learn about even more cultures. I want to hopefully move abroad to Canada, and that might even make me a fourth culture kid if that is even a thing!
You expressed your concern about failing to identify with multiple identities that were handed to you. Which aspect did you feel particularly concerned about?
I think I was most concerned about not knowing about the language. I wish I could speak my mother tongue, and I always felt a bit out of place. Once you can speak a language, it opens you up to so many people. Every time I went to Nigeria and I couldn’t read, people could tell straight away that I grew up abroad, and that changed the way they perceived me. And then coming to university, it was Afrobeats. Since I didn't listen to it, people looked at me confused when I didn’t know the songs.
You describe how you have set yourself up for the impossible task of creating a manual guide to identity. Have you always doubted this guide from the start, or is it something that you realised over time?
I didn't doubt it - I thought, let's see where I can go. Looking back, it was a bit much trying to change my whole playlist to Afrobeats! But, it was an experience that I am grateful for because I learned a lot, and it made me more curious about myself by asking more questions.
How did you stay connected to your Africanness during your childhood despite not going to school with many Africans?
In my form, there was one other Nigerian girl. We didn't really talk about being black or being Nigerian. Our friendship group was also mixed. But my church was very Nigerian, so I was surrounded by Nigerians every Sunday. My dad works in Nigeria, and when he comes back, he often talks about the politics of the country and how things are getting on. So, I just listened to what he had to say, and that helped me stay connected. I used to visit Nigeria quite frequently as a child, but when I went in 2022, it was my first time back in seven years. That trip helped me see my identity. Before that, Nigeria felt distant. But I enjoyed my time there and would like to go back.
What do you think was the reason for your newly found Identity crisis when you stepped into university?
I think it is just a feeling of not fitting in. When I came to university, I was told your community is at ACS, and I did find a lot of friends there. But when I went there, I realised I did not share the same passions or experiences as they did, which shaped my ethnic identity. For example, a lot of them went to predominantly black schools in London. During a song association game, I didn’t know many of the references or the dance moves to match. I am a street hip-hop dancer, so it felt uncomfortable trying to do these new moves since I had never done them before. I used to stand aside and just watch, even though I liked dancing. In that way, it made me feel a bit different, even though it is all okay now.
Whilst going to ACS, have your genuine preferences changed?
Naturally, I have changed. I have found new songs and hobbies, like Afro-dance, which I didn't do before. So, that has shaped me because if I had not joined ACS, I don't think I would have gotten involved in those sorts of activities. I have also just accepted that I like certain things that may not be as popular in my community, but there are other communities out there for that. For example, I am now a part of a hip-hop dance team. ACS encouraged me to try other spaces, try new things, and meet new people.
What is some advice you would give to those who are struggling with insecurities about their identity?
There is not one quick fix to this - it is a process. I like to talk to my parents or friends about how I feel because when you start talking to other people, you learn that they also have things that they feel uneasy about or they feel that they don't fit in due to certain aspects. Also, just realising the pressure you put on yourself should not be so serious. Adopt a positive mindset that everything works out eventually, so patience is needed. Eventually, I found the right people that I felt comfortable expressing myself around.
Transcribed and edited by Esther Park.
The views and opinions presented in this interview belong to Bolu Adewumi— not Esther Park, nor TEDxWarwick.
If you have any questions concerning the interview, or opinions expressed, do feel free to comment in the comments section, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.