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.
Today’s subject on Abroad Life started her process to leave Nigeria for the USA for school in 2017 and didn’t leave until two months ago. She talks about how money, COVID and visa problems delayed her travel plans. She also talks about arriving in the USA in the middle of a polar vortex and having to survive extreme levels of cold.
When did you first start trying to leave Nigeria?
2017. I was fresh out of secondary school, and I knew I didn’t want to do university in Nigeria so I was already actively searching for opportunities to study abroad. My plan was to come to the USA, but somehow, between not having enough money, visa wahala and COVID, I just got here about two months ago.
Damn, which one came first?
Money wahala. I rushed and wrote my SATs, ready to japa. Sometime in 2018, I got my admission to study nursing in some private university. It was so perfect. And then we saw the fees. My sister was finishing university in the USA at that time, so the financial situation at home wasn’t so great. I just deferred my admission from 2018 to a semester in 2020 and went to join my brother in UNILAG.
How was UNILAG?
It was fun. In my first year, I was the most unserious person because I knew I was still going to America, so what was the point of going for classes or even doing assignments? It didn’t help matters that I applied to study nursing, and I was admitted to study radiology instead. I hated it so much.
After my first year, I approached the sub-dean of my faculty and begged him to transfer me to the Psychology Department, and surprisingly, he did. So I did psychology till I left.
I’m curious. Did your UNILAG friends know you were going to leave them?
Only the extremely close ones knew the situation I was in. Honestly, at some point, even I started doubting that I could still come to the US. Most of my friends were not close enough for me to tell them, so it was when I left they knew.
Which wahala came next?
COVID. It started looking less likely that I was going to travel because of COVID, and my life seemed stuck. Something that made it worse was the ASUU strike. The reason that so many public university students in Nigeria were out of school for almost one year was ASUU strike, not COVID. People didn’t talk about that enough. These people practically wasted one year of our lives.
I eventually started attending classes online last year. I’d paid my fees, but I wasn’t able to leave Nigeria, so we created a system where I attended classes online. That terribly affected my sleeping patterns because I had to adapt to American time zones.
Damn. How did that end?
Travel restrictions were lifted, so I started processing my visa. Somehow, the process was looking bleaker and bleaker. The embassy kept cancelling and rescheduling appointments until early this year when I, out of faith, applied for an emergency visa interview and got it. I left one week later. That was my first time abroad.
What were your first impressions?
Omo, it was cold. I arrived in Minnesota in the middle of a polar vortex, and so the cold was intense. On some days, it was -31°C. It wasn’t even snowing that much. It was just really really cold. I stayed indoors for my first two weeks. On the day I finally decided to go out, I felt every part of me freeze — my fingers, my toes, my eyelids, everything. I didn’t travel with clothes for the cold, so it was really bad. I would wake up with blood in my nose, and my ears started popping — I’ve had problems with my ears for years and it got worse. It was horrendous.
I think something good that came out of that is the fact that when the temperature sort of normalised, I didn’t feel it that much anymore. So when it came down and it was -15°C, I didn’t feel as cold as I should have. I felt like a superhero.
Haha. How’s it been settling in?
It’s been great. I have a job as a student ambassador here already. I sign people up for stuff, take questions, give tours, direct traffic and all that. I already secured a job for next semester too; I’ll be a resident advisor. It’s like being hostel prefect.
Are you staying after you finish school?
I’m studying nursing in a country where I’ll be appreciated and paid well. Of course, I’m staying.
What do you miss about Nigeria?
The food. I don’t like the food here one single bit. I feel like I’m being punished. My friends taunt me by sending me pictures of Nigerian food. The only things I can eat well here are chicken and mashed potatoes. The rest of it is just tasteless. I hope I find something I like.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.