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 talks about how she moved from Kaduna to Abeokuta to Lagos then Budapest while searching for a better quality of life. She doesn’t think Hungary is much better than Nigeria, but she’s satisfied there.
Let’s start with Nigeria. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Abeokuta state. I’m from Kaduna.
What ethnic group do you belong to?
I’m Jaba, but most people have never heard that before. I come from the place where those Nok terracotta sculptures originate from — that’s a more relatable way to explain my origins.
I feel like more people need to understand that being from the north doesn’t necessarily mean you’re Hausa. I get asked if I’m Hausa a lot, and it’ll interest you that there are about 60 other ethnic groups here that many people don’t know about. I once dated a guy for almost four years and till today, he still argues that I’m Hausa because I’m from Kaduna.
But your name…
Gevah Northcott, yes. Pretty cool name huh? I have an unwritten rule that whatever man I marry will have to keep his surname and I’ll keep mine. I can’t be changing my surname from Northcott to Gbadamosi.
Interesting. What was it like in Kaduna?
I was born in Kaduna, but I left for secondary school in Abeokuta when I was nine. That’s where I stayed until I was 15.
I would say that I mostly grew up in Abeokuta because even when I was on those short breaks, I didn’t go back to Kaduna. I only ever went back home for the long vacations.
Ah, okay. So when did you move to Budapest?
I moved in September 2018 for my master’s. I wasn’t interested in Nigeria, so I was just applying for all the scholarships that came my way. Somehow, I got this scholarship from the Federal Scholarship Board of Nigeria. When I told my friend who was already in Hungary, she advised me to apply to come here as well because not only would I not need to learn a new language, there were more job opportunities here than I would find in the UK or other European countries. Apparently, the job market here has opportunities, and English speakers got better job prospects.
What was the application process like?
It was one of those many applications after NYSC, but somehow I passed the first stage. They grouped us according to zones to write an exam after, and my exam centre was in Kebbi. I remember being on a bus to Kebbi from Kaduna when my sister called me saying that the venue had been changed. I checked and it had been moved to Kano state. That same day, I had to find my way to Kano.
After subsequent postponements, I finally wrote the exam about three weeks later. I waited for another three months before I got my result. At that point, I was tired. I don’t think the process was meant to be dragged and tedious. It was that way because we were in Nigeria and that’s just how things are done there.
What kept you going?
I don’t even know. I got a job with a bank in Lagos, so I went there.. I wasn’t interested in the Hungary thing anymore. I’d gotten a job and some stability. But then they reached out and asked me to come for verification in Abuja, and I remember hurriedly taking the night bus to Abuja one day and then going back to Lagos the next day to continue work. I think that happened more than once. By the time they told me the date for my interview, I was already tired. I didn’t go.
Yep. I went on a different date and still got the visa. When I got to Hungary, I realised that many of the Nigerians here are connected people who didn’t have to do anything to get their scholarships. If I had enough connection, I wouldn’t have had to go through all that stress.
Was the process expensive?
Not at all. Because it was government-funded, they paid for everything, even the rescheduling fee for my visa interview. The only expenditure I had was transport expenditure, all those Kaduna to Kebbi to Kano to Abuka to Lagos trips.
Getting to Hungary, was all that stress worth it?
I was underwhelmed when I arrived. The difference was slim. For example, one Hungarian forint is about 1.3 Nigerian naira. That’s not a big deal at all.
With time, I’ve realised that I’m better off here than I was in Nigeria. So I didn’t transit from hell to heaven, but the small progress in standard of living means it was worth it.
Are you done with your master’s?
Yes, I finished in July this year. That’s two years since I moved here, but it still feels like I have not settled in.
When I first got here, my main issue was finding friends. I was the only Nigerian in my school, so I decided to become friends with the only other black person in my class. You know how the story goes: he makes advances at me, and I wasn’t having any of that, so I cut him off.
It wasn’t any better in the hostels. I was in a room with one Mexican babe and one Turkish babe, and I had the worst time of my life. Oh, Lord, the noise those two women made was unholy. They were just always talking and shouting and making noise. I never could sleep or get along with them.
This year, I decided I needed to move to the city to really settle. Then immediately after I did, Corona hit and there was a lockdown. It was just always one thing or another. If someone who has never been to this city comes here and asks me to show them one place of interest, I’d just laugh because I haven’t been anywhere in this city for the two years I’ve stayed here. Maybe when Corona ends, I can experience Budapest better, but it’s not happening now.
What’s one thing you want to explore in Budapest?
I went to Nigeria last December, and when my uncle asked about the culture and difference between the people here and Nigeria, I couldn’t say anything. I want to at least be able to learn about the people and their culture. Maybe even the language too. Hungrarian is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world.
Tell me about the people
They’re okay, though they don’t trust foreigners. So, many times, you’ll hear them speaking Hungarian when foreigners are around, even in work environments, to intentionally create a communication barrier.
Do you plan to stay?
I’ve extended my residency by two years, I didn’t plan to stay after school but things have changed.. If something comes up, I might leave, but it’s not a bad place. It’s not the UK or Canada, and I used to think it was just a place of transition — some people stay here just to get their permanent residence and then travel around Europe and I don’t think that’s a terrible idea. I also know some people who have become citizens and are doing well for themselves.
I’m curious.. What’s the food like?
Food is part of their culture, and I’ve not explored the culture at all.
So what do you eat?
Today, I ate asaro (yam porridge). Yesterday, I ate goat meat pepper soup, and I ate eba and afang soup the day before. I’m that Nigerian. On the rare occasion that I eat out, I eat fast food like burgers, fries and pizza. I’ve never tried anything local. I’m looking to explore soon.
What’s Christmas looking like over there?
Nothing really. We’ve been on lockdown since November and it’s for 90 days, so it’ll end on the 9th of January. There’s no hope of Christmas for anyone in this country. Everyone has to be inside by the 8 p.m. curfew. You can’t go to parties and restaurants, and if you’re inviting people to your house, there’s a limit on the number of people that you can let in. I wanted to invite people over and cook, but now I’ll just order food online and watch Christmas movies.