This week’s subject on #TheAbroadLife left Nigeria to start over in school after being forced to stay at home for a whole year due to ASUU strikes. He lost three years in total, but today, he’s worked with the company that built the popular game, Call of Duty.
When did you decide to leave Nigeria?
I didn’t make the decision myself, TBH. It was something my parents decided and kinda worked towards. I’d noticed them talking to my cousins about schools in the US, and I was just in the background cheering them on because I was excited at the thought of leaving OAU to study abroad.
LMAO. What’s wrong with OAU?
Everything. First, it’s a mentally draining place, like everything conspires to suck the mental curiosity out of you. I once had a lecturer tell the whole class that we were all going to fail because he didn’t like us. Just like that. We had someone give a test ten minutes into the start of his class because he noticed many people weren’t in class yet. The place is just full of wickedness. So, I was really excited about leaving.
Was this what made your parents decide, or was it something else?
My parents are kinda used to the fact that Nigerian schools are messed up in many ways, so the things I was experiencing probably seemed like child’s play to them because they experienced worse. But the last straw for them was 2020.
We’d gone on strike before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the lockdown didn’t make it feel like the strike was serious. We came out of the lockdown a few months later, and I still couldn’t go anywhere because ASUU strike was on. The last strike that had happened was in 2018 but this was enough to freak my parents out, so they started looking for options.
Why did they choose the US?
I had cousins who live here and understand how things work, so it was only natural for them to be the starting point for my parents. We realised I could move abroad with an undergraduate assistantship which would afford me a tuition-free undergraduate education. That became the thing to pursue for the next six months.
I wrote the SATs and passed really well, and I applied to about five schools to study electrical engineering, which was what I was studying in OAU. I applied to schools with the highest acceptance rates, low tuition and good post-university placement rate. This helped with my admission and career chances.
Did you get admitted to any of these schools?
Yes. I got admitted to a university in Minnesota in March 2021, but the session was to start in August. We applied for the student visa with my admission, paid the fees, after which I started planning to “travel out”.
I didn’t tell a lot of my friends about the whole thing, mainly at the behest of my parents. They were scared of “village people” when it came to my matter, so we were all very discreet.
What happened next?
My visa was approved, and I left Nigeria in June 2021.
Paint me a picture. You’ve just landed in Minnesota, USA. What’s it like?
I saw the tallest buildings I’d ever seen in my life, and it blew my mind. That was my first time out of Nigeria, so I’d only ever seen them in movies. But movies don’t do justice to how tall some of these buildings are. Then the roads. My God, the roads are big, and the cars on them too. I think Americans simply love big things. The food portions are big too. Same thing with the billboards.
When winter was done, I could finally appreciate just how beautiful the state is. It was naturally beautiful with the nicest treescapes and landscapes. I hate that I still haven’t been able to explore the natural side of the state because I’ve been busy with school.
Speaking of, how did it go at school?
I did all the registrations, met and signed up with the lecturer to whom I was supposed to be a research assistant. He was warm and welcoming. The work I had to do for him was only on a part-time basis so I could focus on school.
When school started, I realised I’d been suffering all my life. There’s an unspoken sentiment in Nigeria that school needs to be hard for it to make sense, or that it’s normal for students to suffer just because they’re students. That thing is complete rubbish. The first thing that shocked me here was that the lecturers want your opinion, and they actually care about it. This was new to me because asking the wrong questions in my class back in OAU could mean you’d get washed by the lecturer.
The style of learning w also perfect for me. It wasn’t just knowing and regurgitating facts. You got to see how to apply them in practical situations. A lot of things I used to need to memorise were just unnecessary. Because of this, I’ve been on a perfect GPA since my first year in school, and I don’t even work as hard at school as I did in OAU.
Omo. I love it for you
Because I have the grades and time, I’ve been able to do a lot extracurricular activities like building student developer clubs, and take on internships and side jobs to make more money. It’s a better deal coming here TBH.
Last summer, I did a 3-month software engineering internship at the company that makes the Call of Duty game that everyone loves so much. I had a fun time and made awesome friends.
That’s awesome! Tell me about the people of Minnesota
The people here are super-polite, almost to a fault. It was off-putting at first, especially coming from Nigeria where people are often careful when talking to strangers. They say “please” so much it kills me. They smile whenever they’re talking to you, and it didn’t sit well with the Yoruba boy in me. Like, why are you smiling? Are you planning to do me bad or what?
I eventually got used to it, and I now get along well with people. In school, I made a lot of American friends, but I was also able to connect with Africans because we have societies and associations that make that easy.
When you’re here, you don’t really see people from other African countries as different from you because you’re mostly coming from the same situation back home, and people simply make no distinction between what country people are actually from.
What do you plan to do after school?
I don’t know. I haven’t actually thought about that. But I know for a fact I want to stay back here. There are lots of opportunities for me to choose from. The most obvious thing for me to do is to get a job here so I can get a work visa and probably stay here long enough to become naturalized.
My main goal is to work in big tech, but we’ll see.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 9 A.M. (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.