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.

The only reason today’s subject on Abroad Life is still in Canada is because she’s waiting for her citizenship. She’s been there for 12 years and she’s tired of the cold, the boredom and the racism.

When did you decide to leave Nigeria?

12 years ago. When I was 15 and just out of secondary school, my mum visited Canada for the first time, came back home and said, “You’re going to Canada for university.”

Just like that?

Just like that. My plan was to study in the UK because that’s where I’d been before, and I was more familiar with it. The only thing I knew about Canada was that it was cold. Canada wasn’t even one of the countries anyone wanted to go to at that time, the way everyone wants to go there now. 

Six months after she told me, I left Nigeria. By that time, I’d turned 16. I didn’t go straight into university when I got to Canada,  I did a year of A-levels first. 

Expectation vs reality: Canada Edition.

I expected it to be cold, lonely and boring. The cold part was true. I had to wear gloves and sweaters all the time so I didn’t get frostbite. 

And the loneliness?

It didn’t become true until I left university. A-levels and university were not so bad because the schools I went to had a lot of Nigerian students. That helped me settle in well because I still had people around me I could go out to eat Nigerian food with. It was when adulthood kicked in — I got a job and started living on my own — that I realised that I could feel really alone in a place that had lots of people. 

That sounds sad—

Around this time I also realised that the trope about Canadians being the nicest people on earth was a goddamn lie. Racism happens very often here too, but it’s just not as “in your face” as in other places. It’s subtle. 

One time, my friends and I went to a liquor store to get some drinks. All of us were Africans. The guy at the counter refused to sell to us, even after we showed him ID, and when we demanded to see the manager, he threatened to call the police. It’s little things like that from time to time. 

When I called the company a few days later, they apologised and said they knew the specific employee I was talking about and he wasn’t a manager.He was just a guy who liked to do stuff like that. 

You don’t seem to be enjoying Canada that much. 

LMAO. I always want to be back in Nigeria. 

How often do you come back?

At least once a year since I got here. First, it started as a mandate by my parents that I needed to be home every Christmas as long as I was dependent on them. I think it was their way of keeping an eye on me. The older I got, the more I realised I liked being in Nigeria, so even after my parents couldn’t make me go back anymore, I found every opportunity I could to make the trip. 

There are a lot of things about Nigeria that make me want to stay there — the people, the atmosphere, the fun and the sun. The sun is really important to me. There’s something about being in a country that’s cold and gloomy most of the time that just makes you feel like you’re depressed. I grew up in Nigeria where I was in the sun a lot, so being away from the sun is a no-no for me. It also gets really boring here. There really isn’t a lot of fun activities to do. When I’m in Nigeria with Nigerians, I feel more alive. 

Any plans to move back?

I was in Nigeria from August 2021 to February 2022. I only came back to Nigeria a few weeks ago because I got a job. Before I left for Nigeria in 2021, I quit the job I had been at for five years, sold everything I had and told myself I was finally moving back home, but somewhere deep down, I wanted some security so I was still applying for jobs in Canada. When I was in Nigeria, I told everybody I was back and the responses I got were confused, like, “You have the life everybody wants over there. Why are you coming back?” Those responses sort of shook me, so when I got a job offer, I came back. 

When I got back here, everything felt wrong. It’s like I made the wrong decision to come back. I have no strong ties — not in friendships, relationships or experiences — in Canada. I’m just here for the job. 

I’m curious: why did you stay after university?

Immediately after university, I did my master’s, and after my master’s, I got a job, and it was just a convenient series of events. And then I stayed five years at that job. 

That makes sense. What do you have planned for your future?

Because I came here as a student, the process for getting citizenship takes longer and is much more complicated than it would be for someone who came as a permanent resident. First I have to apply for permanent residency, get that, and wait a few years before I apply for citizenship. After that, I can go wherever I want.

The truth is, as much as I want to move back to Nigeria, I need to be logical and ask myself if moving back to Nigeria as it is now is a good idea. I currently work in a university helping black students with inclusivity. Will I get such social work opportunities in Nigeria or will I get home and sit in my parents’ house? Is Nigeria as safe and secure as Canada? Are there as many amenities there as I have here? These are the questions I have to ask myself before making the decision to drop everything and fully move back home. 

I’ve already been here for 12 years, a few more years to get my citizenship won’t be bad.

Apart from Nigeria, where else would you go?

Once I get my citizenship, the plan is to leave these western countries and go to a tropical country where I could get great work opportunities. So it doesn’t have to be Nigeria. There are many possibilities within Africa. I also want to travel a lot and relax for a bit. I know I’m not old, but I’m tired of working. 

“It Took Me a While to Overcome My Fear of White People” – Abroad Life

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.

Hey there! My name is Sheriff and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.


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