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 is a 25-year-old woman who got tired of studying geography in Nigeria and decided to go abroad to chase her dream — becoming a pilot. She talks about the origins of her passion for flying and the decisions that made it come to pass. One of those decisions was hiding her plans from her parents.
When did you decide to leave Nigeria?
2020, during the lockdown. I couldn’t continue school because of the pandemic so I thought to myself “Why don’t I use this time to apply to schools abroad?”
What school were you in?
The University of Ibadan, studying geography. It wasn’t what I wanted to study, so deciding to leave wasn’t hard.
What did you want to study?
Aviation. I always wanted to fly planes as a child. When I was 12, my younger brothers received toys from our relatives, and one of them was an airplane. I collected it from them because I was fascinated by it. How could a vehicle carry people in the sky and remain balanced? As young as I was, I started reading aviation books, the history of air travel, anything airplane-related I could lay my hands on. I joined Facebook a few years later and found groups of people who talked about aviation. I shot a few DMs to strangers who I told about my interests and they were happy to share knowledge with a random little girl. Throughout secondary school, I had just one goal in mind: Study aviation.
So how did you end up with geography?
No Nigerian school offered the course. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to me, but at that moment, I was shattered. I found one school in Kano that offered the course, but it was just going to be theory. I wasn’t going to get any practical experience. I didn’t bother trying to study abroad because I knew my parents couldn’t afford it.
The closest thing to aviation I was going to get in Nigeria was geography, so I went for it.
Did you enjoy it?
Somehow, I did. I knew it was the only option I had, so I appreciated it and went hard at it. I was in my third year when lockdown came and my parents insisted I couldn’t stay at home doing nothing, so they signed me up for Geographic Information System (GIS) classes. Somewhere in the middle of attending those classes, my passion for aviation came back because I saw that the knowledge I’d gained in geography would be useful. My parents still didn’t have money, but I applied to schools abroad anyway.
A queen. What did you do?
I found an app that lets you apply to 10 schools for free, so I picked eight American schools, one Canadian school, and one British school. I got into some of them, but the money was still a lot. I got rejected from some moreschools and scholarships. I started to lose faith until I found agents on Instagram who help people apply to schools for free. The catch is that the schools pay them to bring students on board, so all you have to do is message them and they’ll take you up from there.
It was through one of these agents I got into the school I’m now in, in England.
That’s great. How long did the entire process take?
I started the process sometime in 2020, and by May 2021, I’d gotten my admission.
I should add that I hid all of this from my parents.
I didn’t want to make them panic. I knew they couldn’t afford to send me abroad to study. If they found out I was planning to study abroad, they would have been really mad at me and probably made me stop. Nobody knew I was doing all of this.
Damn. So when did you tell them?
I told them two months before I travelled. Before I told them, I called my aunts and uncles who live here in the UK, so that if I got a bad reaction from my parents, they would step in and calm them down. A few of them also agreed to jointly pay my £15,000 fees, so my parents weren’t losing anything.
How did they react when you told them?
At first, my dad was angry that I was doing everything without telling him. Then he got angry that I was wasting my money on applications instead of accepting reality and finishing my education here. After a few weeks, he calmed down and started asking me questions, reading about studying abroad and accepting. My mum was just happy for me.
When did you eventually leave Nigeria?
September 2021. The wait was terrible because I started doubting that I could still travel. I was applying for scholarships because I didn’t want to put the burden of my fees on my aunties and uncles, but the scholarships were not clicking. By early August, I started to panic. Was I about to throw this entire thing away? With the last bit of hope left in me, I applied for the school’s official scholarship that was meant to cover half of my fees. When I got the mail, they congratulated me and said instead of half, they were giving me a full scholarship. If I maintain a good academic record, I’ll get the scholarship every year.
Sweet! Expectation vs reality: UK edition?
Omo, I didn’t understand the extent of the unpredictability of the weather here until I got here. Rain can fall at any time. One moment, it can be cold, the next, it’s super hot. It’s like the weather is confused. I settled in pretty easily and made friends quickly. Male friends.
Hold up, why did you specify the gender of your friends?
Because the Nigerian babes I’ve met here have been super mean to me. It’s like Nigerian women become wicked when they get here. There’s just always an attitude and air of superiority around them that I don’t like. Guys on the other hand have been pretty nice to me. I had COVID recently and while I was in isolation, three different guys took turns looking after me, dropping food at my door, buying me a teddy bear, etc.
What’s school like?
It’s hard. I hear people say schooling abroad is much easier than schooling in Nigeria and I’m confused. If you don’t spend time studying, you will fail. The only advantage here is that the professors are much easier to talk to.
I know you’ve only been there for three months, but what are your favourite and least favourite things about living in the UK?
My favourite thing is access. I can access almost everything I need easily. I’m talking good healthcare, good roads, good internet, shopping, everything. It’s so much easier living here. What I don’t like though is the loneliness. I spent my first few weeks here crying because I missed home and wanted to go back. It was hard for me to make friends too because everyone already seemed to know each other.
Tell me about your plan for the future.
Once I get my aeronautical engineering degree-
Wait, aeronautical engineering?
Oh, yes. I’m not studying aviation to become a pilot yet. I’m studying aeronautical engineering because it helps me understand much more about air travel to the finest details. It’s after I’m done here that I’ll study aviation to get my pilot license. I’m already considering a school in Toronto, Canada. Once I’m done with that, I’ll come back to the UK to complete my masters in aeronautical engineering, and then whatever the future holds, I’ll take.
I’m super proud of you!
LMAO! Thanks! These days, I spend my free time calling my friends in Nigeria and convincing them to move to the UK. Nigeria holds people down too much. Once people get the opportunity they should take it with both hands. Me, I took my own opportunity and it played out well for me. I’m enjoying my life.