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.
When today’s subject on Abroad Life got tired of waiting for over a year for Canada to give her a visa, she decided to try the UK instead. She got her UK visa in three months. Now, she’s there but doesn’t like a few things — like too much electricity and over-politeness.
Tell me about the time you decided to move abroad.
2020. Before then, moving abroad wasn’t on my mind. It’s not because I love Nigeria o, I just thought I’d never be able to afford japa. I come from a poor family, studied law and was earning peanuts throughout my five years as a lawyer. The only thing on my mind was progressing my career, getting a new job and starting a business.
Then one day, my friend brought up Canada during a conversation. First, I laughed. Who has Canada relocation money? But she persisted and told me it wasn’t as expensive as people made it out to be. I didn’t have to have all the money at once. All I had to do was plan well.
You don’t have to pay at once?
When people talk about Canada, they say, “It’s expensive because you have to pay for credentials assessment, English proficiency tests, proof of funds and application fees.” It sounds overwhelming when you put it like that. You don’t have to pay all of those fees at once.
I paid $220 for my credentials assessment, and ₦79k for an English proficiency test. That’s all I needed to enter the pool of applicants. I then built on my proof of funds and paid my application fees over time.
I started the application process, but COVID happened and I just forgot about it. I spent most of the year trying to start my own law-related business.
When did you pick it back up?
October 20, 2020. When I saw the things that happened that day, I promised myself I had to leave the country within a year. I felt like my life was worth nothing in this Nigeria. I started the application again, got in the applicant pool in February 2021 and waited for my name to be selected.
By September 2021, I concluded nothing was going to happen. Thousands of people around the world were waiting for their Canadian visas, and I didn’t think it was going to be my turn any time soon, so I gave up. I discussed it with a friend and they told me to try the UK instead. This time, however, it would be for a master’s degree.
Was the application easy?
It was easy but more expensive than Canada. I started my application on September 6th and got my visa on December 6th. For studying in the UK, once you provide everything they require, you’re sure you’re going to get your visa. The process has a checklist with points. For everything you have on the checklist, you get the corresponding points. Once you pass their points cut off, you get the visa. I even booked my flight for December 31st, 2021 before I got my visa. I booked a flight that’d land in the UK on January 1st because I wanted to start the new year on a clean slate.
Expectation vs reality: UK edition.
I tried my best to have zero expectations coming to the UK. I just wanted to come here and do school. Perhaps the only expectation I had in some corner of my mind was that it would be difficult to survive financially in the UK because I’m sponsoring myself through school.
The first thing that stood out to me when I got here was the orderliness of everything. Everything working so perfectly is constantly battling with the chaotic Nigerian in me. The craziest thing for me is that they’ve never taken light. How? Sometimes, to make it feel like I’m in Nigeria, I turn off my lights and everything electrical in my room and just lie down in the dark.
The train is always on time too. It’s just weird to me.
But when I say everything is working, I’m not talking about the weather. That one isn’t. It can go from sunny to rainy to absolutely gloomy in a matter of minutes. Most times though, it’s gloomy. And when you add that to loneliness, it’s depressing.
Many of the Nigerians I’ve met here are either in school studying or just busy with work and trying to pay bills. People don’t have time for each other. If I was to have time to make friends and socialise, it would mean I have to relax on school stuff, and that’s impossible. School here is so, so difficult.
The schooling system is generally rigorous, but when you add the fact that I’m studying a tech-related course after I’ve been a law student and lawyer for the past 11 years, it’s a bit more difficult.
You didn’t say anything about the people.
They’re polite to a fault and I don’t like it. Even when they’re mad at you, they say stuff like, “my love” and “darling”. Like, please let me know if you’re angry at me. Stop smiling. They can be smiling with you and drafting your resignation letter.
Do you think you can solve the loneliness?
I think I just have to get used to it. I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. People are always going to be too busy to hang out and commit themselves to building communities. It’s very fast-paced here.
What’s your plan for when you’re done with your master’s?
If I don’t have a job then, I’ll apply for UK’s two-year post-study visa. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll start the Canada application again. If Canada doesn’t work out, I’ll return to Nigeria. No wahala.
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.