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 this week’s subject on Abroad Life decided to move to Canada, her only form of research was watching Nigerian YouTubers in Canada telling people why they should come. Now, she wishes they were more open about loneliness, finances and the weather.
When did you decide to leave Nigeria?
After End SARS. I mean, I had a life plan, from when I was a little girl, to leave Nigeria for my master’s after NYSC. I didn’t actively follow this life plan, but you see, after that End SARS, something just switched in me that made me start planning to japa.
Why did you choose Canada?
Should I be honest with you? It’s because of YouTubers. I made my decision to travel to Canada entirely based on what I saw on YouTube. You know, all those “Travel as a student and get Canadian Permanent Residence (PR)” videos.
Prior to End SARS, I was eager to leave. I was already dissatisfied with the annoying and unappreciative work cultures of companies in Nigeria. Then I did some work for someone in the UK. The way she gave me feedback and praised me, and even the pay, made me realise working in Nigeria was not all that. It wasn’t enough to make me work actively towards leaving sha. I was just going from workplace to workplace, getting frustrated. But when End SARS happened, and I started really considering leaving, the prospect of working outside Nigeria gave me even more ginger.
Did you tell people you were travelling?
Nope. I did it lowkey partly because Nigerians just don’t tell people they’re travelling, and partly because I was afraid if it fell through, people would be overly sympathetic, and that would make me feel even worse. I just wanted to land before people knew.
What was the process like?
By December 2020, I put together all my important documents, like WAEC and IELTS results, and statement of purpose. Then I got scammed by the people who were supposed to help me get my university transcripts. Luckily, the school didn’t require official transcripts so I was able to process everything smoothly, and I got my admission in January.
I had to pay some part of my school fees by February to secure a seat, so my family and I contributed some money for it. By May, I applied for a visa which I received in September, about ten days after school resumed. I just deferred and left Nigeria in December. Scratch that… Benin Republic.
A few days before I travelled, the Omicron variant of COVID was discovered in Nigeria, and Canada said no flights from Nigeria. Many Nigerians who wanted to leave had to go to neighbouring countries to travel from their airports. Me, I chose Benin Republic.
Expectations vs reality: Canada edition
How do I even start? You see those YouTubers? They need to be stopped. All they do is sugarcoat the reality of living in Canada. I wish they were more honest about things like loneliness, finances and the weather, so people can be more prepared or even decide if they still want to come here.
Let me start with the weather. I understand people say Canada is cold, but I didn’t think it’d be this cold. You can never be prepared for the cold that’ll hit you. I now decided to come in December. During winter. See, I suffered. And I had to spend money on clothes because I saw online that I shouldn’t bring so many clothes. Big mistake. Clothes here are expensive. And making money is hard.
The first job I did here was carpentry and welding, the only job available for international students at the time. I don’t even want to talk about how difficult it is to do that kind of job when you’ve never done it before. Honestly, I would’ve been fine just staying at home, jobless and attending school online, but there were bills to pay. Phone bills, house bills, many bills.
I also wish I had an idea of what it’s like to be in a place where you hardly know people. The sadness and loneliness that hit me when I got here was unreal. If I complained to my Nigerian friends, they’d say stuff like, “But you’re abroad. You have money. There’s light. There’s peace”. But I didn’t have money, and I was losing my mind.
In retrospect, I think if I calmed down and did actual research, I would’ve picked a different country.
The UK. I understand people find it difficult to settle anywhere, but I think the UK would’ve been a bit easier for me. The railway system is great so I can visit friends. People there talk about entering a train and just going wherever they want. Me, I can’t even visit a friend who lives in the same province because Canada is huge and the trains are not so connected.
Did it get better?
It did. I’ve got a better job now that pays above minimum wage. It’s a care job that I found online. I’ve also moved to live with my family friend. School is online. But I probably won’t stay here after my master’s. I don’t want to spend the rest of my 20s chasing PR and stuck in this boring place. I’d probably move to the UK to work. There, I can be happier and more social. Maybe after some time, I’ll come back here and try this PR thing again. But right now, I can’t wait to leave Canada.
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.