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 subject of today’s #AbroadLife is a 22-year-old man who left Nigeria immediately after secondary school. He talks about being lonely in Canada and why he wants to come back home but can’t just yet.
When did you decide that you wanted to leave Nigeria?
I didn’t make the decision. My parents made the decision for me right after I left secondary school. I didn’t want to leave, but when your parents make that type of decision for you at 17, there’s really nothing else you can do.
Why didn’t you want to leave?
I liked it in Nigeria. All my life, I’d heard people complain about Nigeria. They’d say, seriously and jokingly, they wanted to leave. Most of those jokes had Canada as the dream destination for Nigerians, I liked it at home.
In retrospect, I realise that I just hadn’t seen enough of life. I was shielded. My parents are super comfortable, so there was no need for me to complain. Everything I needed, I got.
You felt safe.
Yes. I’ve always been the person that takes family as the most important thing there is, so because I was with my family, I was okay.
How did it feel moving away?
I knew that I was going somewhere better, but I wish I stayed. The quality of the education I came here to get is definitely better than what I would have gotten in Nigeria. One thing I knew I would always miss being a part of was watching my two little sisters grow. I’m the first born and the only guy. I mean, yes, it was 2016, there was video calling technology, but it’ll never be as good as being there with them.
I consoled myself with the thought that I’d probably be home from time to time, and they’d also visit me often.
How has that worked out?
It’s been five years and I’ve not seen them since I left. I’ve seen my parents, but my sisters have not been able to travel.
All of that has added to the extreme loneliness I suffer over here. I miss home so much. It gets really bad sometimes. Soon, all those long video calls won’t cut it anymore.
How do you deal with loneliness?
COVID has changed the way people interact. For example, when I was lonely before, I’d go out with my friends or we’d play sports together. But since last year, I’ve just sat indoors, in front of my computer, doing whatever. It doesn’t help that when I have a new close friend, they have to leave Canada shortly, sometimes for work, and sometimes to move back home.
I have a job now though. It started as a school internship, but they decided to keep me. Now they’re paying me more, and I have a sense of security. I also went into photography full time last year, and I recently got my first bookings to shoot at two different events. Things are looking up financially.
That’s nice. How far gone are you with your education?
I’ll be done next year. I can’t wait.
Is that when you’re planning to come back home?
I think I’ll eventually have to wait until then. I try to go home every year, but every time, something happens. This was the year I already promised myself and my friends that I would come. I already had a prospective date in mind and we’d made plans to fuck shit up when I got back, but I don’t think I’ll be able to travel. I can’t even break the news to them yet. They’ll be heartbroken.
Why can’t you travel?
It’s a lot of reasons: first of all, I’ve not taken the COVID vaccine, and I don’t want a case where I’m not allowed back into the country for something as simple as that. Flights are expensive, I have some visa and passport issues, and all that. I thought I’d be able to sort all of that out before next month, but it looks like I’ll be spending my hot boy summer in Canada.
Exactly. And honestly, Nigeria isn’t the best place to be at right now. I hear and see all the news about insecurity and it breaks my heart. My family is in Nigeria, so I care, but I’d also rather not be in a place where I’m not safe.
I remember being an active part of the EndSARS protests online. It was heartbreaking for me.
Do you think you’ll settle in Nigeria or Canada?
The best scenario for me right now would be to become a Canadian permanent resident so that I can visit Nigeria whenever.
Scratch that. The best scenario would be for my family to join me 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.