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.
This week’s subject on Abroad Life is a tech bro who was tired of life in Nigeria without income and power supply, so he decided to continue his education and find work in Canada. He shares his difficulties with managing expenses and making friends as an international student.
When did you decide to move abroad?
In 2019, a family member kept telling me about Canada and the opportunities I could get there, including a post-graduate work permit after school and higher chances of permanent residency than in most other countries. I wasn’t obsessed with it in the beginning, but a year later, I started to compare the pros and cons of living in Nigeria versus abroad. I realised I could build my tech skills, work, and get my master’s degree at the same time. Being in a country that works will also help, considering the power issues in Nigeria and all.
I should’ve applied in 2020, but after much procrastination, I applied in June 2021 and got admission two months after, in August.
What challenges did you face in Nigeria?
It started when I applied to study electrical engineering at a university and was given physics instead. I didn’t like it, but I had to study it for five years. It made me resent the whole system. Fast forward to a year after school in 2019, I got interested in tech and started learning software engineering full-time through paid online courses. But it wasn’t easy because of the power issues. There was hardly ever light where I lived in Lagos, so I always had to pay for a workspace. At that time, I wasn’t even working. My parents always wondered when I would get a job, but with my degree, I couldn’t get jobs that were good enough for me.
So, Canada. What was the relocation process like?
I had to get the necessary documents and secure my medicals. The visa application wasn’t so difficult because we had an agent “running” it for me, but you see the medicals? I was traveling to Abuja literally every week to get it sorted. I also had to bring proof of funds. The entire process took like four months to complete. You have to be highly meticulous when filling out your papers, otherwise, you could be made to restart the whole process. Plus, I’m a big procrastinator, so the process took so long.
When did you arrive in Canada?
Late in January 2022.
Did you experience any culture shocks?
Yes. Especially with respect to titles. No adult here cares about your “ma” and “sir”.
Also, I’d say making friends is hard here. In Nigeria, it’s easy to get people to help you with one or two things, but not here. You’re just on your own most of the time, and it’s dangerous because what if there’s an emergency? It can be a very solitary life here.
Don’t Nigerian communities offer assistance?
You’d be shocked that some Nigerians don’t want you to succeed. They’d rather not tell you about the system so you can suffer the way they did when they first arrived. It’s hard to find someone who’s loyal or trustworthy enough to call your friend, even among fellow Nigerians.
Can you share some of your experiences on this?
I was part of an Afro-Caribbean society when I first arrived, and I made friends with a Nigerian called Dapo. I remember wanting to learn tips on how to survive in Canada and always asking him questions, but he never made time to explain things to me. He was always busy and never picked his calls. Imagine how that felt for a new immigrant with no family here. I had to find my feet on my own.
What would you say are the benefits of living in Canada?
There’s a system that works for everyone. Even if you didn’t go to school, you can find a job that would pay the same thing as someone who went to school. School is almost a luxury or second thought here because it doesn’t affect your income level. I can also get drugs at a subsidised rate here. They allow students to ride public buses for free, using a card that’s valid until September 2023.
What are the disadvantages?
Managing finances and running costs is hard for a student. My rent is $900 a month. I earn $300 a week as an admin assistant in a call service company ($15 for 20 hours per day), and it’s not always assured. Some days, there may be no work, so I won’t get any money. I also pay taxes of $100 every month. The only thing helping me is that my parents send me money that covers some part of the rent. It’s hard to save because as I receive my income, it goes out almost immediately.
Getting a job was also very hard. It took nearly two months before I got one in Canada. This is because many international students are applying for the same jobs. I even had a friend who waited six months before getting a job.
How are you juggling work with school?
It’s not an easy task. I’ve had some sleepless nights. Most times, I have to discuss my class schedule with my manager so they can create a work schedule based on the days I’m free. Sometimes, I’d go to work in the morning and then have an afternoon lecture. I know some people who work overnight. You also need to be careful and set out time to cover up for the days you didn’t read, so as not to slack on your academics.
Would you ever return to Nigeria?
Yes, I definitely will. I miss the air and warmth of Nigerian people in Nigeria. Here, friendship seems forced. But I’ll return only after I’ve got my master’s degree, perfected my software engineering skills, and made some money. Nigeria is not the place you want to return to without a good job.
How much money do you think you need?
The way Nigeria is going, any amount of money I call right now may not be sufficient in the next two months or so. I don’t want to be too specific, but hopefully, I’ll return in the next four to five years or so, when I’ve made some millions.