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 25-year-old woman who transferred from Nigeria to Cyprus for school. She talks about how underwhelming the country is, her terrible experiences with over-flirty men and the fraud epidemic in Cyprus.
First things first, where are you right now?
I’m in Cyprus.
What’s going on there?
I was in school, but I’m done and about to return to Nigeria. I studied Petroleum Engineering. I started in Nigeria, but finished here.
What school in Nigeria?
I prefer not to speak, but it’s a school that oppresses its students. Just think of a popular private university in Nigeria known for oppression.
Haha… I think I have an idea. Why did you choose Cyprus?
If I was rich, I’d be in another country, but due to my financial condition, I’m in Cyprus. Cyprus is basically for Nigerians who want to be abroad but cannot afford the main abroad. I love Nigeria, but I despised the school I was in, so I wasn’t performing really well. I felt like I was wasting my time, so I decided to leave for Cyprus.
My dad had never heard about Cyprus before I brought it up. He was intrigued. He said if I wanted to go somewhere new, I should.
I had a lot of time to think from when I left “School of Oppression” till when I went to Cyprus. In the middle of it all, I changed my mind from Cyprus to Canada because I have family there, but when I brought it up with my dad, he went, “Are you going abroad for family or for school?”
At some point, the visa processing for Cyprus was also taking time, so I brought up Canada again, and he told me not to be confused and see it through to the end since I had already started it. That’s why and how I’m here.
What was the process of going to Cyprus like?
Tedious. First of all, you know how Nigeria is, with the ups and downs and interviews getting postponed. Also, the part of Cyprus I’m in isn’t the main Cyprus, it’s a small village country that is only recognised by Turkey. It’s called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. So you have to go to the Turkish embassy to get your visa. The process took about a month, and by the time I got my visa, classes had begun.
How long was it from when you started applying for school till when you left?
I started applying the minute I left my oppressive school. I had a lot of issues with transcripts and all so that took some time. And then the visa time came, and it was a stressful process as well because they just kept telling us to come back the next day. And then one day, they tear-gassed us.
Yep. In Abuja. Because of all the “come back tomorrow”, people started getting frustrated. You would see people complaining about how they’d been there since 3 a.m. and hadn’t been attended to. On this day, the security operatives told people to leave as usual, but the people stayed and said they needed to be attended to. They were teargassed. It’s not like they were getting violent or anything. They were just demanding for their visas. I was lucky because I had just left when this happened.
I understand why people go these lengths to go to Cyprus. Things are cheap there, education and all. But when you get there, you realise that it’s not all that great. I even got scammed trying to get my visa.
There was a man that always lurked around the embassy saying he could help us get our visas. At that point, my dad was already cranky because I’d been at home for a while, and he wanted me to leave because school had already started. Then a girl I met at the embassy said her mother knew someone who could help. It was that man. We paid him 75k. Long story short, he took my money, ran away and stopped picking my calls. It’s like he even knew when I was calling with a random number because he wasn’t picking those as well. I can’t remember his name right now, but God punish him.
Lol. What was your first impression of Cyprus?
When my plane landed, I was waiting excitedly to see the magic that everyone was rushing to. Nothing. I got in a cab and headed where I was supposed to be staying. On my way, I kept looking outside the window for something to blow my mind. Nothing. I slept, woke up the next day and went out. Nothing. I kept asking myself, “Where is the abroad?” The best way I can describe it is living in Cyprus is like living in a very big Lekki.
Wow. You’ve been there how long?
Two years this October.
You said something about Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Why does that sound like colonialism?
To be honest, I don’t know. They taught us about it in school, but I can’t remember. There are two sides of Cyprus. The south is under Greece and the north is under Turkey.
What are the people there like?
In my first three months, I was kind of overwhelmed.
I had a very bad experience with a guy that kept hounding me, stalking me and all. He wanted to sleep with me. Things got really messy with him.
Then there was another guy that I was sure I’d fallen in love with. I even thought we were dating. We were all lovey-dovey and all, but it turned out that he had a girlfriend he had been with for three years. It’s crazy because one time, I saw her picture on his phone, and he said she was his sister’s friend. Men.
Then there was another guy that tried to rape me. I escaped and ran for my life.
Wow, I’m sorry you had to experience that. Were these guys Nigerians?
Yep. People say there are Nigerians everywhere, but in Cyprus, there are so many Nigerians.
What was your experience with actual Cypriots like?
I didn’t really interact with them for a couple of reasons. First, the language. They speak Turkish. But in my school, they spoke English so I didn’t need to learn the language.
Cypriot men are extremely flirty, it’s mind blowing. There was a day I was at the market downstairs to get something, and a guy there said something that I didn’t really hear. I got to my apartment upstairs and heard a knock on my door. When I opened, he was standing there, asking me if I was married and if he could give me money for sex. They have a terrible perversion problem.
Also, many of them are racist.
I never paid attention to the racism because I believed if I didn’t understand what they were saying, it wouldn’t bother me. But on my first day at the school cafeteria, I was on a seat that could contain about eight people, and this guy left immediately I sat there. Another day on the bus, a girl stood up when I sat beside her. I decided that whenever they came around me in situations like that, I would also clench my bag or stand up and walk away. Of course, I only did it when it was convenient for me. It’s not like if there was no extra seat, I would stand up. Common sense over racism, please. The more I understood parts of their language, the more I realised that they said words like “Monkey” when I was around.
What’s the Nigerian community in Cyprus like?
Among Nigerians here, you have to be intentional about picking your friends and your circle or else you could end up in the wrong crowd. You have to be careful or you would lose your mind. In my school, I met like-minded people that I could have meaningful conversations with, but outside school was very different.
I met the two friends I’ve had for the past two years here at the Turkish embassy. It turns out we all went to my oppressive Nigerian school. We are still very tight today. I’m grateful for them.
What types of Nigerians will I find in Cyprus?
It’s a jungle out there. Fraud is very common in Cyprus.It’s so normal that when you find a guy who doesn’t do fraud in Cyprus, that’s weird. I know a girl who blocked the guy that was moving to her because he said he wasn’t doing fraud and he got his money from collecting allowances. Seeing flashy cars on the roads is an everyday thing, and the owners will comfortably tell you they got it by doing fraud. Fraud is so normalised here, it’s crazy. Oh and it’s not even only guys. Babes too.
I did not. One day, I was doing my hair, and the loctician asked if I did fraud. I told him no, and he got super surprised. He went on to tell me that I could definitely be a picker. A picker is a woman who picks calls and talks to “clients” for fraudsters.
I know people do fraud in Nigeria, but I never ever bumped into one. In Cyprus, you’ll see them every day.
I know a guy here who was strongly against fraud. He was an allowance collector just like me. I saw him a few weeks back, and he was driving a nice car. He looked at me and told me, point-blank, that the lockdown period got really hard for him. He got really broke and he started doing fraud.
Omo. Does the government crackdown on fraudsters?
I’m not sure, but I don’t think the government here sees fraud as such a huge crime. If they find you with a lot of cash, they’ll confiscate it, but I don’t think they’ll charge you or take you to prison or something like that. I don’t think the government puts their time into fixing that problem because the economy survives on fraud money.
I feel like it’s also important to state that Nigerians are not the only ones who do fraud here. It cuts across a wide range of people.
Fraud is so normal, people come here just to have a place to do fraud peacefully.
In Nigeria, I was sure that if I caught anyone doing fraud, I would definitely blow the whistle, but it turns out to be so normal here, reporting would be ridiculous. My first housemate would say all sorts to me about how he didn’t know why I’m not into fraud and how he was willing to teach me.
What do you like the most about Cyprus?
Cyprus is very peaceful. I can take walks at 2 a.m. and know that nothing will happen to me. Maybe the worst thing that could happen is that I’ll meet some pervert, and he’ll offer me money for sex.
But if you can afford better, then there’s no reason for you to go to Cyprus except you’re a fraudster who wants to live in a comfortable environment. I see people saying they’ve been here for seven years, and I’m wondering how that’s even possible.
For an exposed person or someone that knows better, Cyprus is a 3.5/10. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.
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