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.
Today, our search for abroad life takes us to Minnesota, a state in America whose freezing temperatures, blizzards and tornadoes are simply not strong enough to keep Nigerians out. There’s even a Redeemed Christian Church of God there guys.
My knowledge of the state only went as far as the facts Fargo taught me, which I would learn in the course of this interview are nothing like what Minnesota is like in real life. Helping to shed a little more light on the state is Ayoola, a Nigerian who has been a student of Minnesota State University since 2013. He lets us in on how living abroad has been since then.
When was your first time abroad?
Kenya. I was pretty young, maybe 12. The next time I crossed Muritala Muhammed was when I was heading to school in 2013.
What would you say is the easiest means to leave Nigeria? Asking for 140m friends.
Student-visa way! Which is what I did. I mean, I haven’t left-left Nigeria, but American visiting visas are hell to get these days and relocating legally? Just put a pause on that while this president is in office. I guess I was lucky when I left, it was fairly easier then. I don’t know the process now though. I used EducationUSA back then, they were pretty reliable.
How expensive was it to get a student visa in 2013?
Man, the golden age of N140 to a dollar. Back then I think it cost $300, which was about N45,000.
Yeah, if you started paying school-fees post-2015, I feel bad for you son. I’m still in the fee-paying boat, but those first two years were bliss and I didn’t even realise it.
So you were in school when the exchange rate started turninoniown in 2015. How crazy did that get?
It was… crazy. But I’ll say I was shielded from the worst of it because my school has student-paying jobs within it, while also allowing students to register outside jobs as courses. So even though the Naira was moving mad, I was able to have my own little kpa du kpa, earning dollars to supplement my allowance and all that.
What’s one thing everyone should know about Minnesota?
It is nothing like Fargo! My God! I’ve had to explain this to more people than you would think possible. Skress.
And lakes, there are lakes everywhere. It’s called the land of 10,000 lakes, but I bet there are way more.
There are! I checked. 11,842 to be precise.
Aha! Plus, everyone has a lakehouse here. They’re always gathering to fish. Like it could be freezing out, and you’d still have people lugging fish reels all over the place. It’s one thing I love, family events
What was the thing that surprised you the most about living abroad.
You know, it would surprise you, other people might say how free-spirited or how crazy Americans are, but the most surprising thing about living abroad is Nigerians. Well, Nigerian parents. Once their right leg crosses that boarding gate, their problem with collecting things from their left hands goes. You’ll see them saying “thank you” when cashiers hand them groceries with their left hands; always blows my mind.
So Minnesota has a Nigerian community then?
Nigerian, Somali, there’s a whole African community. What’s crazy is, we all band together. In Nigeria, you might differentiate Igbos from Yorubas, but over here, everyone just gets a kick out of the fact that they’re from the same continent. It’s such a different feel; universities have African unions, it’s crazy.
Where’s the go-to place for Nigerian food in Minnesota?
None. You can’t imagine the injustice. If you want Nigerian food, you have to cook it yourself. I’d be in my dorm whipping up Jollof rice, or going to the next Nigerian’s room to have some egusi. Such is life.
Speaking of university, how is the campus experience?
It’s staying up to study until 3 am and walking into a 7am class in pajamas, but it’s also planning spur of the moment inter-state trips over the weekend. Like there’s serious work, but you’re not killing yourself because of school, you get?
Like when I decided to switch majors in my third year, it wasn’t a complicated process, filled out a form, took the extra courses I needed and that was that.
Won’t lie, abroad life is pretty sweet, I plan on getting a work permit after school so it doesn’t end. I know your next question is if I’d ever consider moving back…
I won’t rule it out though. The thing about living here is the sudden patriotism that jumps out. Getting extra hype when Nigerian music comes on at parties, being defensive whenever Nigerian slander comes up. You should see us Nigerians speaking in pidgin and their native dialects when they gather. It’s actually wild. And the truth is, I just miss home. It’s cliché, but there’s no place like here.
Hear, hear, she says in Surulere. Any bad sides to it though?
Of course. Especially since Trump came into office. But I’ve had only one truly racist experience, and I didn’t even realise what was happening until it was over. My friends and I were standing outside of a cinema hall and some white boys in a car pulled up beside us mouthing something we couldn’t hear. Like we were so clueless, we actually asked them to come closer so we could hear them. It wasn’t until they sped off, we realised they were calling us the n-word. We just laughed it off. That’s the only time really.
Disappointing. Last question, what do people in Minnesota think about Nigerians?
Funny you should ask. Nothing. They really don’t know us. When people from Minnesota ask where I’m from and I say Nigeria, it’s always a blank stare that follows. They’re so clueless when it comes to African countries. We got some shine when Rick and Morty did a sketch with Nigerians, and other sketches, but that’s it oh. Cold world.
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.