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’s subject on Abroad Life lived in India for almost four years and now, she lives in Ireland. She talks about her experiences in India and the loneliness that comes from living away from home.
What’s happening in Ireland?
I’m doing my masters. I’ve been here for 11 months. I just want to say that I read the Abroad Life story about gang activity in Ireland and it was very relatable.
Many things that happen here that seem gang related. There’s also a lot of shady activity and some police activity around. I haven’t witnessed anything firsthand, but stuff like that definitely happens here.
Why did you choose Ireland?
A lot of Nigerians that are here are people that didn’t make it to Canada, so this is some sort of second choice.
Was that your situation?
Yes. I tried once and got a visa rejection. I hate rejection, so I didn’t try again.
How was settling in Ireland?
I live with someone here, and this is the first time ever I’ve had to share a room. It was super weird moving into a new place with someone new, but that was the only weird part for me.
Not even the fact that it was outside Nigeria?
No. I stayed in India for my Bachelors, then moved to Nigeria for two years before I came back here, so it’s not like it was my first time abroad.
What was India like?
I have not-so-great memories about the place. I was young and it was difficult being in a country where they didn’t majorly speak English. The first two years were super, super tough, but my final year was better because I started hanging out with Nigerians and going out to experience the culture.
What language did you have to learn?
Hindi. I went to a language school for three months when I got there, but even now, I can’t speak the language.
Can I ask a question that has been on my mind since you said you stayed in India?
Do people randomly start dancing together on the road?
You know, I knew that was the question you were going to ask. I get that question a whole lot and I don’t get why people ask it. It makes me laugh. The answer is no, though. People don’t randomly start dancing on the roads.
Haha… Is there anything from Bollywood that translates to Indian reality?
Hmm, let me see… Okay, here’s one. It’s a normal thing to be in a rickshaw — which is like a keke in Nigeria — chilling in traffic and someone riding an elephant just pulls up beside you. The use of elephants as a means of transportation is pretty normal here.
Energy. I love it.
Another thing about India is that they don’t eat cows. I found out after a long time that it was buffalo meat I was eating.
Oh yes, one day I was heading somewhere, and I saw a group of people holding a wrapped dead body on the road in broad daylight, lifting it, throwing it around and dancing.
Ah, how long were you there for?
Three years, seven months and ten days. I did a countdown, because I couldn’t wait to leave.
What do you miss about India?
The food. For the first two years, I shut myself out from everything, so I wasn’t eating Indian food. But in my final year, I opened up a bit and I enjoyed the food. It was worth it.
What’s your favorite Indian food?
It’s called Chicken Biryani. It’s a mixed rice dish with chicken and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s really good.
How did you cope with loneliness?
I didn’t cope; It didn’t leave. I just learnt to live with it. I made friends and all of that, but friends didn’t fill the gap.
What do you think would have filled that gap?
My family. I always want to be around them. It’s funny, but I wish I could take them with me wherever I went. If they were there with me, it would have made everything complete. It’s still very lonely in Ireland. And it’s because my family is not here.
Cute. What happens when you have your own family?
Then I’d like to be around my original family and my new family.
Haha. Would you rather be in Ireland or India?
Ireland, because it’s diverse. I really love Africans, and in Ireland, I get to meet a lot of people from different African countries. In India, the majority of Africans I met were Nigerians like me.
What meaningful experience have you had with Africans in Ireland?
Asides drinking and partying?
Tell me about that.
There’s always a reason to drink in Ireland. Everything you’ve heard about the drinking culture in Ireland is true. One weekday afternoon, I was chilling alone in my room and my Kenyan friend texted me to ask if I was busy. When I said no, she texted me a room number and told me to go there. I got there and there was a wild drinking party. There wasn’t even space for me to enter. As I stood at the door, I asked someone what was happening and they said, “Oh nothing. We just feel like drinking and partying.”
What’s your social life like?
I resumed school late in February and I stay on campus, a few minutes from my class so there aren’t a lot of reasons for me to go outside or around. My school also gives a lot of assignments, so I don’t have all the time in the world to go out. Then there was a lockdown too which made things worse. The lockdown was lifted on December 1, so basically, I haven’t had a lot of time for socialising since I got here.
Did that affect the loneliness?
Absolutely. During the lockdown, we had a four-month break where I stayed at home all day and did nothing. That was the all-time high for my loneliness. I fell into depression. It was terrible.
Sorry about that. Are you better now?
Yes, and I think it’s because I’m busy. I have deadlines and assignments now so there’s no time to think about loneliness and depression.
How long will you stay in Ireland?
I’m finishing school in November. I was thinking of moving to Canada, but the euro is stronger than the Canadian Dollar, so I’ll probably just stay here.
What are employment opportunities there like?
It’s very easy to get a student or per-time job and you can work for as long as you want to, but I don’t know how easy it is to get full-time jobs.
Of all the three places you’ve lived in, where would you rather be?
Nigeria. Because family is there.
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.