Sitting The Coronavirus Out In South Africa: Aanu’s Abroad Life

April 24, 2020

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.

Imagine starting a new chapter of your life away from all the friends and family you know and grew up with. Now imagine four months into that, a deadly pandemic hits, with largely yourself to rely on to weather it out. 

On Abroad Life, Aanu talks about school life in South Africa and weathering the coronavirus out, one pot of jollof rice at a time.

Because I’m overly dramatic, let’s swap war stories. When was the last time you went out during the lockdown and how differently was it from  the usual scenario you’re used to?

That was I think … three Fridays ago? So April 3rd. I went grocery shopping. Now, before the virus hit, Saturdays, weekends were grocery days, especially where there are free bus services from hostels to Rosebank Mall, this popular mall in South Africa. You can imagine how busy it usually gets.

The last time though, there were shoppers in masks, the security guards only permitted five people at a time to enter the mall, there was social distancing. You had to sanitise your hands before entering, you had to sanitise the trolley handlebars too. It was a lot.

I see. Mine was three weeks ago as well. I may have cracked the side of my curtain open three weeks ago to get a peek outside. It’s not me Corona will catch with its side-eyes. 

Anyway, how come you’re living in South Africa and not getting room temperature amala delivered to your doorstep like the rest of us in Nigeria?

Well, I came here in January 2020 for school. I’m getting my Masters in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Witswatersand, South Africa.

Also, amala is unnecessary. I’d ban it.


Anyway, I’m dying to talk about anything but the coronavirus. So please tell us the fascinating process involved in getting into journalism school in South Africa.

The process started in, I want to say June last year. I was still freelancing for CNN….

Ayyy. Okay Mr. Big Shot Journalist

Ugh. Ignoring you. So someone sent a scholarship opportunity to me and told me my name was pretty much written on it. The scholarship was courtesy the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation. I decided to apply in the first week of July. After the scholarship interview, I had to apply to the school proper. Hm. That was where problem started.


So if you’re coming to South Africa with a foreign degree, a body called the South African Qualifications Authority has to grade your degree to determine where it falls in the South African grading system.

Wait wait. A body grades your final university grade before you can study in South Africa. Can somebody please @ASUU in this chat?

Exactly! And you have to be very patient with these people, if you’re from  Nigerian University, good luck. So SAQA sent an email to my alma-matter, OAU, asking for confirmation that I actually went there. 

It took OAU two days to reply, only to say that I needed to pay money to get the confirmation that I schooled there. I paid that money within like ten minutes of getting the email. Tell me why it took OAU one month to finally send the result, and why it was a wrong result they finally sent after all the stress?

Wow. There’s drama, suspense, some university betrayal. I love this story!

Anyway, the whole process was completed in December. Let’s just pretend it didn’t take almost three months to get it over and done with.

Hmm. E be tins. So, I know you’ve only been there 4 months, but what were your first impressions of South Africa?

Funny you should ask, because my first impressions of South Africa were formed within my first few hours after landing.


So I landed in South Africa at 1:25 AM because ASKY, the airline my travel agent advised me to take, had a stop over at Douala, Cameroun. We were on the tarmac for like 45 minutes. Anyway, all that didn’t matter because when I did land at South Africa, someone was waiting for me with a big sign that had my name on it! It was my travel agent’s husband. No one ever comes to pick me at the airport, I liked it you know!

Aww. A little South African rom-com

Haha. So it was morning, I had just gotten off a long flight. All I wanted to do was get to my student accommodation and sleep. Only thing is, the security guard at the hostel wasn’t having it. According to him, the person that held the keys to my room was asleep and I’d have to stay over at the common room until 8 the next day when he’d be awake. This guy refused to budge!

No way!

Yes oh. Thankfully, my travel agent’s husband has a big heart. He let me into his home to spend the night and I was on my way the next day. So my first impression was, here is an asshole in front of me, making things hard when they really don’t need to be and then there’s this stranger. Kind to me when he didn’t have to. 

I knew South Africa was going to be a mix of things.

Hmm. Got it, glad that turned out okay.

But now you’ve lived there for a bit, what are some of the things you’ve loved about life in South Africa? 

You know, I have to say the school life.

*Speak like your mom’s listening*

No really! Anyone that schooled in Nigeria needs to study abroad so you’ll know they’re teaching dust here. Now I might be speaking from a place of privilege, because my school is a top 200 school globally. But it just goes to show, what counts as an elite school in Nigeria? Covenant?

*Hands on head emoji*

When you get here, there are no pedestals for lecturers. A lot of my professors are over 60. People that have done journalism longer than I’ve been alive. There’s a woman in her 70s, she’s been active for like 50 years and we call her by her first name. There is no ‘lecturer is coming, let me scramble to carry their books’. Zero eye-service nonsense. Most of our classes are informal, we just discuss. There is a lot of back and forth and less dictating. There’s order as well. You get emailed your class schedule.

I’m listening to this and it’s so basic, but so unattainable over here 

Like! It’s basic, but we don’t have it. And no shade to SA, But like, if SA can get it right, why can’t we?

Big talk!

Oh, I forgot another first impression I got here. They smoke like crazy. Lunch breaks, no lunch breaks, they are puffing. It was a little jarring to me as a non-smoker

Again *speak like your mom’s watching*

So before the coronavirus came and ruined things, how did you see the South African night life?

See, this corona fucked me over! I spent my first few weeks here laying low. By the third week in February, I had a list of places I wanted to go to. I linked up with my friend who had been here five years, joined the lists and started knocking them off one by one. I had like 12 spots to go to. And those were just bars and restaurants, not even counting the museums or other places to sightsee. I hit like three spots, and that was it. Corona really got me. But from the little I’ve seen, the South African night life is dope!

Got it, since we’re already on coronavirus. When Covid-19 first started making rounds, did you think it would get this serious?

So there are two parts to this answer. I started following updates earlier than most people because my whole life is news apps notifications. By January, I was closely following it, but I’ll be honest I thought it was someone else’s problem. When they locked down Wuhan, I was thinking why would they lock people inside? This could never work in New York.

Hardy har har

When it started affecting Nigeria with oil prices in February, I was in South Africa, I knew it was serious. By the first week in March, I had stopped all unnecessary contact. I still went for a date sha. 

See your love-life on the streets!

Dey there. By mid-March, South Africa already had its first case. One minute you’re chilling, the next, your school is sending emails that it is going on an early recess and everyone has to go home, except the international students.

We only resumed classes online this week.

Crazy. And how has the government reacted so far?

I don’t know about every other aspect of his governance, but President Cyril has been so effective in handling the coronavirus. He communicates clearly, his office communicates clearly. This guy isn’t hiding behind any twitter threads. 

He has held maybe 5,6 live addresses. You also know when he will speak to you. The last address, they told us days before, and this is the order things take. You always know what to expect.

*SSAs to the Nigerian government have left the chat*

Yeah, he just announced that we’ll be leaving lockdown in 5 stages and the processes for each are so clearly outlined, it’s ridiculous!

God whenst and under whomst?

That said, how’s lockdown treating you?

Hmm. Well obviously, I’m lonely and worried about my friends and family in Nigeria. I toyed with the idea of returning to Nigeria when the virus hit, but then I thought about my health in the hands of the Nigerian or the South African care system and decided to take my chances.

These shots you are firing today sha…

Only facts. One thing about this lockdown though, I’ve learnt that I can actually cook. Before,  I couldn’t take onions. Now, I can’t even eat noodles without green peppers, and onions. I’ve gone from spending like ten minutes cooking noodles, to one hour.

I cooked my first jollof rice. My friend in Lagos was teaching me over the phone, I’m now a jollof rice guru. I’ve also been watching a lot of Sisi Yemmie. So it isn’t all bad.

Yay to silver linings. At least food is keeping you occupied

Well, there’s that and my job. As part of my scholarship, I’ve been working with this paper called Mail and Guardian. I have a one-month contract to be a staff writer, so I have been busy as hell if I’m being honest.

Got it! So what’s the plan after the lockdown is lifted and your Masters is done and dusted? 

You know, if you had asked me this when I first landed South Africa, I’d have told you how I plan to return to Nigeria. That answer doesn’t apply anymore! Nigeria is in my rearview mirror, good day, good bye!

Wow, wow. What a betrayed!

Yeah, now I’m looking for opportunities for a post-brexit UK or something in Australia. But Nigeria? No, God forbid. (His literal words)

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.

Boyin Plumptre

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

August 9, 2019

(A look at the events surrounding the protests of August 5.) So quick question: Where are we going as a country? Back to the late 20th century, it seems. Is the “newly sworn-in” President Bubu scared that someone that is not his clone is coming to take over from him? What did a great man […]


Now on Zikoko

August 3, 2021

You’re probably on the wrong side of Twitter NG if you’ve not seen any tweets from user, @deoors. Recently, I saw a couple of really nice tweets from him, so I decided to do a deep dive on his account and find some more bangers. You’ll smile (or chuckle a bit) throughout this post. 1. […]

August 3, 2021

If you are single and in search of reasons why you should get into a relationship, then you are in the right place. Here are eight reasons to convince you and not to confuse you as to why you need to get into a relationship 1) You have someone to be helping you zip your […]

August 3, 2021

The show has started and housemates are already giving their fans something to talk about. Here are five things you need to enjoy Big Brother Naija Season 6 wherever you are in Nigeria, other African countries, or the UK. 1. Cool Friends You may need to change your friends if they yab you for loving […]

man flexing arm bicep
August 3, 2021

In today’s society, everyone has an opinion about what it means to really be a “man”. Whatever those opinions are they end up doing more harm than good, seeing as 75% of suicide victims are men. Here are some of the ridiculous ways society thinks you should act like a man. 1. Never cry. As […]

August 3, 2021

There are very few things that make adults happy. The word ‘adult’ here is used loosely because some of you are 18 and you only barely qualify as adults. Truth is, the older you get, the more simple things make you happy.  1. Finding the perfect grocery store Not everyone can say that they have […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

November 28, 2019

There are so many talented and stunning Nollywood actors that make it hard not to fall in love with them. So, while we all know the likelihood of us ending up with any of them is super low, it’s still fun to imagine a world where we actually stood a chance, and that’s why this […]

January 2, 2020

Do you have even a single romantic bone in your body? Well, if you’re not sure about just how sweet and thoughtful you can be to someone you love, that’s what this quiz is here to answer. 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are Ready To Marry  Are you ready to marry? Take these quizzes.

March 24, 2020

While we know that a lot of the best Nigerian artists deservedly have fans across generations, that won’t stop us from attempting to guess how old you are based on your taste in Nigerian music. So, take this quiz to see if we got it right:

More from Citizen

July 30, 2021

The subject of today’s Abroad life is a 35-year-old man who has lived many lives. He talks about being rejected three times by the US embassy, the bad state of the Nigerian education system, and how freelancing paid for his japa.  When did you decide that you wanted to leave Nigeria? I’d always passively wanted […]

July 25, 2021

From time to time, I see tweets about how living abroad as a Nigerian is tough because it gets lonely. In the past, whenever I saw those tweets, I thought, “I’d rather be lonely abroad than suffering in Nigeria.” But then I spoke with these five people on Abroad Life and their stories made me […]

July 23, 2021

On Saturday, July 24, 2021, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) will conduct an election to elect the next chairman and councillors in the 20 local government areas and the 37 local council development areas in the state.  Why should you care about this? Provisions in the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act of […]

July 23, 2021

You probably haven’t heard about the country on today’s Abroad Life. It’s Curaçao— a small island in the Caribbean. Today’s subject moved there in 2019, and talks about the country, its people, and why she thinks it’s very similar to Nigeria. When did you decide that you wanted to leave Nigeria? This isn’t the first […]

July 2, 2021

From intriguing stories about fraudsters in Malaysia to heartbreaking stories about child slavery, I’ve shared some brilliant stories worth documenting about Nigerians and their unique experiences abroad. Because we’ve just passed the half year mark, I’m deciding to share the most-read Abroad Life stories from this year. Enjoy. 1. “I Went From Earning ₦20,000 to […]

July 2, 2021

Today’s subject on Abroad Life is a 24-year-old woman who moved to the UK last year after getting ghosted by someone she just met. She talks about quitting her frustrating job in Nigeria, meeting a guy and leaving the country because he suddenly stopped talking to her.  When did you decide that you wanted to […]


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.