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.
If we told you how many visa denials the subject of this #AbroadLife got in the space of two years, you probably wouldn’t believe us. Here’s how he managed to get his study visa to Poland.
Also, The Polish love semo.
When did you first decide to leave Nigeria?
When Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) wanted to finish me. Before I even go too far, let me just say I appreciate the type of parent my mum is. I was depressed in OAU, and instead of being the normal Nigerian parent that just wanted their child to go to school, she sat with me and talked about changing schools.
What did OAU do to you?
Those lecturers were terrible, man. They just wanted to flex and show people that they were gods and nobody could pass their classes. The teaching was terrible, and even when I read and wrote the exact thing they taught in the exams, I saw terrible grades. I tell my friends who are still there they’re strong. Me, I couldn’t do it. I was just crying.
So I tried to leave in 2018 when I was in my second year, and I got admitted to a school in Canada, but my visa was denied because of financial reasons. Then I tried to leave in 2019 for a school in the US, and after writing my SAT and getting a 50% scholarship, I still had to pay about ₦4 million yearly. My mum is a civil servant, and she couldn’t afford that, so I had to look for more affordable countries.
My options were Mauritius, Rwanda and Poland. After doing my research and talking to friends who schooled in Poland, I decided to go for Poland. Besides, I didn’t even want to school in Africa.
Should I call it PTSD? I just imagined lecturers in other African countries would be exactly like Nigerian lecturers. I wanted a total change of environment.
What made Poland enticing?
I found out that many young people in Poland speak English. That was a good start. Also, tuition is pretty affordable. I went from studying industrial chemistry in Nigeria to studying computer engineering here, and the tuition fee is the equivalent of ₦1.6 million a year. That’s what people pay for Nigerian universities which, I’m sure, are not as good as schools here. Also, I was planning to move to the capital, Warsaw, and heard from friends that students could easily get jobs. That was good enough for me.
When did you start the process?
2020. I found a school, got admitted and paid my fees, ready to go and start my new life in Poland. That’s when wahala started. I didn’t get an appointment for my visa interview on time.
Let me tell you the process for booking visas during the COVID period. Everyone trying to get a visa to Poland from about five countries had one number to call within a five-hour period on one day, once a week. If you failed to get them to pick your call, you’d have to wait for the next week. So I, my agent, my girlfriend and friends tried for three weeks until we got an appointment.
You might think three weeks is a short time, but because I “delayed” so long, I didn’t get my visa.
Student visas take exactly one month to process. My appointment date was October 11, 2020, and school was meant to resume on November 10. So shortly before my visa appointment, the school reached out to me to find out if I was coming, and I told them I’d get my visa one day later than resumption because it was difficult to secure a date. By November 11, my visa came back denied. The reason was simple — the school reached out to the embassy to say I couldn’t make resumption, so they should deny me.
If you see the tears I cried. I couldn’t even appeal the process because my school, which was meant to be the organisation sponsoring my visa, had said I couldn’t come in. The school was polite about it when I reached out, but they couldn’t do anything about it.
Omo. Did you get your money back?
Yes. Thankfully, they returned it in euros, and we made like ₦400k extra selling it on the black market.
January 2022, we decided to try again. This time, it was to a private school, so the fees were a bit higher. We gathered all the money we could to show proof of funds, but they denied me again. Their reason was that I didn’t show enough funds. So my mum went and gathered more money again to put in her account, and when we reapplied, they denied me again.
Same reason. Not enough funds.
At this point, most people would give up. I kuku never dropped out of school, so I could just finish in Nigeria. I even considered it. We’d wasted like ₦1m on application fees and logistics. I remember my mum and me sitting one day and just crying together. Then she asked me what I wanted to do, and I decided I was going to try a school in Mauritius. We agreed that that was a good plan.
The next day, she came and said we should try Poland again. We were going to give it our all to make it work. Thankfully, I hadn’t lost the admission, and I didn’t want to start classes online, so I just deferred to September.
Oh, by the way, I was still with my agent that started the process with me in 2020. But at this point, we’d become friends. She was pretty great throughout the entire process. When I eventually got my visa, she left her balance of over ₦100k with me because she knew I’d been through a lot. We’re still pretty close, and I still recommend friends to use her services.
Did you get your visa this time?
It was February when we restarted the process. I didn’t get an appointment till late August.
Same reason. We couldn’t get a call in in time.
Please tell me you got this one
LOL. Nope. This one was my school’s fault. The school doesn’t have enough hostels to accommodate every student. So students get into the country and don’t have a place to stay. This time, the embassy wasn’t having it, so they were denying people who had been admitted to the school but didn’t have their personal accommodation sorted.
Now, this denial could have been avoided. Some random guy on a group chat of Nigerians who were trying to go to Poland I was on had reached out to me and told me to sort out accommodation before I got my visa appointment. He knew the embassy was shutting people who didn’t have accommodation out. To avoid this, I reached out to a friend who stayed in Poland and sent them ₦100k to help me rent an apartment. This person sent a fake landlord agreement and ran away with my money.
Na wa o
After this denial, I decided to try one last time since I knew everything I needed. I reached out to another friend who paid for an apartment for me with her own money pending the time I got in and reapplied. This time I got the visa.
When my agent called me to tell me I’d gotten the visa, I was on a danfo on my way to church. I just started crying. The woman beside me was worried someone had died, but I told her it was because I was leaving the country.
You’re not scared of village people
LMAO. I bought my plane ticket almost immediately and left. I remember getting a haircut on the day I was leaving, and having my mum follow me to the barber’s shop because I didn’t want any random issues with SARS on my last day in Nigeria.
Expectations vs reality: Warsaw edition
I expected it to be cold, so I wore a jacket. Bro, it was colder than I could ever imagine. And winter hadn’t even started when I landed in November 2021. I remember crying in the car when my friend picked me up from the airport. Everywhere looked so clean, calm and organised, unlike Lagos.
So you moved into the apartment she rented for you?
Yep. That’s where I still stay.
Living alone in a new country. What’s that like?
Difficult at first. I had to learn some Polish so I could interact with older people and buy things. It was also difficult adjusting to things like keeping to time for buses and holding my bus card. They do these random checks where, if you’re not with your bus pass, you have to pay zł160. For context, when I first got here, that’s how much it cost me to eat in a month. One time, I forgot it at home and they caught me, and after all the begging, I had to pay.
But food here is cheap sha. You can get 2kg of potatoes for the equivalent of ₦500. African food is what’s expensive as fuck. Also, the polish eat semo. Not as African food o. As their own dish.
They’re cancelled. Tell me a bit more about the Polish
They don’t smile. They’re not angry o. They just won’t smile with you. In fact, they’re always frowning. Don’t expect a friendly face in Poland. It’s only when you interact with them and become their friends that they’ll smile with you.
Also, there are a lot of elderly people here, and they all carry one type of bag. I don’t understand it. One more thing: These people party and drink a lot. A lot! Drunkenness isn’t something to be ashamed of. You know how, if you go to a Lagos party and get wasted to the point where you’re puking and passed out, it’s embarrassing. Not here o. It’s just normal.
LMAO. How’s school?
Studying abroad is not as easy as people say it is, but it’s more forgiving. If you fail, the lecturers give you more chances to learn and retake classes until you pass. That’s what happened to me when I was still settling. I’m already in my second year, and I have two and a half more.
Do you think you’ll stay after school?
At least until I can get my PR, yes. I’m already working and making good money, so why not?
Where do you work?
At a bank. My first job was at a packaging factory. I only did it for a day. I had to stand for eight hours. When I got home, amidst all the paper cuts and tears, I called my mum and told her I couldn’t do it again. My second job was as a game tester. I did that for four months, then I got a customer service job before I got this bank job. Now, I can comfortably save for next year’s tuition and live a good life.
What are your plans for the future?
When I get my PR, my babe and I will move to an English-speaking country together to settle down.