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.
The subject of today’s Abroad Life moved to the US for the first time in 2013 for school. He talks about not being able to get a job until he got an MBA, almost getting deported and why he thinks the American government can easily become as bad as Nigeria’s government.
When did you realise you wanted to leave Nigeria?
It must have been when I was a kid watching cartoons and they would take the light. I hated it so much. I knew there was uninterrupted electricity outside Nigeria, so that’s when I started thinking of leaving.
LMAO. Is that what made you leave eventually?
Haha… Nope. When I was in SS3 in 2012, some guy came to my school to tell parents that he could help them process admissions to schools abroad. Initially, my dad didn’t seem interested, a few weeks later, he asked me to get into the car and follow him out. The outing was a meeting with the guy who wanted to help people study abroad and after my dad listened to him speak for a while, he seemed convinced.
When we got back to the parked car, my dad told me to join him in the back seat to have a conversation. There he told me, “Look, I can promise you that I’ll pay to get you to study abroad, but you have to promise me that you’ll give a 110% commitment to the entrance exams, SATs and all that. If you can make me this promise, I’ll make your abroad dream a reality.” It was a defining moment that made me resolve to study as hard as I could for all my exams. When I promised him, we went to the front seats and drove home.
Please tell me it wasn’t a scam.
Ii wasn’t. I wrote my exams and passed. It was tough because I had to write the SATs, TOEFL, IGSCE, WAEC, NECO, JAMB and POST UTME in the same period. I did well in all of them and even got into UNILAG, but by the time I was writing NECO, I already knew I was going abroad, so I wasn’t as committed to it as I was to the other exams.
When did you eventually leave?
August 2013. I got to the USA and immediately experienced a culture shock that made it hard for me to make friends.
What was it?
There weren’t a lot of Nigerians in my school in my first year, so I couldn’t relate to a lot of people. The people I could relate to, I couldn’t afford to hang out with them. There was a culture of going out often, and I didn’t have as much money to do that. My monthly stipend was $300 and going out as college kids would cost at least $15. If I went out every time I was invited, I would have been wrecked. So I stayed away. I was an introvert too; that didn’t help.
Damn. Did more Nigerians show up later?
A whole lot more. The guy that facilitated my coming to the US formed a partnership with my school where he brought in about 20 to 30 Nigerian students every year. I was among the first few students to join, and we weren’t even up to 10 in my first year. The more Nigerian students joined my school, the more the school boasted cultural diversity. My set decided to start an association for Nigerian students where we looked out for each other, held events and educated people about the differences between Nigeria and Africa. I eventually became president of the association in my third year. It was super fun and fulfilling.
That’s impressive. Did you ever go home during your undergrad?
I went home the next year. I got into a relationship in my first year, and we broke up soon after. I was emotionally in the mud. My parents noticed I was sad over the phone and, on a whim, bought a ticket for me to go back to Nigeria and bond with my family again. I spent only one week in Nigeria, but it helped. Being with my parents and siblings made me feel better. They didn’t know I was heartbroken over a babe sha. They just thought I was homesick. By the time I was to come back to the US, I cried like a baby in front of everyone. But that trip really helped me become more emotionally stable when I got back to the US.
The next time I went home was for a summer vacation. At this point, I’d gotten a job as a baker in school where I was making almost $700 a month. When I got home, my dad’s friend got me a 9-5 internship at Mobil, just so I wouldn’t waste my time at home. It paid ₦35,000 — peanuts compared to my meagre student job back in the US.
Omo. The exchange rates changed a lot between 2013 and 2017. How did that affect your tuition?
Because we were so many, my school decided to give scholarships to Nigerian students so the rates wouldn’t affect us as much. In dollars, my school fees barely changed throughout my undergrad, but in naira, it doubled.
Whoa. What happened after school?
My student visa had expired, but I was on my one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) that the US gives to international students who want to stay in the country to secure a job. It was also the period where America was very immigrant unfriendly because of Trump.
Getting a job was difficult. Immediately they heard that they would have to sponsor your visa, you would be out of contention for the role. I was feeling the heat, I decided that there was no point in staying in a place that didn’t want me. I left and returned to Nigeria in 2018.
Shortly after I left, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement came to my apartment to deport me. If I was still in the US, they would have dragged me to the airport and put me on a flight back to Nigeria.
I was happy I left before that happened because it means I didn’t overstay my welcome and I could go back to the US.
Wow. What was Nigeria like?
I stayed at home and did some online work for a US company. At some point, my dad wanted me out of his house. He didn’t pay all that expensive school fees for me to come and sit in his house. I understood him, so I started looking for ways to go back to the US. I got an admission for an MBA and took it.
Nice. Are you done with that?
Yes, I finished this year. Now I have a job that pays okay and I do some side gigs on the side. On weekends, I go out and chill with the friends I have made here, and then it’s back to work on weekdays.
It is, but America is not as great as many people think it is. There’s a lot of wrong people in power, just like in Nigeria, and a lot of incompetent people too. Recently, in Texas, there was a law where almost anyone can sue abortion providers and people getting abortions. It’s causing an uproar, but in my opinion, it’s wrong. In the same period, there has also been a law passed where people can own guns without permits or training in Texas. All of this is happening, but there is no place for refugees from Afghanistan. It’s all just crazy.
In my opinion, the American government is a few turns away from being as bad as the government in Nigeria.
Hey there! My name is David and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.