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.
When we asked this week’s subject on Abroad Life why he left Nigeria, his response was, “Nigeria”. He talks about finding Poland as a cheap japa option, touring Europe on a Schengen visa and his anger at the lack of an African equivalent.
Why did you decide to move abroad?
Nigeria, man, Nigeria. Inflation, low standard of living, insecurity and fear everywhere. I’m just like every other young Nigerian who’d been talking about japa for years. I think something that stops many people from actually japa-ing is money, and it was my problem for a while too. Between 2019 and 2020, I decided to work and have some savings so I can actually start the process.
In 2020, I stumbled on a travel agent’s page and made inquiries about japa on a low budget. I wasn’t targeting the popular countries like the UK or Canada because I knew they were expensive. I wanted somewhere that would match my budget.
And that was Poland?
Yep. According to the agent, he had a 90% success rate with helping people move there.
I’m curious about how much you eventually spent
Nothing more than ₦3.5m. I’m talking school fees, processing fees, flight money, and payment to the agent.
The easiest way to get a Schengen visa was by getting an admission here. I started the process in September 2020, and by March 2021, I was out.
Was that your first time outside Nigeria?
Expectations vs reality
Before I travelled, my only idea of what abroad looked like was what I saw in movies and heard from family members who travelled. When I eventually came here myself, man, I was amazed. It just… isn’t Nigeria. You feel like you’re actually in a developed society. Beautiful buildings, great scenery, working transportation systems, everything is amazing here.
As I travel to other countries with my Schengen visa, I see more beauty and development, and I can’t get enough of it. I also didn’t realise I would meet many Nigerians everywhere I go. My thinking was that it’d be difficult to socialise because Nigerians are majorly in the UK, the US and Canada, and not so many elsewhere.
In my time here, I’ve been to Germany, Turkey, Spain and the Netherlands, and I’ve seen Nigerians and even Nigerian stores there. Bro, there are Nigerians in Lithuania.
I’ve also seen people of other countries. Beautiful women. It feels like I’ve been a bird in a box all my life, and now, I’ve been set free.
What type of Nigerians would I meet in Poland?
Tell me about the Polish too
When I first got here, my neighbours were older people, and it was difficult to communicate with them. The language barrier is usually a problem for people, and that’s why many Nigerians don’t come here. But I survive with Google Translate.
I eventually got a different apartment, where my neighbour was a 21-year-old Polish woman and she was super friendly because we could communicate. Apparently, people in the older generation don’t speak English and don’t really associate with foreigners, but younger people want to learn English because it’s seen as cool and trendy.
They’re generally nice people. Their women like African men. There are some racists, but my stance is that humans just tend to be discriminatory to people that are different from them. Even within Nigeria, there’s tribalism. So I try not to see racism as a big deal.
As I socialised, people began to tell me about how international students get depressed after some time in Poland, and how I could avoid it.
Ah, tell me
So because it’s a different economic system than people are used to, they struggle to keep up. Many people come here because the cost of living is lower than in the rest of Europe — their currency is one-quarter of the euro — but even with that, monthly payment of rent and other bills tend to put people in a bad place financially, and therefore, mentally, especially during winter.
I also know about people who move to the UK with the plan to survive by working multiple jobs, but it doesn’t work out so they end up being broke and unable to survive. Maybe it’s not just a Poland thing, after all.
How do you survive?
I got a job online as a game tester. It pays me enough to pay bills and still have some money left to save and sometimes travel. Maybe people just don’t know, but getting decent jobs as a student here is not so difficult.
School has been online for me the entire time because of COVID.
Here, they don’t want you to fail. They teach pretty well, and if you fail an exam, you get the chance to retake it in a few weeks. The crazy part is that they’ll give you the same questions.
UNILAG is shaking. What’s your favourite part of moving?
Being able to access Europe with just my Schengen visa. It makes me sad to think that we require separate visas to travel to different places within Africa. Bro, I can wake up tomorrow and decide to take a $30 train to Berlin, stay in a cheap hotel for two days, go around the city sightseeing, and be back. I’d only spend like the naira equivalent of ₦50k in total. Do you know how amazing that is?
God when o. Do you plan to stay there forever?
I’d rather not because, like I said, the currency here is not great compared to other European countries. If I decide to stay here after my studies, I’d be earning much less than I could be. So the plan is to finish my studies in two years and move to a country with a better economy. It’s still early, but I’m thinking Canada.
Hey there! My name is Sheriff 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.