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 is a woman who schooled in Kampala, Uganda because she didn’t want to go somewhere mainstream like Canada or The UK. She talks about how similar Nigeria and Uganda are, how to have fun in Uganda and the things that make living in Uganda difficult.
So where were you before you returned to Nigeria?
I was in Kampala, Uganda.
What was happening there?
I was there for school for three years. I came back this year.
Why did you choose to go to Uganda?
I didn’t want to go to school in Nigeria because of how things are here. Nigerian schools are stressful. So I started searching for countries to school in. I wanted somewhere not so common like Canada, the UK and the US. I wanted somewhere unknown.
Why did you want that?
I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to go the same way as everyone. I believe there are different routes to the market, so the question is, why do I have to take the same one that everyone does?
That’s interesting. So why did you choose Uganda?
I got home one day and my mother told me, “You’re going to Kampala International University.” I was so confused. I had to do a lot of research because I did not know that there was a country named Uganda. But from my research, I found out that it was a nice place, and I’d be done with school in three years, so I thought I’d give it a try.
What was applying for school there like?
They were looking for A-Levels results or WAEC results, so I just plugged in my WAEC result, got admitted and bounced. The visa application was fast and simple; it took about two weeks and the entire process cost about $100. That was in 2018 though.
Arriving in Uganda, what were your first impressions?
The only thing that surprised me was the constant electricity. Apart from that, it’s like every other African country. This is how I’d describe it: it’s like a miniature version of Victoria Island, Lagos. I don’t think Uganda’s population is up to Lagos and Ibadan combined, and that’s with the high number of foreigners that live here.
Are there a lot of Nigerians?
Yes. The thing they say about Nigerians being everywhere is very true.
If I find myself in Uganda now, how can I tell the difference between where I am and Nigeria?
Their culture and style of living. Just like us, they were colonised by the British. But they retained some of the British culture, like driving on the right-hand side and drinking as much tea as they possibly can.
So they’re not traditional people?
Not really, no. They have some annual traditional events though. In school, there’s usually a cultural gala where people come to showcase their culture and all that stuff. There’s this culture where they put clay on their faces. It’s an unexplainable vibe. But in everyday dressing, it’s corporate culture. But it’s nice to note that in all of this, English is not the main language spoken. There’s Luganda and Swahili.
Do you understand Luganda and Swahili?
So how do you survive?
It’s easy when you have a lot of international students that you blend with. Everyone in these communities around universities speaks English, and there are many universities.
Is it more expensive living there than living in Nigeria?
Ugandan shillings is devalued, so for some people here, it might be expensive. Take rent for instance. Nigerians pay rent annually, but they pay monthly. You can have a place at 500,000 Ugandan shillings per month, and that’s like ₦50,000 naira. To them it’s expensive, but I can pay it comfortably.
Did you have a job there?
No, I don’t have a job. At least not yet. Without knowing anyone in the country. you cannot really get a job.
Wow. What about a side hustle?
You can’t do that at all.
Except you want to be a musician or a model, it’s hard to do anything else. You have to register anything you do with the right authorities, no matter how small it is. You can’t just start a business because you have a passion for it. The best thing you can do, let’s say you know how to make hair, is to offer your services to only people you know and keep it on the low.
What happens if the authorities find out?
Their own version of EFCC would swoop in and investigate you, and you could get jailed in the process.
Wow. What is a Nigerian reality that affected your Ugandan life?
I don’t think there’s anything. They just tend to ask Nigerians a lot of questions. They ask about our musicians and stuff like that.
What’s your craziest experience in all your time there?
Ugandans are known for their nightlife. It’s much more intense there than in Lagos. They love their booze and their weed and their shisha. One night when I went out, I missed my hostel curfew, and there was no way for me to get in. I had to jump in through the fence. It was crazy.
I got bored with that life quickly though. It became repetitive. I would go out late at night, get home late, go to class late and sit in the back, wearing dark shades. Many times I missed classes too, but at some point, I just got tired of the whole thing.
So what else did you try to explore?
Uganda is also known for its lakes and tourist attractions. I went on an adventure to Lake Victoria, where the River Nile starts from, and some other natural reserves. It was really nice.
Are you done with school?
No, I’m going back next year. I’m only back in Nigeria because of Coronavirus. The school was closed, and my parents just kept paying rent. I came home because I wanted to take that strain off them. When the pandemic clears, I’ll go back.
Do you see yourself living there when you’re done with school?
No. It’s a fun place, but I’m not the kind of person to stay in a place for a very long time. I’m a wanderer, and I need to move.
What other countries have you stayed in?
I won’t say I’ve stayed in a lot of places, but I’ve been through many states in Nigeria. I’ve also been to the UK, stayed in Dubai for a while and been through Rwanda.
What states in Nigeria have you been through?
Rivers, Oyo, Lagos, Osun and some others.
What’s one thing you love about living in Uganda?
The constant electricity.
What’s one thing you hate?
Some Ugandans are very rude, and that puts me off. Their president is a dictator. He’s been here for 40 years plus and has refused to step down. Things are normal, but a lot of the time, he has the final say. Foreigners like him because he lets them in easily, but you don’t want to get on his bad side. He came into power through a coup d’état and no one has had the courage to overthrow him.
So are you saying Nigerians are enjoying the type of president we have?
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 9 A.M. (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.
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