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.
For the past seven years, Chinedum, a grad student has lived between the US and Canada. After spending five years in the US and two in Canada, she’s sure home is where Trump and his interesting tan are. She explains why and talks a little about passive-aggressive greetings while white and the best places to bump into Drake in Canada. Check it out.
Quick, before my Yoruba diction gives me a heart attack — who’s winning ‘live or leave’ between the US and Canada?
If you ask me in a few years, maybe my answer would be different. But for right now, The US is winning this one. I’d live there and leave Canada.
A thousand Canadian visa Whatsapp groups just went quiet in Nigeria. Why isn’t the promised land winning this? Let me draw up a scoreboard.
Well, it’s actually more personal for me because —
Ehen, that’s what you’ll start with now
No wait, it’s personal for me because I have a lot of friends and family in the US. I spent five years of undergrad there and one year working, so I’ve made my community. I’ve only been in Canada for two years and I’m still adjusting to things. That said, the US is still the better country to live. I said what I said!
Hmm. Guess we’ll see about that. But before we get into it, which country’s visa process are we giving five stars and whose are we opening burner accounts to diss on Twitter?
You know what? They were both pretty easy to get now that I think about it.
Ugh. And I was just deciding on a username for my fake account (@Naijastargirl4lyf)
Haha. But yeah, I applied for my US student visa back in 2013, and even then, all I remember was having to get the regular documents like my academic qualifications, maybe birth certificates. Things like that. The process was pretty much painless.
This visa took me maybe eight days to get.
Well to be clear, I was applying from the US, so that probably made the process a lot easier.
I’ve heard that for Nigerians applying from Nigeria, the process is a lot harder.
I’m in grad school in Canada now. The Nigerians that came after me had to defer for a whole year because of the visa process. My friend in Saskatchewan had to first return to Nigeria to sort out her visa application before returning to Nigeria, so it gets very difficult.
I have to recognise that I’m probably talking from a place of privilege when I say it wasn’t a difficult process.
I hear that
-10 points from Canada
I mean, my graduation is in June, and I was asking my parents if they would be coming around. They pretty much said ‘see, don’t stress us, we came for your American graduation, manage that one’. Nobody wants to bother with the Canadian visa stress.
I hear that X2
Now talking about school, how does learning in both countries hold up?
Both countries have really great systems. I mean there are professors and teaching assistants to make sure you really, truly understand the classes. I had a major exam some time ago and I was stuck on the course work, sent an email to my professor that I needed his assistance and we had a two-hour session where he just explained everything I couldn’t understand about the course. Actually saved my life. Plus we have study guides with questions very similar to what eventually comes out in exams, so it’s quite a great system.
Wow, your professor actually took the time for you to learn and didn’t say ‘A is for the gods’? Can’t relate.
Now talk first impressions. What’s the first thing a fresh immigrant will notice about living in Boston?
Oh, the lack of diversity easily. Boston is predominantly white. Back when I worked there, my department had around thirty-five people, I was the only black person.
Well me and the executive assistant. And that’s another thing, the disparities jump at you when you live in Boston. If a white and black person enter into an office building, the white person is probably heading towards the elevator to get to their office, the black person is most likely a messenger, driver or something of the sort. You can’t miss it.
-20 for class disparity in the U.S. What?!
Is Toronto the same?
Oh no. Toronto is so diverse. There are many ethnicities present, it’s almost like an annex of Nigeria. Other African countries make the cut too, Indians, it’s a melting pot.
Better oh. What else would they notice about living abroad?
Hahaa. Oh man, wait, wait, I have to show you a picture first.
You see this?
If you’re in Boston, every white person, it doesn’t matter if you begged them for their greeting or not — every white person you come across at a grocery store or on the road, this is their version of showing they acknowledge you.
It would actually be hilarious if it wasn’t so weird. Like sometimes it can be friendly, but other times it just feels customary. Next thing, you’ve forced me to smile the smile I usually keep for people I actually rate. It’s just the oddest thing.
I don’t even know if I should remove points for this or not. Wypipo stop wypipoing!
That said, what was your favourite thing about living in Boston?
Well, besides friends and family. I love how you could just walk everywhere. It was such a walkable city.
Girl. You were exercising — on purpose?
Haha. Yes! Boston is pretty small, very bikable, very walkable, I never needed a car. It has about 600,000 people. Compare that to Toronto’s almost 3 million population, you’ll understand why it was a little overwhelming for me when I first moved here.
*Nods and pretends to understand while living in Lagos with its 21 million residents*
Like last December in Lagos, I was maybe 12 minutes away from Intercontinental Hotel, so I decided to walk instead of taking an Uber.
No you did not!
Oh but I did. I don’t know if I was wearing the wrong thing, or if it was just usual Lagos madness, but the catcalling, the sun, no sidewalks, no walking space. The longest 12 minutes ever, I’ll never try that again.
Oh man. So sorry those dusties made you uncomfortable
See, in Boston I’d never have had that. Which reminds me of something that was really interesting to me when I first moved there.
So you know how I like walks? It was so insane to me that I could just a little stroll and land inside Bob and Sally’s compound you know. These people just did not believe in gates.
It could never be Lagos with all the gates, burglar proofings and ‘Beware of dogs’ signs splashed everywhere.
Okay, if you loved Boston so much, how come you left?
Hm. Interesting you should ask.
*Trump has joined the chat*
The thing is, that their president is actually wilding. I mentioned how I had my undergrad in the States right? The way it worked for undergraduate students during that period was that they were allowed one year to work and after that, students needed a more permanent visa to get jobs – one that allowed around 5 – 6 years of work. The company you work in can apply for you and sponsor the whole process.
Sounds easy enough
Yeah, you would say that, and luckily for me, my employers applied for the visa for me. Only, getting the visa is kind of like the lottery, purely by chance.
Wait, how is Baba Ijebu attempting to enter this chat?
Haha. Well, it was what I was told anyway. Getting the visa was through a lottery system, so when I didn’t get it, my options were to return to Nigeria or continue on to grad school in Canada. That’s how I started looking for Canadian flight tickets oh.
Man, this sounds so tough
You think that’s tough, can’t even imagine what things are like for Nigerians with the current Nigerian ban. When I was in school, I had friends who were citizens of some of the countries on the ban list.
We were all meant to go on a trip to Barbados, but they were so scared of not being able to re-enter the country because of the ban, we had to move the trip to Los Angeles.
Even before I left, I got so scared of my immigration status as well. My friends and I planned a trip to Puerto Rico, which is actually US territory, but I was so scared of being apprehended, I just sat down at home where rest of mind is free abeg.
Man, this is crazy. Is it just as difficult getting a work visa in Canada?
Oh no, with Canada, once you’ve lived in the country for five years, you’re entitled to apply for your Permanent Residency, so fingers crossed for me.
(fingers crossed emoji X 100)
Great thing is, time starts to count from when you enter the country, unlike the US. They start to count when your academic journey has ended, so if I studied for 5 years, it wouldn’t matter, they start counting right after the end of the five years.
What a betrayed. + 5 marks for Canada.
Meanwhile, with how it’s looking, Canada is winning this ‘live or leave’ battle at this time T. What else is good about living in Toronto?
I have to give it to them for their healthcare. Back when I was in the US, my friends and I used to joke that if we went out drinking and one of us got alcohol poisoning, that person better die because there was no money to cover the medical bills.
See, if I got sick in Boston, I’d actually stay in bed until I don’t know, death came for me or something. Those bills are crazy. This was after school though, because we had student clinics and all that we could go to at a subsidised rate. But figuring all of that out after school? Murder.
But in Canada, there’s none of that fear. Healthcare is reasonably priced, you don’t have to deal with hiding in your room and waiting for death because you think you have the Coronavirus and you can’t afford it or anything.
As it should be!
So again, how’s the US winning this? +20 marks to Canada for their bomb healthcare btw
Well, here’s the thing, if you’re moving abroad, you’re probably coming for economic reasons. Yes healthcare and infrastructure are great, but you must want it to be worthwhile financially. That’s where the US wins.
Okay, I’m listening
As it is, when I get eventually get a job in Canada after grad school, my peers working the same job in the US will be making more. That’s just how it is. And that’s not even counting the fact that the Canadian dollar is weaker than the U.S dollar.
Then there’s sales tax. Canada’s sales tax is through the roof. Like things that I would buy in the US, then add an extra dollar here and there for tax, I always have to add a few extra dollars in Canada.
So you’re earning less and essentially having to pay more to live in Canada? Hm.
Pretty much. It also doesn’t help — and this may be the worst thing about living in Canada, but it doesn’t help that the actual opportunities are so concentrated. If you’re not living in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, then there really aren’t that many viable job opportunities for you, and everyone knows it. So this means you’re competing with a really wide pool of very qualified people for jobs in limited spaces. In the U.S, it almost doesn’t matter what state you’re in, there are opportunities countrywide.
Oh.kay. I can’t argue with this. Major points to the US. But Canada can’t be all bad, what are your favourite places to visit? I’m talking nightlife, restaurants etc.
Hm. I don’t know about nightlife, but restaurants and places to go on dates, I know a few.
If you want fancy, you could check out Sotto Sotto in Yorkville. I saw Drake and Kyle Lowry having dinner there, so it’s that kind of place.
Hmm. Sotto Sotto you said?
Yepp. If you want a more fun, arcadey kind of date, The Rec Room is your best bet. There’s Snakes & Lattes where you can play board games and just chill and if you’re really about the fancy date life, check out Jackson Triggs, you can get private tours and wine. Those are pretty great places to check out.
Hm. I really wasn’t out a lot in Boston. Maybe a couple of Nigerian clubs just so I could hear some Nigerian music and not, I don’t know, Evanescence in the clubs or something.
Haha. Got it. So what are your plans for the future? Sticking with Canada or dipping to the US?
Well, first things first, I just have to get rid of this Nigerian passport, so I’ll definitely work on getting my Canadian permanent residency. After that, we’ll see, but I do have my eyes on returning to the US.
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