The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows this better than our articles on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
This week’s topic of living abroad left Nigeria for the United States in 2014. Last year, she moved to Canada. Why? The United States has too much wahala when it comes to immigration. She thinks more Nigerians should come to Canada because “things are working” there.
When did you leave Nigeria?
Eight years ago, in July 2014.
It was a long time ago. Why did you leave?
My parents wanted it. I was already in my first year at Afe Babalola University, but they thought it would be good to send me abroad instead. I saw a chance to leave Nigeria so of course I took it
Was the United States the only option?
For my parents, yes. Not for me. I wanted to go to Hungary or Ukraine because that’s where people from my high school class went.
Expectation vs. Reality: American Edition
First, I expected it to be colder. But I got there in the summer and visited my aunt first who lived in California, so it definitely wasn’t cold. Also, I expected to have trouble fitting in because I was new. Imagine a 17-year-old moving alone to a new country. But I thought people were nice and I made friends easily.
In general though, I didn’t have too many expectations.
I guess moving at 17 was scary
Oh, it was. But luckily I had been in boarding school since I was 10, so I used to be away from my parents. Also, being away from home has given me a new sense of freedom that I couldn’t have when I was in Nigeria under the wings of my parents, especially my father.
What have you done with your newfound freedom?
I just went to parties. That’s it. My home training did not allow me to go too far.
Was the installation easy for you?
I’m grateful for one thing, and those are the two friends I made on the second and third days of school in Arkansas. They are Rwandan and Congolese respectively, and they were my close friends throughout college. I’m still very close to one of them.
I’m grateful because a lot of people don’t make friends that early and end up struggling with things like loneliness and even depression. Also, it was the start for me of only having African friends throughout my three-year stay in Arkansas.
When you stay in a very white town in Arkansas, you encounter a lot of racism. It’s not the violent kind, but you notice an air around white people like they think they’re better than you. They are nice, but only from a distance. There are also comments they make that just make you go “What?”
Give an example
I can never forget this one. So, on my third day of school, I was in the kitchen, heating up some food, when a white student approached me to say hello. As the conversation progressed, he asked me where I was from and I replied “Nigeria”. He said, “Oh, so your dad must be the president then.” And when I said no, he said, “Oh, so vice president?” When I said no again, he just said okay and left. It is as if he is surprised that an “ordinary” Nigerian can afford to send his child to the United States for school.
What about black Americans?
They have a thing where they act like they’re better than Africans. I remember someone condescendingly saying to me, “Oh, your accent is so thick and so African.” I just held them off and rode with my fellow Africans.
When I graduated and moved to California, which is more diverse than Arkansas, I made Asian American and white friends who were more open-minded. But still no African Americans.
Why did you move to California?
For work. The original plan was to study medicine after biology because in the United States you need a bachelor’s degree before you can study medicine. But medical school tuition seemed scary, so I decided to work and seek a green card instead.
do you have it?
No. Immigration to the United States is difficult. I had to leave because I ran out of time and legal options, and I refused to marry anyone for papers, real or arranged. I moved to Canada in June 2021.
Have you been back to Nigeria since?
Only in 2016. My mom and siblings have all come to visit me since I arrived here, but I haven’t seen my dad since 2016. I miss him.
Why did he never come?
I have no idea. He even got a US visit visa but never came. I want to visit Nigeria in December but these flight prices are choking.
What’s the plan with Canada now?
I am currently in nursing school graduating in October next year. After two years, I can apply for permanent residence (PR) myself. That’s the plan. In the US, I should have found a job at a company willing to apply on my behalf, and it’s a lottery, making it hard to know how long it takes.
Canada versus America
For immigration, Canada is better. Health care, Canada wins. Security, Canada wins. The people here are also much nicer. But for taxes, the United States wins. They can end you with taxes in this Canada. As a working class person, it is difficult to get rich from your salary because of the amount of taxes. But I like to think of it like this; health care is free, so why not?
How to do you get free healthcare?
I have no idea. I think it’s a province-by-province issue. I live in Alberta and health care is free here for students. But I don’t think that applies to Ontario students.
You mentioned taxes. Do you have a job?
Unlike in the United States, international students in Canada can work outside of the school campus. So I work in a hospital, I do babysitting and I work in helping people with disabilities. I am taxed for all three jobs, but I will get all the money back in December because my annual income is too low to fall into a tax bracket.
What is your social life like?
Pretty awesome. I decided to move to Alberta because a close friend from high school moved and has been living here since 2013. We reconnected and she introduced me to her Nigerian friends. Oh, and yes, there are a lot of Nigerians in Canada! I love it.
What do you miss the most in Nigeria?
The food. Even when we cook Nigerian dishes here, they don’t taste the same.
What do you hate the most about being in Canada?
Uhm… Just the fact that I’m a student. I can’t wait to graduate and get my PR. I went from studying biology in the US to hustling for the green card for three years before moving here for school again. I can’t wait to finally finish and settle down.
Oh wait! Canada is also damn expensive compared to America. Food, gasoline, everything. Dear.
Do you think more Nigerians should move to Canada?
Absolutely. I have friends who moved here in 2018, got their PR in 2021 and bought a house this year . If you are a hard worker, the system will work for you. They will impose a lot of money on you, but at least you know you have health care, security, you can buy a house and have a decent family life.
Want more life abroad? See you every Friday at 9am (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story in the series here.
Hi! My name is David and I am the author of Abroad Life. If you are Nigerian and live or have lived abroad, I would like to tell you about what that experience is like and introduce you on Abroad Life. Just fill out this short form and I will contact you.