The Immigrant’s Truth: #JapaStory02
I doubted my escape from Nigeria to be a good one for a number of reasons. A major one was the culture shock I experienced when I arrived abroad. Being born and raised there for more than 20 years; an undeniable fraction of my young life, I lived and loved all that is and took solace in the fact that I was surrounded by my community, even while often left unsatisfied by little unfavourable outcomes.
Read previous #JapaStory
Before leaving, I internalized so many ideas from TV and the social space. I remember watching “Coming to America” when I was six years old. The first thing that piqued my interest was how bright the location of the movie was. I would think in my little head, “how could one place be so full of light?” For someone that lived in a country like mine; where we had no stable electricity, it felt like looking at an heavenly place. I would go to bed at 6 pm daily because by that time; it was often too dark to play outside and what other form of play existed if one didn’t play outside?. If you grew up in Nigeria in the 90’s or before; you would agree that, as kids, we had to make do with what was available and that was not much.
In today’s post, I speak with a talented young woman; who I will refer to as TN in this post. TN is an inspiring lady who has lived in Canada for the last few years. I met TN many years ago and I have admired her strong spirit and ambitious streak ever since. TN is a technology analyst at one of the biggest organizations in the world; that is currently taking action on climate change. She blends her interest in renewable energy with her expertise in research and technology. You would often find her talking about her big dreams when she is not swooning over Korean actors. I found her story interesting; especially with how she went from being one patriotic citizen to giving up on the nation’s affairs. Without wasting any more time, I will let you dive in.
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So, why did you leave Nigeria?
TN: Honestly? I was never keen to leave for a very long time. The decision to come abroad was spontaneous; because I genuinely believed that if all the youth left the country, who was going to remain to help rebuild when the time came? I was, you could say very “Pro-Nigeria” at the time and I made no plans to push against that. I had big plans and they were the kind I knew I ultimately wanted to execute in Nigeria. Besides, I take pride in the fact that I have a close relationship with my family; and I was not at all welcome to the idea of anything that was going to put distance between us.
However, I had a conversation with a friend shortly after NYSC began. He was convinced about his plans for graduate school outside Nigeria; and he suggested that I shoot my shots at schools too. The idea was, even if I had no plans to leave, it was okay to have other valid options. So, when he sent links and encouraged me to go through them; to see if I could find any that interested me, I went for it. I did, partly because things were already not looking optimistic. Due to the poor economy situation and the job market being unfavourable. I made several applications and got many rejections in the same breath. This did not deter me though because I knew that I had only one leg in, anyway.
The last knock on the coffin for my indecisiveness came when one of the applications went through; and the university asked me to join a research group for one of the programs I applied into. At that point, I knew that I could not continue to hold on to the uncertainty that Nigeria brought to my dreams. Staying back in Nigeria was only going to give me the option of doing something I had to do as an adult to survive; not necessarily what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I would have been unable to dream, I would only continue to struggle to make ends meet. But this was an opportunity that presented itself. That was when I decided I would take a leap of faith and follow the next available ride out.
Did you consider other countries or it was simply “Canada ways” for you?
TN: No, I did not consider other countries. A lot of the other countries requested English language tests or an equivalent before applications could be made. Canada gave me the option of not having to write these exams and that was attractive for me. I also admired their immigration policies came with perks that are favourable and that did it for me too.
Did you have relatives before you left for Canada?
TN: No, I did not. As at when I applied and made plans to leave, I did not know anyone in Canada. However, on obtaining my admission, I knew that I needed connections. So, I started looking for people that I could connect with via LinkedIn. I made searches and found quite a number of people that I messaged. A few got back to me and where they could not offer much help; they referred me to the people that they also knew could help.
It was through this avenue that I met the amazing lady that housed me for a whole month when I first arrived in Canada. She took me in and took care of me. She offered support for everything I needed right until I was able to get my own place. It probably would have been more difficult; if I had arrived and did not know anyone in this completely new world. But I got lucky by virtue of the connections that I made and it helped pave the way for me.
How did you fare? was it everything you dreamt of or perhaps, a different reality?
TN: I would say it’s been a mix of both. Well, one might outweigh the other. A big difference for me was getting accustomed to the fact that I have a different skin tone and that; it matters a lot. Being Nigerian, you hear about things like institutional racism but you are unable to properly internalize what they mean because it’s far different from your reality. Although, I have never had instances where I have been attacked because of my skin colour; or where I am from. I think that the black community in Canada have it easier than in some other countries where we constantly hear news of brutality. It was just something that took getting used to. For example, when I meet a random white person; and they are being nicer to me because they want to prove that they are not racist.
Also, there is the realization that in a place like this, everyone is on their own. Unlike in Nigeria, where the whole community comes together to raise a child; you are unarguably the only one doing your thing here. Relationships are personal and kept that way. The food is different. I would see mouth-watering dishes and I would anticipate so much for my taste buds. However, when I ate them, I soon realized that I did not find them as appealing. The humour is also different. I have found out I cannot relate with many in-country jokes and that’s fairly normal because back home; even our humour has its own genre.
Another thing is, living abroad is not entirely how it’s often portrayed in movies. (Cue back to my opening, haha!) The ones where you fall in love with a random stranger and the next thing; you are both riding off into the sunset. I personally thought that by now, I would have at least five boyfriends. You know, switching boys, left and right. One thing that was really constant according to my imagination was the school system. It was everything and more, in terms of what I hoped for and found out. The lecturers are pro-learning and highly helpful. No hassles, no unnecessary stress unlike with most of their Nigerian counterparts. I have experienced actual freedom and that has been very positively life changing.
Do you think leaving has been the right move for you?
TN: Without a doubt. I have had access to people and things I probably would not have had access to. Been able to meet up with the societal standards of being an adult; while doing something that interests me so much. I have also been able to learn and grow at a faster pace than it probably would have happened. To be honest, I am most inclined towards not being able to achieve any of these things at all; if I was still in Nigeria. These days, I dabble into things because I am capable of doing them and not because I have no choice.
Do you plan to go back to Nigeria?
TN: going back to stay or visit?
Going back to stay
TN: I have no such plans. Not now, not ever. The plan right now, is to get my people out. Although, I plan on making investments in Nigeria in the future. However, coming back would only be for visits and nothing else.
Read previous #JapaStory
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