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Oghogho Osayimwen: The Struggles of a Nigerian Foreign Student

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Has life ever happened to you when you leave home to pursue your dreams in the land of the unknown? Then, you are not alone.

It started when I stepped off the 55-minute fast train from Manchester Piccadilly to my destination. It was then I realised I was crazy.

Confusing; wasn’t it my decision to pursue a post-graduate degree abroad? I had a jacket to protect me from the horrifying cold, in one hand, and a cup of hot coffee in the other hand. My cousin got the coffee without knowing I’d never had coffee my entire life. My braids nicely packed, I traced my steps to my new dream and new life, the University in South Yorkshire.

I was a week late. Orientation had been concluded. But, as a typical Nigerian, I was unperturbed, as I believed I would always join in the race.

My first day was interesting. I met new people of different races. But I also met a dead-wall: the freezing cold. Yorkshire is cold! I remember saying out loud to myself, “Can’t I just have some Nigerian weather already?”  I thought I needed a new life, but I never knew what awaited me! A quick advice here: be brave when life calls, and most importantly, remain brave through the entire process.

Life is in stages and some of these stages make us strong. We learn to withstand curve balls thrown at us at different points in our lives. I mean, it takes a collective effort of your body, heart and soul to scale through some seen and unforeseen hurdles.

Hold on! The process will only make you stronger. As the semester progressed,  I adjusted to my environment and the culture of the people.  I had the pleasure of enjoying a very organised society . However, I didn’t have the pleasure of spending money as much as I desired; graduate school can be very expensive, especially when your expenses are in pounds sterling. As a very close friend describes it, it’s “the only currency with a first and surname.” Truthfully, it has to be respected.

With a never-give-up attitude, I hunted for jobs. Yes o, jobs – not just one. Two can barely help you maintain a decent lifestyle in England, especially when your Father did not retire from the military or is a Nigerian politician full time. In no time, my bank account was blinking with the powerful figure “£0”. Never in my life had I experienced that. At this point, outstanding school fees, house rent, general expenses, everything kept calling my name. Guys, I had to hide my face, because even my name didn’t have the power to rescue me from this season of my life.

The struggle is real for manyNigerians studying abroad. If you doubt me, casually ask any graduate with a foreign degree.

With two jobs, a challenging graduate programme, and a rigorous 17 months of my life, the season taught me to be more audacious, confident and most importantly, made me realise my heart is beautiful. I was able to survive on £0.

For all those times I slept on the bus from exhaustion and travelled past my stop, all those times my bank charged me for negative balance, for every time my hands froze and eyes hurt upon receiving demand letters from the finance department regarding outstanding fees, for the days I fasted because food was not in sight and water became my best companion, and for the blessed day I spent the night out in the cold, due to funds (if I had the powers, I would have turned snow into physical cash). It was worth every bit. Thank you, England. Thank you, Grad school. At last. A Nigerian survived! I survived.

If you are planning on pursuing your educational dreams in England or a foreign country, stay bold and take the step. You will survive. The process makes you better! You will survive. You are a Nigerian.

Photo Credit: © Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com

Oghogho Osayimwen is a writer and corporate communications expert in Abuja Nigeria. She prides herself in relating life experiences in words to help others live and travel through life unshaken. She loves adventure and helping people build their personal brands. [email protected]

43 Comments

  1. Ranyinudo

    May 20, 2018 at 4:14 am

    I totally can relate…being an international student in this countries is not easy at all. It takes the grace of God not to lose one’s mind.

    Glad you made it dear. I’m encouraged.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:32 am

      O yes, it is indeed not easy but you always got it covered somehow. Thank you

  2. still wealthy

    May 20, 2018 at 4:52 am

    Thanks for being truthful and brutally honest. Not everyone who retires from the military has money oooo.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Well Said..Honestly paves the way for others.

  3. Austin Oba

    May 20, 2018 at 5:12 am

    A carefully written piece that will serve as guide to many others.

  4. Stephen

    May 20, 2018 at 6:31 am

    Thanks to you sister.
    I am nursing the dream. Pray for me. Better to suffer trying out there than to wait for Nigeria to get better.
    I am moving just need a little more fund but England not the best choice for me.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:34 am

      You got this Covered already. Just keep pushing while you are there!

  5. Stephen

    May 20, 2018 at 6:32 am

    Thanks to you sister.
    I am nursing the dream. Pray for me. Better to suffer trying out there than to wait for Nigeria to get better.

  6. Ada Achinanya

    May 20, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Hmm, I can definitely relate. I was almost withdrawn. I’m guessing from your post you either went to Sheffield Hallam or Uni of Sheffield. Trust me the finance departments of those schools can make you feel…. Exhale.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:34 am

      Oh dear; Sheffield Hallam it was!!!

  7. Ade

    May 20, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I can relate to this story. Schooling in the UK is no childs play when you are self sponsored. For the first time in my life, i experienced the true meaning of the word ‘fear’ when my personal budget almost got exhausted. Its impossible to understand the situation in the UK until you live there. It is not the bed of roses people paint it to be. After my studies, i beat a retreat back to Ngr, and six months down the line, i am thankful for taking that step. There’s certainly no place like home, even in the midst of all the chaos!

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:36 am

      We seem to blossom even in the midst of chaos. Glad you found the strenght to return home

  8. bsmoney

    May 20, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Perfect.. My greatest regret later was leaving the UK. Though, I never appreciated UK until I started working in Nigeria to realised how much the UK has transform my thoughts. It was a worthwhile experience.

  9. Tammy

    May 20, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Glad you made it through the hussle and make you victorious in Jesus name amen

  10. Waazaki

    May 20, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Sisss!! I live in West Yorkshire and it’s Coldddd! I can relate. Pele pele. You gat this girl

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:36 am

      You got this too and yes its damn cold!

  11. Ifedolapo

    May 20, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Your words are true with all my challenges,i think now am inspired.

  12. Megs

    May 20, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    It had to be 3 jobs oh, and 20 hrs just didn’t cut it. Thank God you made it.

  13. Mahka

    May 20, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Nne m o…starting this September, hopefully…thanks for sharing, I’m braving up n staying strong, after all I’m a Nigerian, France can’t compare?

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:37 am

      France cant; just do you. You would be okay!

  14. JJ

    May 20, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    The first time I seeing an international student being honest about their experience in the abroad. Thanks for being honest Aghogho. I will be traveling by October and I have already prepared my mind for the challenges I will most likely face. As you said, I’m Nigerian which means I’m a survivor by default.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Yes you will survive, live out your own story!

  15. BlueEyed

    May 20, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Lol this piece brings back memories of when I first left naija to study abroad. I had a not so pleasant experience that has stuck with me since then. I didn’t get my visa on time so I missed the orientation period, getting on campus I had to figure out things on my own, nonetheless I had some help from the international student office. I had just arrived that same day a couple of hours, since It was in the morning I decided to go straight to campus, luckily I found my uni’s school shuttle service at the airport (which was free). I completed all the necessary steps with the intl office, they were expecting me and they helpfully guided me through the process, I was stunned at how fast the system works there, only for me to get to the faculty office to see my advisor, who was also expecting me, I got into her office hurrying to meet her before noon as she had a class at noon, immediately I got into her office, and she asked me to sit, she gave me one look and asked me to go out and remove the gum that was in my mouth. All this while I forgot I was still chewing breath mints i popped in as i got into campus, seeing as I had just got into the campus straight from a long flight. I wanted to be offended but I was too naive, anyway my advisor and I became best of friends. She is a professor and honestly now I understand that chewing gum while speaking to someone is actually rude and aesthetically unappealing.

  16. Dr Dee

    May 20, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Great story, seems like you were in Sheffield. Whilst I appreciate your brutal honesty I don’t agree with you saying everyone should try to study in the UK without money. Yes I salute your drive and resilience but not everyone is that strong. There is also an element of luck in finding part time student jobs. Whilst I love your success story, I know countless people who ended up being thrown out of UK universities for failure to pay their school fees!!!!!

    • Lacey

      May 20, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      Thank you Dr. Dee!!! I schooled in the U.K and in the US as well! My darlings!!! I never did more than 20 hours in the U.K. and in the US I did not get a job until after 10 months when I got an internship with a global multinational!!! As my university was very tough!!! I was even happy that I was not working, because most of us went for MRI scan, you will do assignment until your next class everyday, because you given tough problems to solve!!!
      I advise you save up properly before you go anywhere!!!before you go into voluntary slavery!!! The $ exchange rate affected me in the US and to be frank schooling in the west is a very good experience, if not properly managed could lead to destitution, as I hated stress, so working three jobs would have been overly tough!!! Moved back to Nigeria and working in consulting , got 2 PhD offers for management, but I am not ready to dole out neither $ nor £ to any country!!! Unless it’s fully funded!!!
      Although I am still resting my brain, so it can recover from the US flogging and I would rather consult in my field for a while because,I love to live large as a student and I don’t want to ever cut across as a suffer head African or broke student!! You see the Chinese living large, especially in the US!!! Is the Indians that are sufferheads sometimes!!!
      So ensure you secure funding before you go unless you want to feel like you into voluntary slavery!!!
      Even after getting a good job in the US, it’s one paper work or the other!!! For me I don’t have that time and I am not ready to marry for paper!!! So my advice is, if you have a very good job in Nigeria take study leave and come back to your job!!! The world is evolving, these corrupt leaders will one day be pushed out!!! Let’s start developing solutions to make Nigeria and Africa great again and stop going into voluntary slavery!!!

  17. The Indulgence Place(black soap)

    May 20, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    United Kingdom days….the day I overslept in the coach and i almost missed my stop, i come dey shout on top driver head. Leicester wa oooo the guy for don carry me go Notts lol….abi when i missed my coach to Brum from heathrow i begin dey speak yoruba for the black driver…the guy just pity me coz i no fit spend £62 on new ticket….
    please limit your trips to african stores, those paki and asian stores have cheaper alternatives to our food – spinach, ewedu, plantain, scotch bonnet, even lady finger okra.
    try to get cheaper electronics from argos, you can pay for insurance so they replace them free when damaged.
    Use ebay and amazon well. Buy secondhand books and sell them back when you’re done with school.
    Go to library! School library, public library, GO! Use everything there. Maximize all the internet, research, search for jobs, update your CV, do all academic and useful stuff there. Ask for help too. Please dont download movies or music or chat or skype please.
    PLAGIARISM IS A CRIME! Do proper research o. I don tell u now.
    Buy coachcard, get NUS card, get vouchers, buy summer clothes during winter and winter items during summer.
    Get bus pass per rides and if in London get oyster. Don’t use your contact debit cards to enter bus in london. It will result to “I thy know”
    Drink tap water, if your sensitive buy big tesco water. If you have correct housemates buy food in bulk and freeze.
    If you have siblings or good friends you all can rent a full apartment building(3 bed) instead of paying like 600 per person…you can see like 800-1000 a month esp outside london.
    Work ooo….it builds your cv and credibility. Package your cv even if you have only nigerian experience, the student affairs are also there to help.
    Always ask for help, from tutors to fellow students to anyone on the road. Keep your belongings and yourself safe.
    Dont be too nigerian, try other foods, go to festivals, british museums, go bungee jumping etc. Build memories. Try and apply for visas- schengen, US, canada, thailand etc they are usually easier and faster to get from over there. No be only clothe and designer, watch, shoe, give yourself fun trips and lasting memories, build lasting friendships.
    Enjoy UK. Let UK pass through you, you sef pass through UK.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:41 am

      Lol…thanks so much for been so real, the entire experience sharpened us and thankyou for inspiring others to build their CV and apply for Visas as well, some people just get caught up in the frustration web that they just forget to LIVE!

    • Mahka

      May 21, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      Wow…thanks, you just lifted my spirit…please anyone with France, Grenoble experience, I d like to hear, please share.

  18. Ope

    May 20, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Thank for a very lovely read. Nostalgia men. I had a similar experience. I even lived around Scotland so the cold no get part 2. The hustling was real, i worked in another town from where i schooled cos it was a pretty hard getting a job in the small town my school was in. Lots of tears, then those threatening letters…it was a really hard phase, i even failed a course cos i didn’t have time to study. Thankfully, it paid off and made me a very resilent person. I won’t advise everyone to go to school abroad without having fees all sorted out. Not everyone can handle that type of stress.

  19. Living proof. Goz

    May 20, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I have been through this with two degrees in UK. I have been awake all night till morning thinking of how to pay bills and fees. I nearly gave up in 2nd degree. Not everyone can do this.its damn difficult. Inside it, looks like a fight that never ends. Take calculated risk before you start. not unreasonable one. Trust in God and you will make it.

  20. Ada

    May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I picked a few inspiring lines from the closing lines. ‘You will survive, you are a Nigerian’. People say that if you have successfully lived in Nigeria, especially in Lagos, you can survive almost anywhere else. You learn to be resilient by default, especially if you had to hustle. You have to wake up very early everyday to beat the Mainland-Island traffic and get home late at night after wading through the traffic, endure long hours at work, still make it to work under the rain by bus- before one could afford cabs and before the days of Uber and Taxify. I had once been pushed into a pool of dirty water on a rainy day by an angry passerby. I cried and cried.

    My first time in America, I landed by midnight. My host had disappointed. I clutched my two suitcases in different hands, my handbag on my shoulder and found a hotel after visiting 3 different ‘fully booked’ hotels. I guess we can all survive, once we put our minds to it. At the same time, some people are stronger than others, luckier than others and get there before others.

    Thanks for sharing OG and keep them coming in please

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for reading Ada, we will always survive even in the dreadest of all experience. Then again lets bear in mind that we are all different and running individual race but at the end we will be strong together! Be a survivor

  21. Ozyy

    May 21, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I bless GOD honestly, I can’t relate at all. Not everyone has difficulties. In my case, though it wasn’t easy but GOD made a way and i’m glad he is also making a way in my career. GOD bless my daddy and family too.

    To everyone with the dream, plan ahead of time. If you don’t have family who would sponsor you, look at schools with scholarships, look for jobs that can be done ahead of time so when you land, you have a start-point. If you have fees sorted, it is honestly easier to live a good life in the UK. Regards everyone.

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 11:45 am

      80% of your worries gets sorted when tuition has been paid. There you find things easier!

  22. Victoria

    May 21, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Beautiful story and so relatable! Thanks for sharing. We want more simple and real stories like this on Bella naija. Way to go!

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you Victoria for relating; glad you enjoyed the read and more stories will follow…surely it will!

  23. CBanks

    May 21, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Rule #1 when travelling to study abroad – Find the balance between studying and working. Both kinda end in “ing” but they require a heck-of-a-kind FOCUS. That experience will teach you to master the fine art of BALANCE. If one suffers, you suffer! Lol. Nice write up dear!

    • Oghogho

      May 21, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      True dear, finding the balance is tough in itself but if you stay focused, you would gradually adjust. Other times, the right people help you make the balance. Thanks for reading.

  24. Imoh Edet

    May 21, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Always a great writer! Beautiful Og…I hope the relevant authorities will get it right over here.

  25. Me

    May 21, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Ahhh.. I can never forget those Bradford days. It wasn’t easy at all. The letters from the school for outstanding fees, Me crying and asking myself who send me, my sister had to send me monthly grocery money. Thanks to my fellow Naija sisters who always gave me their library cards, log in details to access Blackboard to do research work because i had been cut -off for not paying up to date fees. I could go on and on and on BUT it was a lovely experience. PLUS……how i can never forget the ONE POUND COACH LOL

    • Oghogho

      May 23, 2018 at 11:05 am

      One never really forgets `those experiences, do we? its great to reflect and smile on how we went through them and [email protected] the £1 Coach.

  26. Peaches

    May 27, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Well said OG! I can never forget my experience in Sheffield. Lovely piece?.

  27. ejayz

    August 4, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    My 2 cents on studying abroad is,if you can get more than 50 percent of your tution sorted,then the road wouldn’t be that bumpy.
    But you can make it,if you paid only the deposit. IT IS POSSIBLE

    1. work work work work,i cant over stress this. (Time management will help you here cos working and schooling it not a joke).LOl, be nice,pally up or if you call it eye service (what ever u call it sha) have it with ur supervisors,managers cos endless possibilities abound when they find you credible. But na God las las ooooo lol.

    2.Do not buy into the ideology that international students must do menial jobs.Go ahead and apply to what ever company you so desire.cos you never can tell who will hire you,everybody carry different grace come this life.so many pple i know got their full time jobs while in school.

    Getting a company to sponsor your visa can be tasking,but that doesn’t mean they dnt, bottom line show yourself approved.send out those application cos you get called when u list expect it

    3. Resist having only students and Nigerians as friends,network and meet pple already in ur prospective industry. (My uncle gave me this advice and it helped me).

    4. Identify with the African society/club in your school (this will provide you knowledge on a whole lot) scholarships,networking events,job openings etc

    5.Volunteer when and where possible,as doors can be opened from there.

    6.Do not limit yourself oooo,you have endless possibilities schooling abroad.

    This is coming from the little i know schooling both in the United Kingdom and currently pursuing another degree in the United States.

    when I have the strength I will write a thing or two about the difference schooling in both countries, for right now,my hand de pain me when I take type this.

    Above all pray pray pray and be smart.

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