Unlike before, when the reason for wanting to go for my MSc was to show the world that I am a first-class material in the set of awon Einstein, this time around, my motive for going was because I wanted to transition to the telecoms industry, and if I couldn’t do it via a job, the next option was via a masters degree.
I was 25 years old at the time and if I did not get an entry-level job in telecoms that year, I would no longer be eligible for entry-level jobs, which usually had an age requirement of 26 years old or under. I had also given myself the aspire to perspire speech that one didn’t necessarily need a master’s degree to succeed so if my MSc plans fell through, I wouldn’t die. That made me pursue my telco job side by side with my school application, as I’d learned not to put all my eggs in one basket.
My ambition had also diminished in magnitude and I wasn’t looking to go to the best schools in the US anymore. Good schools were now okay for me. This time around, I was strategic with my choice of schools and programs to ensure that one way or the other, one would click. It’s the Bible that kuku said, “Scatter your bread across many waters because you don’t know which would come back to you.” I applied for an MSc in Electrical Engineering at 2 good schools and 1 okay school, and an MSc in Telecoms Engineering (that’s easier to get admitted into than Elect Engineering) in a good school. I knew that if no school admitted me this time around, then village people had entered my matter.
I re-took GRE, wrote better SOPs, got better lecturers to write my letters of recommendation and was more involved in the content they produced, and left the rest to God. While I waited for feedback from the schools I applied to and a job offer from the telco, I kept busy by teaching Mathematics and Further Maths for free at 2 public schools close to my house. That was definitely one of the most fulfilling things I’d ever done and I taught one student during their long vacation until the day before I left for school. In the first quarter of the following year that I got a job offer with inhumane requirements from the telco.
It wasn’t bad enough they were offering to pay me less than my previous job (which wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. I needed the experience so I could make do with the pay), they expected me to sign a 3-year bond stating that if I was going to leave the company before the end of the 3 years, I’ll pay them 3 times my annual salary! Jebete gbo mo mi mehn (I was dumbfounded) when I read the letter. Me that has commitment issues and can’t even bond myself to Google, the best place to work on earth, it’s now Nigerian telco that I’ll enter a 3-year marriage with? God forbid! I didn’t even think twice before refusing the offer. My dad was furious and his exact words to me were, “It’s better to be employed and bonded than unemployed and free.” In my mind, I said not for me oh! Lai se living in bondage. I’ll rather be jobless and free, edakun. Jesus has already died to set me free.
Shortly after or before (I can’t really remember), I got 2 admission offers – one for the telecoms program, and the other for the MSc program in a school I didn’t really like. I chose the telecoms engineering program because it was in a good school and in addition to learning about my course, I wanted to access resources and job opportunities that good schools typically have, and I also wanted to understand the principles on which good schools are built and run because I was and still am very much interested in the education industry. Now that I had gotten admission, it was time to get school fees and living expenses money. I was studying for one government scholarship at the time with the hope that I’d do the exam before my resumption date and get it but the exam date hadn’t been fixed before I left the country.
My youngest sister had also gained admission to study for her undergraduate program at the same time. She applied to 9 schools and got partial scholarships to about 8 of them. She did all the applications herself with me helping out a bit during the holidays and while she was in the boarding house so she had worked very hard. But my parents, especially my dad, didn’t want her to go because she was only 16 years old at the time so my father tried to bribe me by offering to fund my masters if I could convince her not to go. But Jesus had touched my heart then and I couldn’t do that to her after she’d worked so hard so I turned down his offer. I think that’s the most selfless thing I’ve ever done. Since there was no money from earthly father, I decided to consult my Heavenly Father, Baba Firecracker.
I attended Daystar Christian Centre at the time and there was a huge emphasis on getting a word from God to assure you that whatever plans he laid on your heart would be fulfilled by him. I had never taken it seriously but that time around, I needed a guarantee that going for my masters was the right move for me for two reasons: I would be 26 years old at the time school resumed, having already lost 2 years, and would be 28 years old and above the entry-level age limit so I couldn’t return to Nigeria and join the unemployment pool of fresh graduates. This meant I needed to get a very good job after graduation which would make me an experienced hire whenever I chose to return to Nigeria. I also didn’t want to go to the US and miss my future husband if he was in Nigeria. Please don’t judge me. I was in the WhatsApp group of women who wanted to get married just because they were getting older, not necessarily because they understood the purpose of marriage.
Anyway, I prayed and the Holy Spirit led me to Isaiah 66:9 which says, “Shall I bring you to the point of birth and not deliver says the Lord your God? No! Never.” For me, that meant God was telling me that if he’d brought me to the point of birth with admission and I-20 (the document you needed to apply for student visa with), surely he’d ensure I got the visa and the funds to go to school. That’s actually the only time I’ve gotten a specific word for my plans. I guess God knew I needed it desperately because there were some struggling times at school and it was only that word that kept me going. Now that I had Baba Firecracker’s assurance that I was going to school, and if I didn’t make it to school it’d have been my fault, I was going to do my own part.
Shoutout to the people of that Nairaland thread about going for post-graduate studies in the US. The thread was 385 pages long and I consumed everything. People were gracious enough to post the transcripts of their visa interviews there and the result of the interview — whether they were granted the visas or not. It was from that thread that I truly understood brain drain was real and people were doing everything in their power to japa to America. Some people would go to another state, say Abuja, to re-apply for a visa if they were denied at the Lagos office. Proof of funds is part of the documents one is required to show the consulate officer during the visa interview and some people didn’t have sponsors. Their plan was sha to get to America and hustle so they would find people who could deposit the required funds temporarily into their account and when they were through with their interview, they’d return the money.
Anyway, I read every single page diligently and practiced rehearsing my answers with my youngest sister who was annoyed that I made her listen to my responses to visa interview questions over and over again until I could answer all the questions confidently.
There was no question the consulate office could throw at me during the interview that I couldn’t answer. Even if he asked me for the year George Washington became America’s first president, I had the answer. Because I had gotten the assurance from Baba Firecracker that America was sure, I didn’t bother asking my parents for their bank statements to serve as proof of funds. I decided I’ll boldly say my father (but it was my Heavenly Father I meant) if the consulate officer asked who would sponsor my education. I still can’t believe I went for a USA visa interview without financial documents. I didn’t tell anybody I was going for my visa interview and just went. Mehn, my experience at the visa office deserves a post of its own but lemme not derail. I wore a very nice formal dress for my visa interview because the Nairaland people said to dress nice.
When my name was called, I walked up to the consulate officer and answered all his 9 or 10 questions confidently. The guy was thorough, I have to give him that. Then came the moment of reckoning – he asked who would sponsor my education and I confidently said my father. Then he asked for my proof of funds and I told him I didn’t have it. I couldn’t believe that my over-confidence was going to cost me an MSc degree in the US after everything I had been through. He then gave me a tag and asked me to return a few days later with my financial documents. Of course it meant I had to ask my dad for his bank statements which, thankfully, he gave me and I took them back to the visa office. This time around, I had to wait until 3 pm for my name to be called. I sat at the very front row close to the consulate officers and I was able to hear everyone’s visa interview. From the ridiculous to the funny, people wanted to go to the US for reasons I’d never heard before. I owe y’all a post on that experience. Finally, it was my turn and the same consulate officer asked if I came with the proof of funds and I said yes and gave it to him. He already had my passport and he said, “Congratulations ma’am, pick up your passport at the pickup office you indicated in your application.”
People of God, I almost burst into Galala dance but I said lemme respect myself before they change their mind. I only told my parents and didn’t start telling anyone until I picked up my passport, saw it was stamped with the student visa, and was safely back home. I was so happy that 2 years after my initial application, I was finally on my way to America!
America! The land of opportunity!
America! The land of the free! 🤣💃🏾