As 2022 gradually winds down in a few hours from now, ushering in 2023 with its huge promise, there is no sign the japa phenomenon that gained prominence in the outgoing year will abate soon. Instead, many Nigerians will inevitably ‘japa’, that is, seek to travel overseas for various reasons, ranging from education to business, vacation and work to complete relocation. This is not a new phenomenon. However, recent happenings in the country have resulted in a phenomenal upsurge in the japa syndrome, most especially among the youth, with complete relocation as the ultimate goal of many.
Some youths have argued that the quality of education overseas is better than what is obtainable in the country. This may not be far from the truth if how education is funded and how the nation’s tertiary institutions are equipped, as well as the quality and conduct of teachers in our institutions, are put into consideration.
A long-drawn strike by university lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities lasted for eight months, from February 14 to October 14, 2022. This is a loss of almost one academic year in the life of the Nigerian student!
However, the experience in most education destinations abroad is that a student knows when their programme will end from the very beginning. In Nigeria, industrial actions have seen some four-year programmes span for as long as six years or even more. This is one of the reasons for the recent upsurge in the japa syndrome.
The gloomy economic situation of the country is another reason for the upsurge of the japa syndrome in recent times.
In a November 29, 2022 report by The PUNCH, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors said the number of medical doctors in the country decreases daily, adding that only about 10,000 resident doctors are left. This has put pressure on those remaining in the sector.
There have been several reports on brain drain in recent times, and this cuts across all sectors including health, education, tech, among others. The economic crisis in the country and poor management of resources have continued to contribute to this phenomenon.
Another reason is the worsening insecurity in Nigeria. A Nigerian studying in the United Kingdom, Ben, said he would rather remain in the UK after his studies and do whatever job he finds, irrespective of how menial, than return and be kidnapped by bandits or killed by trigger-happy police officers.
However, while everyone seeking to japa in order to pursue and actualise one ambition or another has a right to do so, there are a number of things one must know and do as one is preparing to japa in 2023 and beyond.
Some of these things are herein discussed.
Define your purpose
Your purpose for seeking to emigrate will determine which destinations and/or visa routes are best for you.
Several countries including the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, among others have different routes for different purposes. Available routes are education, skilled workers, health workers, tech, minister of religion, and permanent residency, among others.
There is a visa attached to each route, and each visa comes with its own cost.
Do not travel to a country you have not researched well.
Many people have travelled to places without being prepared for what they would meet there. Some ended up being homeless as they were unable to secure a place, either because they could not pay the bills or because they could not meet the requirements for securing an accommodation.
The UK, for instance, has a strict accommodation policy. The size of your family determines the size of accommodation you are allowed to get.
A good research will help you to know the cost implications of the journey you are embarking upon before setting out.
If you are taking the education route, for example, it is important to understand the different ways you can approach it while preparing to japa.
Education seems to be one of the easiest routes to relocation. Many have explored the route and many are still exploring it. Interestingly, the doors of many nations across the world are wide open to international students. One of the reasons for this may not be unconnected to the fact that many of these countries generate a chunk of their revenues from foreign students, and this helps boost their economy a great deal.
If education is your chosen route, then, do a research on what is required, such as: Do you want to be self-sponsored? Which schools offer the programme you are interested in? How much does the programme cost in the schools you have identified?
There are schools across the world, especially in the UK, Canada, Australia, the US and a host of others, that do not require or that waive the International English Language Test System result as a requirement for admission for Nigerians. A host of others accept a credit-level result in English in the West African Examination Council exam result, while some others exempt Master’s degree applicants that graduated from some universities in Nigeria. Still, some accept proof of English as a medium of study from the previous institution.
Furthermore, while some institutions require payment of an application fee, some do not. Still, some accept a letter seeking a waiver of such application fees.
Only a thorough research will help a japa hopeful to understand all these.
How about scholarships?
There are a number of scholarships that can be explored when considering taking the education route to japa. While some scholarships are fully funded, others provide recipients with a partial funding.
A fully-funded scholarship sponsors the student’s education overseas by covering their tuition fees (in full), and providing stipends for living allowance. Many fully-funded scholarships also take care of the visa application fee and return ticket for their recipients.
For most of fully-funded scholarships, especially the ones offered for study in the UK, no proof of funds is required during visa application.
However, the recipient must do due diligence to understand the terms and conditions attached to each fully-funded scholarship. A number of them require that the recipient should return to their home countries at the end of their award. That’s bad news for someone whose intention is to japa. Some of the scholarships also do not allow their recipients to work while studying.
Some scholarships with full funding include: the Commonwealth Masters Scholarship and Fellowship, the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship, the Commonwealth Split-Site Scholarship, Chevening Scholarship, FulBright Scholarship, Mastercard Scholarship, among others.
Besides, many institutions in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and so on, have scholarships advertised on their websites. There are also some programme-specific scholarships. Some of these scholarships can be full funding; some come in the form of studentships or assistantships; while some can be partial.
Partial scholarships range from covering only the tuition fees in full with no stipends for maintenance, to providing some percentage of the tuition.
An aspiring japa should therefore research well to know which suits their situation well.
But, if you’re self-sponsored, get ready to be stretched.
As a self-sponsored student, especially if you have no parents, uncle or someone you have the ‘small-girl-big-God’ relationship with, who is willing to sponsor you, note that it will cost you a lot of sacrifices to cope out there.
You have only 20 hours weekly work allowance on your student visa, and, to be frank, that is not enough to cater to your school fees, house rent, bills, feeding and lifestyle needs.
You won’t find it easy, but it is doable.
— Other routes
There are several other routes to japa, some of which have been stated earlier, but you must research well on which of them suits your situation best.
Know your visa requirements and conditions
Every visa has requirements as well as conditions attached to it. Visit the immigration website of the country you want to relocate to for proper understanding of the requirements and conditions of the various visa routes available.
For example, with some visa routes, you can take your dependants along under certain conditions. With some, you cannot. Some visa routes allow for a smooth transition to another, while some do not.
Acquaint yourself fully with these conditions and requirements.
Culture shock is real
You are travelling to another country, to live with people with a different culture from the one you’re used to. Get ready to adapt to some culture shock.
A Nigerian student in the UK once said he was shocked when one of his professors politely stopped him from addressing him (professor) with his title but his first name. He said it was shocking because he knew what professors in Nigerian universities do if a student mistakenly addresses them as ‘Doctor’ instead of ‘Prof’.
Moreover, what is culturally accepted in Nigeria may not be culturally accepted where you are relocating to, and vice versa.
Beware of discriminating against people of different sexual orientations. Sexual orientations are openly flaunted overseas; do not be shocked to the extent of reacting ‘abnormally’ to the sight of a gay couple or transgender, for example. If your religion or culture is against them and you cannot stand their sight, stay in your country.
Another culture shock you should prepare for is that most of the countries you seek to japa to do not live communal life as we do in Nigeria. You are likely going to be alone for a while, and loneliness may set in except if you’re travelling with your family.
The weather of your new destination will also be shocking if you are not mentally and materially prepared for it. For example, in Scotland, there is a season when at about 4:00pm, the weather will be as dark as 10:00pm in Nigeria. And there is another season when 11:00pm weather will be as bright as 5:00pm Nigerian weather.
An understanding of these changes will help you settle in well when you get to your destination.
Racism is real
Although there are claims that racism is not allowed in many European countries and the West, the day-to-day realities on the ground do not agree with these claims.
Prepare mentally to be treated like a black man.
There’s no ignorance in Law
Before you japa, try to learn about some basic laws of your intended destination.
Most of the countries you wish to relocate to are very strict with their laws, and, unlike Nigeria, you may not be able to easily wriggle your way out of an offence.
From traffic laws to tax laws to other laws guiding daily interactions and work. If you disobey any, you may be required to pay a huge sum of money as fine or be jailed.
Breaking some laws may result in deportation to Nigeria. Do not be ignorant of the Law.
Not as rosy, not as thorny
There are two extremes about the japa experience. While some paint a picture of an all-rosy, all-smooth experience, some paint a picture of an all-thorny, all-gloomy one.
Both extremes may not be totally true.
Relocation has its pros and cons. However, if you must japa, do it legitimately, choosing a route that best suits your needs and be ready to adapt to the changes and challenges that come with your choice.
If you are eventually able to relocate and settle down, to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, you must be ready to work, work, work.
Wale, a Nigerian who relocated to the UK recently, said, “In Nigeria, you get to build relationships, interact with people, and have time for your family. But here, it is work, work, work. I’m even tired.”
So, as you make your resolutions for the new year, ensure you take heed to the above advisories if you have a plan to japa in 2023.