Japa Story: My journey to Canada took 4 years, but it is not greener here

She initially considered the express entry route, in which the Canadian government provides permanent residency to skilled workers and their families. It wouldn’t be easy.

In this week’s edition of our Japa Story, Olawunmi, now based in Newfoundland and Labrador, an obscure province in Canada, speaks about her move.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

We wanted a country with structure. Where there is organization. Where the government cares about its citizens. But here we are now, reality has set in. It’s not that I regret it. If you ask me to come back today, I won’t come back. But that doesn’t mean everything is so easy here. So it’s not really greener on the other side, as everyone thinks.

I had been working on the plan for about four years before it finally clicked. I started planning to move in 2018 because I wanted the international experience. I wanted a better future for my children. There is a better future for them here. Everyone left via the express access route to Canada. I joined the queue. However, the trip was canceled because I experienced several challenges. So I started exploring the college path.

Ultimately, I came through the study program. I got my visa in 2021. But I waited until September 2022 before I left. I already had a BSc. I already had a postgraduate degree. But I went through PDG. I wanted to do an MBA, but it was too expensive.

Moving is very capital intensive. It’s not even for the poor. If you come in as a student and think you want to come to work to pay your tuition and leave here, you are on a suicide mission. People think they make a thousand dollars a month, but no one thinks about how much they spend in a month living here. An average Canadian here can’t even afford everything he needs. The earning potential is disproportionate to the cost of living here, unless you get into high-paying jobs such as those in the IT sector.

About CA$1,000 (about ₦1 million at the latest exchange rates).

The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment here in St John’s is $1,200 (₦1.2 million) per month.

I spend about CA$2000 (₦2 million) per month. So if we talk about transportation, phone bills, internet, utility bills, house rent, groceries, there are a lot of things involved, it should be around CA$15,000 (₦15 million) for the 18 months I’m here.

As I said before, the first route I wanted to explore was the economic route that gives my entire family permanent residence at once. But COVID happened and age and things changed, so I studied visas. I only signed up to increase my chances. You do not give the visa officer the impression that you want to run away. They can use this as a reason to reject your visa application.

I have my visa. I have postponed my admission until next year, hoping that I can apply for my children while I wait, then we can all go together. But it didn’t work. I was here alone. My husband was with them in Nigeria. So I was here when their visas were approved and I went back to Nigeria in April to bring them.

You have to be mentally strong. If you are not mentally and financially strong, you may find it very difficult and you will hear yourself saying things like, “It’s not worth it.” But the truth is, it’s worth it.

This is a completely different environment. They have their way of doing it. The labor market is a completely different story. Even if you have a lot of experience in Nigeria, you may come here and find it difficult to find a job in that same field. Often employers are quite biased towards the fact that you have Canadian work experience. It’s hard, but eventually people get it. Once they make that breakthrough, they can get into one company and get the Canadian experience, which gets the ball rolling. It could also be a provincial problem. Some provinces don’t have enough companies in the industry you have experience in. It’s a very competitive environment.

I have found that they are very narrow-minded when it comes to job applications. According to them, if you want to work as an administrative officer, you must take a public administration course. They have all these courses here. If I get a job as an administrative officer, I know I will perform well. But they don’t believe in that. They believe that the skills you need to function in that role should be acquired through education.

Home care. Many people here do home care. Even after they graduate, they continue to do home care jobs.

Education is free from kindergarten to the end of secondary school. They have school buses here. All you have to do is contact the district and they will tell you which school the child will attend. School was the easiest for me.

Yes, I’m worried. I worry a lot about that, because of course they come home and talk about this and that, but we have to work on our children’s self-esteem.

Yes. At work. To be fair, there is still an element of racism somewhere in this country. It’s not that overt, but white people sometimes see you and say, ‘Who are you? You have to prove yourself.” They are intimidated because Nigerians are starting to dominate in this province.

In any case, I don’t care.

I want to work and earn money. Maybe I would take professional courses that would put me on the job market.

If you want to come and study here, you should try to offset your tuition fees by at least 50% before you leave home.