So I did it, I packed my bags, including my trusty sound system, train ticket stubs and 300 odd pictures and embarked on a 4,500 mile flight to Canada for an adventure. It’s the beginning of a year long adventure, a long time in the making.
For those of you that don’t know the deets, I’ll tell the story from the beginning.
I began this journey earlier this year when I got my letter of acceptance from the University of Saskatchewan for an exchange year.
This was just the beginning though and of course there were terms and conditions I had to meet before I could say that I was going as a definite. This included passing my modules in one go (easy you say) and the main stumbling block was the 11 exams that were scheduled within 3 weeks by my lecturers (I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity they gave me to overcome the need for sleep).
Anyway I got through that fight relatively unscathed, a few cuts and bruises acquired but the important thing was that I survived. My ordeal was not over though and I now had to wait for the results to come out. This translated to one whole month on tenterhooks. I refused to apply for my visa or buy my plane ticket, in case my results came back and it turned out I was a colossal olodo.
Eventually when the results came out and I found out that I had indeed passed all my modules in one try, I predictably leapt for joy. It was a huuuuggggeee relief and I went about congratulating myself for a job well done (I should congratulate wikipedia more tbh)
Now came the slightly problematic issue of visa application to the Canadian Immigration Services (CIC). Even though I’ve been in the UK for 10 years, I’m still in possession of a Nigerian passport. I saw no need to apply for citizenship before this year so I kept the status quo (besides that fee for citizenship is a pisstake, I’m not a bag of money Theresa May -_-). I’m a fearless goat though and I confidently applied for a student visa to the CIC with my green passport and waited….and waited….and waited.
Eventually, they got back to me, asked for details of my life, my parents’ lives, my pets’ lives. Everyone’s lives who was connected to me. Where my other exchange friends got an email within a week with their visa instruction, I got an email after almost a month asking for me to come give my biometrics at their London office.
Whilst this was happening on the visa side of things, I was being hung, drawn and quartered by my exchange university fees wise. First they misclassified me as an international student with international student fees (Jesu), then they asked me to provide $1500 out of thin air for accommodation deposit. In July.
I had to explain to them that Student finance doesn’t drop in July in England…I did a fair bit of pleading too to convince them to extend my deadline.
Thankfully, they agreed to extend my deadline.
Achievement unlocked #AdultEmailCompetency.
My next shock came when I looked at flight tickets with a direct flight from England to Canada ( I couldn’t transit in America which would have been cheaper due to a lack of a British passport)
The cost of the flight ticket coupled with an insurance bill of £780+ through the University ensured an August where I was desperately begging for money from whoever would listen
God delivered me from the throes of disappointment though and provided through a gift from close family friends and another very special individual in my life. I won’t mention names however as I’ve not gotten their permission to expose them on here <3. these special people were my father christmas and it was like all my prayers had been answered. I also got some very good news from one of them that week too. It’s safe to say that I was floating on cloud 9 that week!
Next on the list, after buying the plane ticket and settling for cheaper insurance elsewhere, I then turned my focus to making new friends before arriving at my destination.
Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t a freshers’ page for the university. This is something I’m sure a lot of us take for granted in the UK as part of the freshers’ experience. I tried the official facebook pages for the university and joined many groups affiliated with the university but I still couldn’t find a page dedicated to actually making friends before arrival.
I solved that dilemma creatively however; I bought a tinder subscription and my thumb got busy in Saskatoon. I soon developed a nervous twitch of my thumb favouring the left side.
After what felt like forever and almost close to giving up, I swiped right on this guy who was also in the same boat as me. His profile said “exchange student from Sweden”, my heart said bae.
He messaged me first to ask about my year abroad plans and we soon struck up a good online friendship. Like we had been mates for years, And I was crossing all fingers and toes that he wouldn’t turn out to be some awkward stranger in real life.
This initial decision of mine to find a kindred spirit online saved my hide when I finally got to my designated town. But more on that later!
Where was I?
So I made a friend online before arrival and I booked a hotel as well (cancelled the sucker though and paid for an AirBnb which was less than half the price of the hotel).
The 27th of August came creeping slowly on me and family members though and the day before the 27th, I spent the last £20 in my account on new fish in preparation for the long absence from home. The next day I set off with both my parents to London Heathrow Terminal 5.
As excited as I was to be going on a year abroad, as excited as I was to leave England for a whole year;
I still had to say a very tearful goodbye to some very special individuals in my life, from my biological parents and brothers and sister to my adopted mother and close friends. That, for me was the toughest part of leaving. I stemmed the tears and tried to be brave about it all, but inside I wanted to hug my family and friends one last time before leaving Torbay. But circumstances and time constraints meant I had to say a hasty goodbye and take a couple of pictures. It still has not hit me yet that I am a whole ocean and half a continent away from any biological family member.
When we got to the airport I could see the sadness in my parents’ eyes. Their little girl is growing up after all. They bought me a final meal of Fish and Chips at the terminal before waving me off to begin my adventure. a few pictures were taken at the airport however (a lot actually) and I felt like a child being waved at as she attended her first day of school. Scared, alone, excited and with a healthy amount of student loan in my account.