Everyone always talks about how glamorous it is to live outside Nigeria.What they don’t know or choose not to talk about is this: Living abroad isn’t all a bed of roses.
I am currently a medical student in China and I can tell you that the one thing I really want right now is to go home.
Being black in a country like China means you’re an instant target for racism but being a Nigerian makes it even worse.
Due to the fact that a lot of Nigerians have been involved in illegal activities, the rest us who are innocent are treated really horribly. People call us names and point fingers at us everywhere we go and the Nigerian passport feels like a huge burden.
Nigerian students here are not even united for the most part. Even in matters as little as Student elections, the tribalism is very evident.
International students in China are not allowed to work and if they do, they either pay a fine, or they are expelled and deported. This aspect alone makes it very difficult to earn money here and most people either depend on pocket money from their parents or start up businesses.
I’ve gotten used to rules since I got here. Almost everyday, a new rule emerges that students have to obey and if anyone breaks the rules, the consequences are usually dire. Their favorite threat is “do this or your visa will be cancelled.”
As most of us are scared of our visas getting cancelled, we stay calm and obey the rules while counting the days until we can graduate and leave.
Before you all think I’m a Debbie Downer, let me just tell you that being a student here isn’t all that terrible. There are actually good things about living here and I’ll tell you in a bit.
Cost of living is affordable:
This is perhaps one of the things that attract people to China. If your spending habits are moderate and you receive pocket money every month, then you can survive living in Chin especially now that the Naira keeps depreciating, it’s easier to live in China than some other countries. Things here are quite affordable and if you know how to be frugal, it’s even better.
What you see is what you get:
Exam scores here actually depend on what you write. If you study hard and write exams, you’ll pass and if you don’t, failure is guaranteed. There are times however, that some teachers make mistakes in marking and if the student goes for a remark and remains persistent, then the marks get rectified. Things like sex for grades or sorting lecturers do not happen here.
As someone who previously attended a medical school in Nigeria, I can tell you that this place was like a breath of fresh air. Medical school in Nigeria was like a pressure cooker, students never had enough time to rest, even after MBBS exams. The day I started classes here, the bell rang 45 minutes into the first lecture and my teacher said “Let’s take a 10-minute break.” I was confused for a moment and when I asked, I was told that for each lecture(which lasts an hour and forty minutes), a 10 minute break was given in between so that the students and teacher can rest a bit before proceeding.
Lunch time was from 11:40am till 1pm when the next lecture is scheduled to start. Classes end at 4:30 and there are no classes on weekends, except in very special circumstances. The timetable is strictly followed and after exams, we close for the holidays. This is something that has helped me greatly because I do not function well if I can’t catch a break.
Safety: The one thing I have always admired China for is the amount of security measures that are in place. If any of your belongings get stolen in school, they only need to check the cameras to see who took it. If you order a Didi (the equivalent of Uber in China), the details of the driver appear and a message with the license number of the vehicle is sent to your friend and the application monitors your trip with your location. We comfortably go out at any time because we are confident nothing sinister will happen to us.
Apart from constant light and Wi-Fi, these things I mentioned make living here bearable.
Someone once asked if I would like to work in China and my answer was a solid NO. I have never met a black doctor in China to be honest. There might be some in other cities but I’ve never seen one in any hospital in the city I live in. That is not surprising because apart from the language barrier, most Chinese patients wouldn’t want a black doctor examining them.
Being Nigerian in China is great when you’re in contact with other Nigerians. But when you are in a school where there is no Nigerian student, depression sets in and you end up switching schools because no matter how much we want to deny it, there is actually no place like home.
Cassandra Ucheoma Nworah.