I remember this day quite well. I left home for the airport with one of my younger siblings and my parents. I was excited and optimistic to finally go elsewhere to further my studies because the journey to secure an admission was quite a long one. I had finally gotten what I wanted and I was stoked to be starting a new journey.
I started my journey to Sydney Australia from Lagos Nigeria on February 18, 2017. The journey was a long one with two stop-overs. One in South Africa and the other in Perth. I arrived in Sydney on 20 February, 2017, some time around midnight. This was my first solo trip outside Nigeria and it was uneventful, long and uncomfortable. I was in economy class for my flights and didn’t get a window-side seat throughout. Needless to say, my legs cramped up almost half way through the second half of the journey. I remember twisting and turning uncomfortably in my seat, trying to find a comfortable enough position to nap. There was a guy seated next to me who kindly offered me his shoulder to rest my head.
On arrival at the airport, it is noteworthy to say that I literally knew nobody in the whole of Australia and my decision to move here was almost a spur of the moment decision. I knew little about the country but I knew one of the seven wonders of the world, The Opera House, was located in Australia courtesy of a book my mother bought titled ‘Seven Wonders of the World”. Of all the seven wonders, my mom was immediately fascinated by “The O-Peh-rah House” as she fondly called it. This might also have added to my fascination with Australia.
I arrived at the Sydney airport at midnight and had to use a taxi to get to my reservation. At the time I had no working knowledge of the public transport system or Uber. I also hadn’t converted my US dollars to the local currency because a nice young lady I met on the plane had advised me that the exchange rate at the Perth airport was more expensive. I had no idea what was the basis of her comparison and in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have listened. Anyways, I arrived at my backpackers in Woolloomooloo, NSW (I know! I thought the name was weird too). I had a brief moment of panic when I had to pay the driver and realised he couldn’t accept my American dollars. Luckily for me, the backpackers I was staying changed a couple of dollars for me. I paid the taxi driver $45AUD which the backpacker’s manager was shocked and aghast I would pay that much money. He attributed it to me being a newbie. He wasn’t wrong! I changed a few more dollars and paid about $150AUD dollars for a week’s stay.
My room was an all female room with two bunk beds (I had previously booked a mixed room with 3 bunk beds). Altogether, we were three in the room, one bunk bed was unoccupied. One of the girls had been in Sydney for a couple of years and was finally going back home to Japan. The other lady was a young girl from UK. She was 18years old and had travelled down on a work visa to earn some money. She mentioned she had been around for about a month and was working at a farm where she was offered accommodation and paid weekly but the farm had closed down (or something of the sort) and they all had to leave. She had decided to move to Griffith another city in NSW because it was a regional area and someone had suggested she would easily get some farm work there. The other lady moving to Japan had said she previously worked as a waitress in a restaurant and when I asked where she lived, she said she rented an apartment in the city where she shared a room with three other people because rent was quite expensive in the city. I was a bit horrified at that mostly because I was limited with cash and I most definitely didn’t want to share a room with four people, particularly strangers.
I noticed the jobs these ladies mentioned were menial jobs. I naively attributed it to the fact that they didn’t have any significant degree that would enable them get better jobs. In hindsight again, I probably should have done a bit more research than I had done to help manage my expectations which were pretty high. After all, I had a bachelor’s degree in English Language, finished with good grades, spoke English quite fluently, I was in Australia to do a master’s degree and I had some serious skills I had acquired on the side; I could write, I had some photography/videography experience plus common sense.
Boy was I just wrong or delusional!!
Leaving home quite an experience for me. I was quite calm about it because I was ready to explore and see what’s beyond the four corners of the world I was used to. At the time, I felt like I was trapped in a broken system. I wanted to harness the ability to think beyond the limitations I could see. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learnt so far is that whatever cards you’re dealt, learn to play them as well as you can.