Coming To America: If I Knew Then What I Know Now, Would I Have Come To America? Part Two Of Two
The option to relocate should always be on the table for those seeking a better life in a new place. Relocating can be patriotic. Moving is often a matter of survival both for those who leave and those who remain; I will elaborate later. The ensuing exodus might even force Nigerian leaders to improve the living conditions for all citizens. I wish they will develop the new home industry as espoused in the hyperlinked article. That alone is capable of solving the Nigeria's unemployment problem over time.
Sincere effort has been made to provide the target audience of this article a balanced view (albeit my opinion) of what to expect abroad. To achieve that, the pros and cons have been purposely entwined to affirm there is no heaven anywhere on earth. This class of writing might confuse some but it's a prudent way to paint the real picture of this peculiar subject. I certainly do not do write to rile anyone.
Based on the emails I received since the publication of Part One, the intended audience got the message; others, not so much. The latter few, labeled it unpatriotic, while the former (target audience) felt it was a personal missive of hope, if not, assistance. A reader from Liberian wrote: "Interestingly, the sentiment expressed not only applied to Nigeria, but to all of Africa as well. You put it correctly: It is sad to sit here in other people's country, with all of our talents while our own birthplace disintegrates. I do not know you, but it seems like I have gotten another Nigerian brother." The overly positive responses justify the effort invested in the article. My heart remains in the right place: to provide a glimpse of hope.
History is full of examples of people moving when conditions become unbearable where they resided. Examples are the Mexicans, Brazilians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Irish, Indians, Italians, Germans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, and yes, Americans. Just last year, 3000 Americans renounced their citizenship or permanent residency. The current Texas Governor proudly jets around the other States and nations to entice corporations to relocate to Texas. Texas just lured Toyota Headquarters from California. American cities compete for companies to come to their area.
Competition is healthy for all: if the governments want people or companies to come to their area, they must provide basic amenities, such as adequate electricity, roads, security, schools, medical facilities, etc. If Nigerian is serious about copying the American government system, Nigeria must foster civil competition at all levels.
Relocating is patriotic. Moving is often a matter of survival both for those who leave and those who remain. Throughout history, funds and skills earned abroad and repatriated home have benefited the local economy. Nigerians abroad should be commended for the staggering remittances over the years. Also, skills acquired abroad by Nigerians gradually can be brought home to help improve Nigeria. The talent pool at home should complement the experiences of Nigerians from abroad to develop our nation. Neither group has all the answers. With all the problems Nigeria has, there is room for everyone to contribute for the good of present and future generations.
This article is dedicated to the loved ones of those Nigerians who recently died in the stadium stampede while seeking employment, in the Abuja bombings, and the herendously kidnapped innocent students. We pray for the safe return of these our precious children.
The purpose of this two-part article is to inspire you; not just to motivate you to move or stay. Do what is best for you! To reiterate, this article was penned to provide a balanced observation. Moving is not for everyone. If you decide to relocate, consider the following:
Degrees And Common Sense. Degrees are all good and dandy but explore other options by reading the well-received 2011 article: "Lucrative CareerOpportunities For Nigerians Out Of Work In America" Part One and, especially, PartTwo. One does not have to incur huge cost in time and money to earn degrees to be successful abroad. There are often "less prestigious" vocational skills that would provide greater career opportunities. For example, if you acquire the right skill set, some employers could help you secure your work papers and pay for those degrees while you earn. Work permit is one of the steepest challenges immigrants face. If your employer can help you get it, that will takes a huge load off your shoulders.
Keep Eye On Biological Clock: Times flies especially when one is abroad, so keep an eye on the 'B-Clock' if one intends to have children. This is a factor for both the man and woman. Conditions abroad may force one to postpone starting a family to the extent that fertility may become an issue. And if one rushes into having children (to beat the B-Clock) without basic resources, everyone suffers. If the kids are had too late, the parents may pass away or become a burden before the children are old enough to fend for themselves. This is a delicate dance.
Children Overseas: Even if you return to Nigeria for good, your children raised abroad may not follow after turning 18. They might visit, if you are lucky and pay for it. Also, retirement overseas is fraught with challenges. Read all about in my RetirementIn Diaspora article.
Tailor Your Career To Marketing or Sales. Race relations are improving, still every immigrant (of any race) faces discrimination at some point, some real and some imagined. Let discrimination strengthen you, not derail you. Be a victor, not a victim. One thing that has helped me and others is acquiring marketing skills. Regardless of your profession or interest, learning to sell will boost your success. Another functional aspect of marketing is the correlation between productivity and reward. You can give yourself a pay increase any time you want by producing more. If you're passionate about your profession and you manage your finances well, the sky becomes the limit. Marketing is like exercising, knowing what to do is the easy part; consistently putting that knowledge to practice is what makes or breaks you. Most dreams passionately worked on, do come true.
Not Clique. To truly succeed, a sojourner must have a larger goal to give back to society. The sojourner often, in the words of legendary Bob Marley, becomes a 'Buffalo Soldier: fighting on arrival, fighting for survival'. One needs something greater than one's self to stay the course. And when one consistently gives back without fanfare, regardless of how little, one is blessed beyond one's imagination. No wonder the Book says, 'it is better to give than to receive'. There are few greater joys than giving to others, especially those who cannot repay one.
Moving can rekindle your internal fire, perhaps, because your back is often against the proverbial wall in diaspora. If making more money is the sole goal, I truly believe if one works at home as hard as one has to work abroad to stay alive, one would do well at home. Success is more than money though! Look around you now and you will see both those who stayed at home and succeeded. Then there are those who stayed and failed. On the other hand, there are those who return from abroad with their pot of gold. While there are those who spent their productive years abroad and have nothing to show than poverty, failing health, back-stab wounds, and wasted lives. The majority of Nigerians abroad are good people but there is no denying the insidious ills inflicted by a few PHD (Pull him/her down) people in diaspora. Beware!
Adapt To Your New Environment. There are hardly any sizable institutions in America where there are not two or more Nigerian professionals. I urge the reader to check the staff directory of these institutions and count how many Nigerian last names you see. Granted that many of us abroad have changed or customized our names to adapt. Some have erased any traces of Nigerianness from their first and last names. They cite enhanced career opportunities and tarnished Nigerian image for their rationale for the transformation. While others have not only retained their authentic names they have given their children Nigerian names.
For the record, I respect the liberty of anyone to go by any name or to give any name to one's offspring. From time immemorial, immigrants (and entertainers alike) have tweaked their names to adapt to their new environment. Nigerians abroad are no different. Religious invasions have caused people to adapt their names for ages. So be prepared to change or customize your name, if necessary. The sooner you do so the better. Going by a name only your beloved mother can pronounce may not serve you well abroad. Just saying!
Don't become paralyzed by analysis: It's good to plan as long as you don't let the planning paralyze you from moving forward. You cannot plan for all eventualities. In all you do, take with a grain of salt the advice from someone who has not been where you are heading. For example, it was common in the 1960s to 1980s to be told not to marry abroad and to return home after graduation. Things did not work out well for some who heeded those clarion calls. If you are single, marry a good citizen as soon as you can!
According to Nido Qubein, "change brings opportunity". Change is a good thing and should be befriended: it broadens your views, shortens your learning curve, strengthens your core and culminates in helping you be all you can be. It will never be a smooth train all the way but if you persevere you will not only overcome, you will overachieve.
Make the bed you sleep on daily abroad first before making the bed you sleep on two weeks out of the year back home. Drive the safest car and reside in the best neighborhood you can afford abroad. Your safety and well-being is paramount. You may be young and feel invincible today but remember anything can happen anywhere at any time. There are no guarantees!
Know People at the top: There's comfort in being around people you grew up with but don't be shy to get noticed for doing good. Also, it's essential to associate with people of diverse backgrounds. Folks from your hometown are rarely at the top of the new environment abroad. It's not for lack of effort or intellect, it's just reality. To know people at the top, you need to make conscious effort to know and be known. Go bearing gifts, don't go asking for gifts. Remember "it's better to give than to receive." Uphold your dignity and work ethics so you're accepted and respected by those at the top. Trust me, your accent and ethnicity are positives that should help you get noticed and accepted! If you want to be successful, you have to learn the habits of successful people any way; hence the importance of knowing people at the top.
Let me summarize with this short allegory: A couple gathered its six children for life lessons. The children were asked, "how many times would the same thing happen to them before they learn?" The oldest puffed his chest and said, "6 times; there are 6 of us and I want to master the pain because what does not kill you makes you stronger". And the kids clapped for their oldest sibling. The 2nd oldest stood up and said it would take her 5 times...again the family clapped for her. The fourth oldest said it would take him four times. The third oldest said three times. The second said 2 times... You see they were following the reasoning of their oldest sibling whom they considered the oldest and wisest. When the youngest of the 6 kids stood up, everyone expected her to say 'one time.' Instead she looked at her parents and siblings and said, "Zero times; I would learn from the mistakes of my brothers and sisters. I don't need to experience failure to learn from it because that first experience could be my last". So learn from experiences of your forerunners in diaspora, don't repeat their mistakes.
Finally, as a wise person once said: "if you don't go after what you want, you will never get it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no, and if you don't step forward, you will be where you are." As you go for your dreams either at home or abroad, be kind to those you meet on your way up. Remember to give back. Go and make yourself and Nigeria proud!
PS Thanks to everyone who emailed following Part One and for requesting Part Two.
By Chuks U.C. Ukaoma is an "Old Boy" of Methodist College, Uzuakoli. He and his family reside in Texas, U.S.A