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Arriving from Nigeria, My Initial Fears of Studying in America

Celestine Ojike from Nigeria studying at the University of New Mexico shares some of his initial fears of studying in the United States.

Celestine Ojike submitted the following article to International Student Voice Magazine: 

Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address as the president of America said, “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. And Niles Alex describes fear as “an emotional response induced by a perceived threat, which causes a change in the brain and organ function, as well as in behavior”. (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/recovery-road). In this article I’m going to x-ray the effects of the fear of studying abroad as it manifested in my coming to America to study. The effects of fear can be positive or negative, but I want to highlight the positive results of fear in my preparation for these trans-Atlantic studies in America. The sources of fear that had a lot of impacts on me range from political, socio- cultural, religious, health to academic differences that seemed to exist between the two countries.

The greatest fear came from the fear of denying me a visa, considering the political climates in Nigeria and in the USA at that time; when my president told the whole world that Nigeria was one of the most corrupt nations in the world. A month before I went for the visa interview my fear heightened as Donald Trump in his bid to beef up security by tightening immigrations banned seven countries from entering the US though Nigeria was not among them but he promised to stop more countries.

The US executive order of January 20, 2017 captioned, “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States” in section one stated that the activities that surround the offering of US -visa is very important in exposing and preventing persons with connections to terrorism from coming to America. This was clearly seen in the 9/11 terrorist attacks when consular officers were stopped by the State Department Policy from checking thoroughly the travel documents of many people from those 19 countries that produced the terrorists that killed close to 3,000 Americans. Furthermore, people from other countries already living in United States before the attack continued to cause trouble even after the improvement on the process of giving visa” (Trump Travel Ban, US Immigration).

The first consequence of this fear is that my ears were always on the news to get the latest information on Nigeria and the US. Among other things I intensified my prayers. The fear also, led me to getting any document I could lay my hands on whether it was mentioned among the requirements or not. Funny enough the fear followed me all through, it only left me when I entered my room in Albuquerque.

Secondly, the socio-cultural and religious differences also generated a lot of fear in me—fear of the unknown and fear of acceptance. The culture I was leaving behind is a culture that I grew in and have never stayed a month outside of, in the forty-nine years of my existence. Leaving a culture where extended family system is highly cherished and promoted to a culture where it is not the case but conjugal and individual-centered life is the order evoked volumes of fear. The popular view from the Nigerian end is that America which was once religious is now very deep in secularism. So how to maintain my faith and still be `politically correct` was also a huge concern.

Another source of concern is the four seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter and Summer as against the Harmattan and Rain seasons we have in Nigeria. One that feared me most is winter which comes with snow and cold as I have developed allergy to cold lately. This led me to consulting the medical doctor to ascertain the health implications. Also, I surfed the internet web to know more about the seasons and the health effects of each one

Finally, going to America for academics, a lot people would say, involves heavy finances. As there is no free lunch(meal) in Freetown so there is no free education in the US. The table below shows that on 8th of march 2016, when it comes to course fees America among other English -speaking countries had the highest figures.

Tuition fee comparison by country

Country Tuition (local $) Exchange rate Tuition (USD)
Australia $26,427 0.75 $19,820
Canada $15,601 0.75 $11,701
New Zealand $25,583 0.68 $17,396
United Kingdom £13,763 1.43 $19,682
United States $20,519 1 $20,519

Updated:8 march,2016 (www.unicurve.com/study-in-the-uk).

With the relative higher standard of living in America and limited hours for students to work, there was the fear of ways and means of getting much money. This led to looking for individuals and groups that would bankroll me. This in turn was a herculean task especially at a period Nigerian economy was in recession.

The fear of studying abroad though internal was very real. Leaving one’s comfort zone is not easy but fear in my case seemed positive and necessary for best results possible. The more fear one entertains the readier one is to overcome the challenges.

Celestine Ojike from Nigeria studies at the University of New Mexico.
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