Chigozie Obioma’s experiences as a Nigerian student in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus left him with a knowledge he wished he’d never gained.
As a Nigerian young adult traveling abroad for the first time, the thrill I experienced was, at first, intoxicating. I’d dropped out of the university I had been attending in Nigeria, and was desperate to return to school, this time to study English instead of economics. My visa application to the UK had been rejected, and so I found my new destination, a university in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It was a nation few people seemed to know much about. It was, and still is, without international recognition.
After days of celebrations, prayers, and phone calls from relatives far and wide, I took off—my first plane ride—and was immediately overwhelmed. I had expected a warm welcome from the few Nigerians and Africans—about ten or so, mostly young men, along with four young women—who were already there. But they treated my arrival with discomfort and wondered why I had chosen to come. Seeing that their question didn’t make logical sense, since they were in Cyprus as well, they’d always end the discussion by telling me I’d soon discover why they had asked.