Phew. It’s been a hell of a ride this journey towards a Masters degree.
My letter of admission came in July of this year. The University of Southern Mississippi had accepted my application for a Masters in Public Health program starting Spring 2021.
- This was the first school I applied to. An achievement I am still proud of.
- The application fee was paid by my brother, D, seeing as I was an unemployed medical doctor at the time, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- I almost lost the opportunity because my undergraduate institution was holding on too tight to my transcript. Had to place numerous calls, send multiple emails and stress friends on ground before I eventually got a personal copy I used for the application. Seriously, higher institutions need to look into their policy and arrangements as regards transcripts.
- But I got the admission. Yaaaay?.
Even while applying, I knew funding would be an issue. While my God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills, He had not allocated my herd to me yet as per this admission. So, I started looking for scholarships.
“masters scholarships in the US”
“postgraduate scholarships for African students”
“scholarships for African women”
“US masters scholarships”
You know that thing where all the available links have turned purple from blue because you’ve opened them all before? Yeah, that was my fate. Both on my phone and on Chekwaa.
I was also hopeful that my framedimages would yield some profit. I mean, this person promised to buy in bulk. That person said, “Just wait till I’m ready to decorate”. And the other person said to remind him once his housing project was done. But, life happens and mans’ promises fail. Would Shutterstock or ArtPal or Artquid or Vsual be the breakthrough? No, none of them was.
But, I had the admission, right ?
I kept applying for scholarships. Applied to other schools. Wrote essays, statements of purpose, reached out to people for recommendation upon recommendation, application fees here and there, permutations and combinations of search words to get the best schools to apply to… Omo.
I really invested time and energy and money into this because as at that time, the NYSC did not seem to be coming back again this year and…
I wasn’t going to be caught flat-bottomed with no clue as to the kind of future I wanted.
My brother, J, had been talking about crowdfunding as an option right from when I shared my admission letter with him and my other siblings. It was not my first option. Definitely a last resort. And if I could avoid it entirely, that would be best.
Till mid-October, I pushed the thought away.
If resumption was to be in January, I had less than three months to crowdfund. Not ideal timing to raise ₦10million for tuition and board. But…
- I was ready to go. No time to say no time again.
- All I needed was enough money to sort out visa application and associated forms, flight ticket and the just enough cash to not be stranded over there.
- You see tuition and board? We would hustle it when we get there. My brother, J, did it. Dr. Ann Amuta did it. My role model, Dr. Philip Atoyebi got to the US more or less the same way. What/who says I can’t too?
- Besides, once I get to the US, I would be able to apply for financial aid. Something I can’t access while still in Nigeria on account of not having a Social Security Number.
- Also, the scholarships I had applied for would bring out their award lists later on in the year.
- And after a semester, I can also get Graduate Teaching Assitantship or Research Assistantship positions.
Based on 4, 5 and 6 above, I set the crowdfunding target to ₦5million instead of the ₦10million actually needed. My sister, Debby, and brother, J, worked hard to revamp my blog site and put up the donation page.
Oh, yes, a GoFundMe account which would have been easier to use and monitor can’t be opened from Nigeria. The Nigerian site I tried to use, donate.ng used over a month to decide if they were going to allow me crowdfund on their site or not. Totally bad PR on their part. By the time they agreed, I was a month into the crowdfunding.
The crowdfunding campaign kicked off and it couldn’t have come up at a worse time.
The #EndSARS protest was at its peak. People were angry. I was angry. Dead bodies, blood and mangled limbs splashing the screens on a daily. Social Media, especially Twitter was agog with tales of police brutality dating back to ages.
The government was changing clownery outfit (SARS to SWAT) like sanitary towels. Only that they were shedding too much blood. Even LadyCare wouldn’t have been able to absorb all that menorrhagia.
The nation was upside down and anything not related to the protest was a mere distraction… Somewhat like a mosquito you have no time for but you could get a machine gun to kill if it got too demanding.
I was wary of even putting up the campaign on Twitter for fear of the backlash. I didn’t want to seem out of tune with what was actually going on at the moment. But, I had to still try. I pinned the tweet on the 17th of October and focused on the protest.
The day the man in Aso Rock… Buhari or Jibril or Buhbril… Gave a 12 minute speech that said nothing on the events of past days and more or less ‘unlooked’ the tears and blood of innocent lives lost at the Lekki Toll Gate and other hot spots in the nation was the day I became determined to leave Nigeria.
I sent the donation link to every person, group/page, site I could think of. Inserted it into almost all my posts.
Would I come back? Maybe. I have projects in mind meant for Nigeria and Nigerians. So, yeah, I’d be back for a while.
Will I settle in Nigeria? Maybe, Maybe not. Highly unlikely. But either way, I want to have the option of stepping out with ease if push comes to shove. A sinking ship isn’t helpful to those still on board. Not jumping into the water/safe boats when you can is not courage.
I told myself…
Eunice, this country would kill you and then blame you for dying. If you don’t give yourself this chance, nobody else will. If they berate you for leaving, ignore. If they applaud you for leaving, ignore likewise. Focus on this precious cargo… Your future, your life… And carry it gingerly till you make it.
Donations started trickling in. At the same time, discouraging messages and calls also followed suit. Promises came up again. Promises.
When we had raised enough to take care of my I-901 form and visa application, I set to work.
- Payment for the I-901 form was another hurdle to tackle. Western Unions in most Nigerian banks only receive funds for their customers. So, sending was out of it. My brother in SA tried to pay for me but man’s also just a student and he is not cleared to make such payment on his student visa ???♀️. So, we had to find someone in the US to pay.
- Next up, visa application. The account used for the donation belongs to my brother. So, he was to transfer the funds to me. However, GTbank was giving him issues. His ATM card had to be re-issued, collected in Nigeria and the details sent to him. But, it was one story after another. Either the bank branch wasn’t open today or the card was not ready tomorrow or some other issue. My parents had to queue under the sun for hours only to be told to come back even though this card had been issued long ago.
- Eventually, we found a friend to loan me the money so as to, at least, apply for the visa. God bless you, B. Prior to applying, I had been hearing that emergency dates were no longer available for visa interview and the earliest date is in April, 2021. Hm, error.
- Still, I applied. Truly, earliest date was indeed April, 2021. I requested for an emergency interview date which I should qualify for because my Masters resumption date is in less than 60 days. But, I was denied.
- “Try Abuja. Abuja is granting emergency interview dates. People are getting dates in December.” Lagos is someplace I can readily jump up one morning and travel to. Abuja is another ball game entirely. There’s the risk of being kidnapped if I travel by road. Going by air was never in the plan. Besides, changing the embassy location to Abuja was no guaranty for an emergency interview date.
So, here I am. After all has been said and done… Unable to meet up with the January 2021 resumption at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The school cannot do anything about this even though they were sincerely sorry to hear about my plight.
I either wait for emergency dates to come up (if they ever would) or defer my admission till Fall 2021 (that’s in August). Deferring seems the best bet at this point.
August. That’s like seven months added. Seven months of waiting.
There are potential advantages to this deferral. Some of them so inconsequential to me, like completing the NYSC program. Others actually very very important, like being available for the Atlas Corps Fellowship. And still some that are equivocal, like raising enough money for the Master’s program in the meantime.
Truth is, deferring the Masters program till August is a huge change in time lines for me… Career wise, in terms of intended projects and fulfillment of goals.
But, topmost on my mind is the pool of uncertainty it throws me into all over again.
- This is Nigeria. A lot, a whole lot can happen between now and August. While as a Christian, I am inclined to claim that they’d be positive happenings. I am also not oblivious to the unending trap this nation is. Jimoh, Pelumi, Oke and other youths who died during the ENDSARS protests and in the aftermath that ensued had high hopes and bright plans for the future. But, they died. Some may ask, would they have lived if they were not in Nigeria? I can’t say. I’m not God. But, for all intents and purposes, Nigeria killed them in their prime.
- Unless I come into some big cash or earn multiple scholarships, I’d be back to sourcing for funds again when August comes. Having to crowdfund this one time took a lot from me considering the fact that I’m not one to air my needs to the public just like that. It’s not something I’d like to repeat.
- NYSC is there talking about recalling Batch A Stream 1 Corp members to orientation camp. This may sound insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I mean, it’s just ten days, right? But having to spend another 10 days holed up in some unsanitary place in the name of ‘orientation’, getting barked at by frustrated soldiers, subjected to putting on all white in this harmattan and being exposed to the risk of COVID-19 infection is not something palatable to look forward to.
Hmm. In the end though, do I have a choice?
It is what it is. And right now, what it is is that the January 2021 goal has shifted.
There’s a lot to be done despite that. A whole lot.
- I’ve got patients who need a doctor.
- There are images to be made and sold and given as gifts.
- I have people to appreciate and be grateful for who stuck out their necks and hearts and wallets for me.
- My French lessons and exams are still on.
- Professional exams still have to be written.
- Fellowships and Short Courses still abound to participate in.
- ? Oh, University of Pretoria still needs to tell me if they want me in their school or not. And so does Kent State University, University of Edinburgh and the others.
- Data on stroke in the young still needs to be collated.
- Blog posts, books and articles still have to be written.
10. Life. Still. Has. To. Be. Lived.
I will be reaching out to all donors as soon as I have the complete list. Your efforts have not and will not be wasted. Your donations will be kept for the right time. You gave willingly and did not spare me your generosity. God bless you all immensely!?❤️
See you soon!