So you’ve decided to school abroad? Awesome! It’s an amazing decision and I wish you Godspeed. It’s an exciting phase, after all the visa hassles and the mountain of forms and emails and phone calls, you’re finally set, but before you set things in stone, stop and reevaluate and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I made when I went for my MBA.
Here’s five things I wish I knew:
1. Adequate Information About My School– In my case, I was in such a hurry to leave Nigeria and school abroad and unfortunately, I didn’t do due diligence on my choice of school. I happened to be in America for work and when I had free time I looked at a couple of schools. My school got back to me first and the fees seemed reasonable so I just committed and boy! Did I pay for it. If I had researched properly, I might have found out that since F1 visa holders cannot work while in school except on the school campus, it was imperative to get into a school where I could find employment on campus. I didn’t ask and as it turned out, I couldn’t work on campus because my school didn’t have provisions for that!. Also, I didn’t check for the rating of the school or their credibility or how helpful their alumni association was, There were a lot of things I was in the dark about and it haunted me so please, ask, ask and ask. Do your research online, send emails to your academic adviser, until you are satisfied with all the answers you have!
2. Figure Out Your Accommodation Before You Leave- Again, my school did not have provisions for accommodation and though I was lucky enough to stay with a friend who lived nearby, when I eventually moved to my own place it was far from school. The bus routes were as complicated as further maths and if I wasn’t blessed to have friends that drove me to and from school every week, I would have been toast! (Heartfelt shoutout to Bube, Kem, Rukky and Ugo for the countless rides to school, y’all are the real mvps!!!) so be sure that you can live on campus, work on campus so you can afford to live elsewhere or save ENOUGH before you leave home so that you won’t be stranded.
3. Read ALL Your Paperwork- I cannot overemphasize this point! Read it all!!! No matter how much it is, before you sign anything be sure to read and reread it because once you sign, there’s not much room for change. Again let me give you my example. So like I said, when I found my school, between my mother and I, the fees were doable so it wasn’t really an issue. However, half way during my second quarter, 7,500 dollars was “miraculously” added to my fees! And I couldn’t do jack about it because I had signed the papers! If I had read it with a fine tooth comb, I wouldn’t have found myself in that fix so again, read, read and read some more until you are completely sure.
4. Be Sure About Your Next Step After Graduation- I did my MBA in America so I cannot really speak for other countries but typically, after your masters degree, you have one year to work in the field which you studied. Now, you won’t know that it takes about twelve weeks for the permit that will enable you to work to come through, and that when it eventually comes, finding a job in your exact field might not be a walk in the park. If you eventually get a job, you must leave the country sixty days after your one year is up or you’ll go out of status and become illegal unless the company you work for files H1B which is basically an extension for you. What nobody might tell you is that unless you’re in the medical field or IT, it might be very difficult to get a job where the company will be willing to spend thousands of dollars to keep you in the country. So you might find yourself at a crossroad. My advice is to plan ahead and leave nothing to chance, looking back now I sincerely wish I had known this.
5. Be Sure You Are Getting A Useful Degree- Times have changed, times are changing. Before you spend millions of Naira on a degree abroad, be SURE that it is a relevant degree that will make job placement easier for you, or will boost you in the path you have chosen for your life. Don’t get a degree just because. Put thought and deep reflections into it. Again, be sure the kind of school you’re attending, is this a school employers will bend over backwards to employ you when they know you went there? Check ratings, accreditations, history and all that. Be very sure.
Bonus!- Don’t be intimidated by the visa or admissions process. Everything is “figureoutable” just do your research! Before you pay anyone to do it for you, be absolutely sure that you cannot handle it yourself because nine times out of ten, you can.
There you have it! Five things I wish I had known before leaving Nigeria to study abroad. That being said I had an amazing time at school and I met some outstanding individuals, still I could have had more and had I done my research, I would have had it!
“There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living. The other, how to live.” – John Adams