Missed Part 1?
The weeks leading up to my graduation from secondary school were occupied with me trying to fill in the gaps of what the future held for me. Fortunately, my parents had already started thinking of an alternative that will help me spend the next year of my life doing something meaningful. I soon found out I would be starting a program to prepare for the Cambridge A-levels after graduation.
A-levels was not a university, but I was excited. For one, I wouldn’t be at home, doing nothing; more importantly, it screamed ‘second chance’ to me. Another exciting part was that it was located in Ibadan. Prior to this time, I had lived my entire life in Southeastern Nigeria, and I was very curious about my Yoruba tribe. Ibadan, in Southwest Nigeria, held some knowledge that I was very interested in. It was also during this time that my dad introduced the idea of studying in the United States.
I had not previously considered the possibility of getting a degree outside my home country, but it definitely sounded very intriguing. The next nine months were loaded with exams: SAT, TOEFL, ACT, GCE, JAMB and of course A-levels exam. As that period came to an end, my imaginations ran wild, wondering how exactly the story would end. Would I be in Nigeria? Would I travel to the US for studies? Different scenarios played in my head and I stayed constantly wondering.
Then my dad shared the much-awaited news with me: I had been offered admission to a community college for an Associates Degree in Nursing. I was supposed to transition from that program to a Bachelors Degree program. I was excited and nervous; more nervous than excited actually. I was told I had to do an interview to get my US visa. The first time I heard about this interview, it was presented as something easy; I would just answer a few simple questions and my visa would be approved. Undeniably, the visa application process is not complicated or complex. I would soon realize that simple things could be very difficult.
The day of my first interview started very early. An early interview meant I had to wake up even earlier. I and my dad got ready and headed to the US embassy. I was very surprised to see that a large number of people were already present outside the building waiting for their appointment. It was too early; I expected a very small number of people to be awake, let alone waiting in front of the embassy. Without words, I could sense the intensity of the anticipation that came with each ‘Good Morning’ that we exchanged with the people around us. We waited for a few minutes and then the people with my appointment time were beckoned to form a line and start the process of entering the embassy.
My nerves were over-firing at this point. We moved gradually, being careful to obey the instructions of the personnel in charge of security at the embassy. People were extremely respectful, addressing almost everyone as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’, like their visa approval depended on it. While getting closer to the entrance, I gave my dad a final look and he encouraged me with his eyes and a smile. After I was cleared, I was physically shaking as I made my way through even more security clearances and finally to the place of the interview.
The room was very cold. People sat down together on long bench-like chairs. At first, I thought, this was only a waiting room before people would be called individually into a private room for the interview; I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was shocked to realize that this place – the public mini-hall – was the place of the interview.
The consular officers were held in different sections and visible through glasses that showed from their torso and above. The icing on the cake was the microphones that were used to communicate during the interviews. I mentally knew the word ‘humiliation’, prior to this time; but this was the first time, I was living through it. The interview questions and answers were audible to everyone. I and everyone present watched as people shared intimate parts of their lives in an attempt to prove their need for the visa, and worse, get denied the visa at the end. With each interview, my nerves grew more wild as my turn drew closer.
I was finally standing in front of the consular officer; she was the only female interviewing on this day. She barely looked at me as she asked questions like: “What are you going to do in the US”, “Where is the university located?”, “Which other schools did you apply to?”, and “Where are they located?”. The series of questions followed with a short pause as she typed on her computer. Then she looked up at me and asked: “Why an Associates Degree?”.
At first, I was not sure of why she wanted me to defend going to get a degree, but I proceeded to answer as best as I could, with my nerves punctuating every word I said. I had an immediate gut feeling that she was not satisfied with the answer. I thought I would be given another chance to explain further or maybe she could rephrase her question. Before I knew what was happening, she blurted my visa was denied and gave me a paper with a circled number.
Everything happened so fast. I knew from watching other denials that crying and begging didn’t solve anything. I packed my documents which she barely looked at and walked towards the exit, a very confused person. The walk through the embassy compound till I made my way outside was one of my longest walks. I was trying to process what just happened to me and none of it made any sense.
As soon as I stepped outside the gate, my dad’s face lit up. It soon sobered up once he caught a clearer glance at my face. I moved closer and muttered that I was not given the visa. He was also confused. He tried to ask what happened and I couldn’t even explain. I had answered all the questions I was asked and I was not given any reason for the denial. The paper that I was given had a vague-written statement that didn’t make any sense to me.
We walked away from the embassy upset and confused. My dad almost immediately started encouraging me again. As we rode in a taxi, I was fighting tears again; uncertainty and fear took over my mind. It was a familiar feeling; one I had felt about a year ago.
Make it a Winning-Day