By Lekan Otufodunrin
Deba Uwadie, a Nigerian journalist who relocated to the United States (US) through the Visa Lottery, shares his experience with Lekan Otufodunrin, Editor, online and offers tips on how a new and a potential immigrant can live and settle down in the United States.
Why are you publishing the book and the choice of the title?
The book is a guide to settling down in the United States of America as new and potential immigrants.It came out of our own experience and challenges of things we thought we knew and things we did not know. We did not have a documented guide as it is in the book but just worked along based on what we were told and advice from friends. But it would have been easier for us if we had a guide as it is in The Immigrant on Columbus Way.
The choice of the title “The Immigrant on Columbus Way” is because virtually everything happened in Columbus, Ohio. There are certain things that are done differently in the different states of the United States of America but the principles are the same.
What is the book about?
The book is a non-fiction story written as a step-by-step guide on how a new and a potential immigrant can live and settle down in a typical city in the United States, with Columbus, Ohio being the model for the book. It takes a reader through the stages of what to do from the very first expectation in a narration that is real and practical with nothing to hide. These include when to apply for the social security number, the importance of the driver license, job, accommodation and school.
Based on your experience and others what is the life of a typical immigrant in US?
It is a humbling life because a typical immigrant is beginning again, as it were. Though many opportunities abound, but an immigrant must take his turn, at least learning and experiencing the basics. For me who is a journalist, I came in when many newspapers were closing down in the United States and the city, Columbus, Ohio which has about 1.5 million population and 3million in the metropolitan Columbus, has just one daily general interest newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch. The local degrees are first recognized before degrees from abroad as our own degrees are referred to. Therefore, do I need to wait until I am able to get into the Columbus Dispatch? Of course no. But I need to settle down. That is what the book is all about.
How easy was it for you to settle down in US? What have you had to do to readjust to living in US?
Honestly, settling down would have been earlier and easier for me than it took for if I had a guide like “The Immigrant on Columbus Way”. It took us up to 100days to settle down and that is from getting our social security number, a job and our apartment. I had to work other jobs apart from journalism to settle down. Where I first worked is contained in the book. But it was interesting and I enjoyed the humblying part of it.
Your book is a step to step account for immigrants to settle down. What are the basic things potential immigrants should know?
An immigrant to the United States of America should know that without the social security number he cannot get a job, and enjoy other basic benefits that come with it like education, state identification card or driver license, accommodation, banking and more.
What is the prospect for Nigerians interested in relocating to US?
The prospect is great, honestly. But the challenge now is that the process that brought us in which is the US Visa Lottery has removed Nigeria from the list. But the government is working hard with the congress to use other forms such as the highly skill. I give you an example, I went to school for a one year course and enjoyed the government grant and education loan. Even my form fee of $200 was built into the loan; I did not have to pay a dime to go to school. I just started repayment after six months of graduating from the school. I pay $75 a month. I am able to write this book here with the pleasure of all the accompanying supports such as electricity and instant access to information. Does it stop me from coming back home, of course not? But the abundance of opportunities to do what you know best abound.
Any other thing you think Nigerians should know about America?
It could be a land of opportunities and freedom but it definitely has its own challenges. One could be sucked in and forget other things, including where one is coming from and one could be focused working towards set out goals and operate at that level depending on one’s choice.