Last week, Uche, a Nigerian studying in Ukraine shared his story. He answered the question of what to consider when deciding what country to study. 

For Victor in  this week’s Digital Nomad, deciding to study in Cyprus came down to one reason: resumption time. 

Victor tells me: “I had admission offers all over. From the US to the UK as well as the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. But at the time, there was the ASUU 6 months strike which meant I had to look for a quick alternative.” 

In Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) uses industrial strike actions to make demands of the government. It often stretches study duration in many public universities. 

But most of his admission offers had a start date of Spring, and he wasn’t willing to wait that long. He stumbled on Cyprus and realised that their universities had an earlier start date.

“Well at the time, the fact that I could start in the spring and not have to wait till the fall. That was the deciding factor for me.” 

In January 2014, Victor would start two journeys: the first to Cyprus, and a second, an academic journey that would last six years to obtain a professional degree in pharmacy. 

“When it was time to leave, I flew from Abuja to Istanbul and then to Cyprus. The Abuja airport was not bad and it wasn’t as bad as my dreaded Lagos experience in Lagos 2019 January.” 

The Murtala Muhammed International airport gets a bad rap from travelers. Victor’s experience at the MMIA explains why.

Victor’s verdict of the MMIA:  “I decided I’m never going to fly from or into Lagos again.” 

“From the leaking roof to the rude staff to the very strange heat in the arrival area. I had flown so many hours from the US and that night made it much worse.” 

How does the MMIA compare to the other airports Victor has been in? 

Victor ranks airports from the best to worst;

Charles De Gaulle- Paris

Dubai International

London Heathrow

Logan International- Boston

Schipol international- Amsterdam

Istanbul Airport- Turkey

Cairo international- Egypt

Ataturk international- Turkey

Ercan International- Cyprus

New Nnamdi Azikiwe- Abuja

Uyo international- Akwa Ibom

Port Harcourt International- Rivers state

Murtala Mohammed- Lagos

Victor’s verdict of the Ercan International airport: “The Ercan international airport in Cyprus is basic, nothing too special. There are barely up to 20 flights there per day, but it’s decent and it works and there’s free internet as well.” 

Digital Nomads: The Ercan international airport, Cyprus
Digital Nomads: The Ercan international airport, Cyprus
Digital Nomads: The exterior of the Ercan international airport
Digital Nomads: The exterior of the Ercan international airport

It takes almost two days to arrive in Cyprus from Nigeria, thanks to transits at Cairo and Istanbul. So you’ll be thankful to have Wi-Fi at the airport when you arrive.

It means you can delay worrying about getting a SIM Card for a few more hours. Victor lives in Famagusta, a city on the East coast of Cyprus. 

What was his first impression of his new city? 

“In 2014, it was pretty much Nigeria with all the basic amenities and internet. But over the years I have come to see that it is technologically ahead of Nigeria.”

“It’s small but economically smart.”

Victor’s thoughts on City life in Cyprus: People like to mind their business. The main difference was when I started driving here. No one here uses their horns and it took me a while to get used to that. I grew up in Port Harcourt, a very loud place.

If you don’t drive, getting around Famagusta is easy. “Most people here take taxis. They have a very solid taxi union and Uber wouldn’t survive a day.”

Famagusta’s influential taxi union means there are no global ride hailing companies in the city. Need to call a taxi? Call the cabbie on Whatsapp. 

If you’re afraid this kind of taxi union might mean high prices, you couldn’t be more wrong. 

“The taxi business is becoming a family thing so fathers pass on to their sons. Most prices are fixed so you won’t be cheated.” 

“Everything here is easy.”

Does this ease extend to buying and registering SIM Cards as well? “There are two major Telecom providers in Cyprus: TurkCell and TelSim. I have heard about Vodafone as well but barely seen anyone use it.”

“Getting the SIM and registering is done in less than fifteen minutes and then you buy a monthly plan.” 

Victor’s advice on getting a SIM Card: Turkcell is the best especially for students as most people here use it. For a little stipend every month, you can buy a plan with unlimited calls and 10000 texts. 

Seeing as there are call plans, how expensive is mobile internet and how much data can you buy with $5?

Answering this question proves tricky because no one really looks out for mobile internet data when buying plans. 

“This is because there is internet service literally everywhere you go. Restaurants, offices, classes and homes as well come with Wi-Fi.”

But here’s what we know: unlimited home internet costs an average of 120 Turkish Lira ($22) per month.

Internet access everywhere means that schoolwork is a lot easier. Victor says there is a lot of technology in the learning process. 

“My University, the Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus, has a one-stop portal for everything: attendance, transcript and notifications.” 

“I was surprised at the level of processes as well as the kind of labs we had. “

Victor’s pleasant surprises: In my first semester, I made Ibuprofen tablets. My school has also produced two electric vehicles from scratch 

You can’t talk to a pharmacist and not ask his thoughts on COVID-19 and his estimation of how well Cyprus is handling the pandemic. 

“My city discharged our last patient a few days ago and we haven’t had a positive case since 19th April.”

He credits this to the decision to lockdown the city early when Famagusta had reported less than five cases. The lockdown lasted three months and is now starting to be eased this week. 

With the lockdowns easing, will Victor move back to Nigeria now that he’s done with his degree? 

“Moving back to Nigeria was never in the plan. I’ll visit because visiting is fun sometimes and I have family as well.” 

In the end, where does he rate Nigeria and Cyprus in terms of his tech experiences on a scale of 1-10?

“I’ll give Nigeria a 3 and Cyprus, 6.” 

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