This young man is currently a fully-funded scholar at Aalto University, in Finland, Europe. Pursuing a degree in computer engineering, and claims that his financial success story is far from over.
Written by: Michel from Leatherback
Leatherback is an international payment company that provides a single access point for international students and individuals to send and receive money with ease; no delays, and no transaction fees.
Can you tell us about your experience growing up?
When I was little, my family struggled a lot. Back then, having two meals a day was a luxury. My mom was a small trader, and my dad didn't work much during his lifetime. So, my mom was the one who provided for me and my three siblings.
Despite our situation, I have always had an interest in education. Sometimes, I would hang around my neighbours and watch them do their assignments to get a feel for what it was like to be in school. My mom noticed my enthusiasm for learning and worked hard to save money to send me to a local school nearby. I didn't start with nursery school; I went straight to primary one. At the time, she could only afford to send me to school.
Honestly, I was so excited when the opportunity came, and even though I had to wear regular clothes for a while because we couldn't afford school uniforms, I wasn't bothered. Thinking about it now, the educational standard was below par. We used stones to do simple arithmetic calculations, which is why I had a tough time adapting to more advanced mathematical concepts as I progressed.
Omoo. How come you never gave up on education?
Honestly, I don't know why. I'll say that I saw education as the only way to uplift my family from its impoverished state. My mom and dad never had the chance to attend school, so I believed that lack of education was a major factor contributing to our poverty.
I resolved in my heart that I would go to school no matter what. One of the main reasons I've come this far is because someone always took an interest in me.
During primary school, one of my teachers recognised my intelligence and made it her mission to support me by providing notebooks and textbooks. After she left, I earned a scholarship to complete my senior secondary education in a standard school. This exposure introduced me to a higher calibre of students. Exposure teaches you a lot.
Sounds like you were such a lucky human
Yes! In my new school, I met new and interesting people, and I also began to earn money. I've always enjoyed finding solutions to problems, so I looked around to see which problems I could solve and make some money legally to help my mother.
I realised that many of my classmates were unwilling to do bulky assignments, so I started helping them with their work, and they paid me for my assistance. I also used to organise extra classes for junior secondary students for a small fee. I was able to buy a brand-new smartphone for myself and my mother.
Niceeeee. I love your determined spirit
I read your story, and I was inspired. What fueled your passion for studying abroad?
In 2020, while I was in SS3, preparing for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams, the pandemic hit, and I had to stay home for a long period. During this time, I opened a Twitter account, now known as X, as I had heard my friends talk so much about it in school.
Also, one of my friends' moms had enrolled him in a coding class, and he often spoke enthusiastically about it, piquing my curiosity. I would frequently visit his house to ask how it was done, and he was kind enough to teach me what he knew.
Oshey!… It’s giving ‘I’m curious’ vibe
Fortunately, I found coding fascinating as well. So, I used some of the money I had saved to buy the old laptop my friend was using, when his mom had just returned from the UK with a new one.
I continued learning and working on projects. One day, while checking through X [Twitter], I came across a remote internship opportunity I didn't feel entirely qualified for, but I decided to apply anyway. Fortunately, I was interviewed and offered a starting salary of $500.
Without any prior major work experience?
Ah-Ahn Nice oh!
Righhhht! It was almost unbelievable because I had never imagined receiving such a large sum of money before. I considered it to be large because of my family background. I was also very concerned because I didn't know how I would receive the payment.
I asked a female friend, Peace, whom I had met at a teenage coding tech event to help me inquire from people about how they received salaries from abroad, especially in USD. What solved my problem was a WhatsApp notification from Peace. She told me about a Leatherback app. Since I trusted her judgment, I didn’t ask her so many questions. I downloaded the app on my phone, and the rest, they say - is history.
This happened quite fast, so how did the scholarship happen?
So yeah, after writing my WAEC exams, I chose not to take the JAMB exam because I had aspirations to study abroad. I believed my life would improve if I could further my interest in computer engineering in a more advanced country.
My mom didn't know how I would make it happen, but she didn't pressure me to go against my wishes because she knew that I was determined and would pursue what was in my heart.
Eh! Your mum definitely isn't African.
Well, she is. Maybe she isn’t in the same WhatsApp group as others. Lol. So in late 2021, I actively started searching for scholarship opportunities to study abroad. I connected with numerous people on LinkedIn.
You even had a LinkedIn account?
Yes. I did.
Thank you. So I asked people on LinkedIn many questions as if I were hunting for hidden treasure. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about scholarships, read every comment, and digested many articles. I didn't have a specific destination in mind, and apart from the money I had saved from my job, I didn't have much financial resources.
Nevertheless, I searched for scholarship opportunities in top countries like the USA, Australia, Canada, and the UK. During my search, I discovered that schools in Finland, and Europe were highly regarded.
I checked out schools in Finland for nearly a year, and finally, luck shone on me earlier this year when Aalto University sent me a congratulatory email in early 2023. It was a scholarship opportunity; all I had to cover were my accommodation and flight expenses.
Fortunately, the Leatherback app I downloaded at that time was again very useful as I could convert my dollars to euros using SendR. I left for Finland in September 2023, and it's been a journey filled with a mix of emotions.
Mixed emotions, why do you say so?
As a Nigerian, I experienced many culture shocks when I arrived. If you asked most African international students about what they've witnessed, they would definitely mention the culture shocks.
First, the weather here is very cold. The sun, which I disliked in Nigeria, became a prayer point when I got here because it's almost non-existent due to the cold. Also, I've observed that people here are generally quiet. Making friends hasn't been easy, but it's only been a few months, so I know that with time, I'll be able to make friends.
What are the good things you're grateful for?
First and foremost, I'm truly grateful that I could easily exchange the currencies I had for euros with the Leatherback app. When I listen to other international students speak online, they often have issues with currency exchange and whatnot. With Leatherback, I could book a cab and pay for a trolley at the airport by just making a transfer and it’s instant. It makes my life easier.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I can't wait to see what the next five years will look like. God has guided me through all these stages, and I know He's not finished with me. My mom and siblings also rely on me, so I can't disappoint them.
I'm ready to do whatever it takes to succeed and become the best graduating student in my class. Also, in the next five years, I will be earning much more than I am now, which will help me to change the lifestyle of my siblings at home and even bring them over. My financial success story has only just begun.
What advice would you give to people coming to study in Europe?
Honestly, I've got plenty of advice, but I'll keep it short and sweet. First, do a thorough research of the country and school you're eyeing for your studies. Trust me, research was my lifesaver, and it gave me the lowdown on how things roll there.
Next up, when you're stashing up money, don't forget to budget for accommodation and other extra expenses. And here's a pro tip: find yourself a trustworthy payment partner that hooks you up with a Euro account. Having an already existing euro account even before you travel is a lifesaver for holding funds and receiving any cash you might need.
But here's the real game-changer – it's not just about having any payment partner; it's about being savvy with your money. Leatherback makes it work. Sending money? Totally free. Their exchange rates? Super competitive and top-notch. So you're not just saving money; you're dodging those annoying transaction charges. It's a win-win!
Leatherback mobile app has been built for international students to send and receive money in over 15 currencies. Aside from that, you can also create multiple currency accounts to hold money. Read this article to learn more about Leatherback