Chinomso Choice Eyegheleme, a young Nigerian man based in New York City in the United States of America (USA) is the founder of ConnectExpat, an online community that helps international students to share information and network with other persons.
Nomso (for short) arrived in the USA in December 2019 to begin his studies in January 2020. 17 months later — in May 2021 — the Product Development Engineer would launch ConnectExpat.
He worked as a Study Abroad Consultant in his home country before travelling to the US. On this role, Nomso guided prospective international students, helping some of them secure admission into universities in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).
In this interview with TOP MEDIA, Nomso shares insight into the information space he operates, as well as the ‘Japa’ (a Yoruba slang which means “to run, flee or escape”) phenomenon in this era.
TOP MEDIA: Please tell us about yourself.
Nomso: My Name is Nomso. I am Product Development Engineer with Intel, an American multinational corporation and technology company. I am also the Founder of ConnectExpat.
TOP MEDIA: ConnectExpat is a platform created for international students to support each other. How have you been achieving this?
Nomso: Most of the time, predecessors can help successors with information that would help them; literally like past questions. ConnectExpat makes this easy for its users.
We connect users based on nationality and location.
This simple networking way makes you find your people around you, wherever you go. So, you have a digital community in your pocket, like your ‘home away from home’.
TOP MEDIA: Tell us your migration story.
Nomso: Shortly after I entered the US, I felt the loneliness first-hand, slurring my tongue speak, metaphorically walking on eggshells because I am not accustomed to the sensitivity of such a diverse environment. Even when you socialise, you can barely keep up: the food, the games, the conversation, all of it is foreign.
After struggling for a few weeks, I met a Nigerian student. I automatically went back to default settings, talked normally, became comfortable, [and] asked questions about similarities to our homeland and native food substitutes. I felt as if I found something I lost, I felt a huge relief. ConnectExpat looks to make this relief accessible, literarily at your fingertips.
TOP MEDIA: Is it just for students who hope to study abroad?
Nomso: Our first segment is for those that want to study abroad, and those already studying abroad. Any type of social class.
TOP MEDIA: What does it cost users to use your platform?
Nomso: Zero Naira, absolutely free!
TOP MEDIA: What are the challenges so far?
Nomso: Like many start-ups, we lack resources. Development has not been as fast as I would like, and stretching finances thin sometimes cause technical problems.
Then next to resources, we lack time. Since we have full-time jobs, our attention is not 100% on ConnectExpat.
TOP MEDIA: According to Macrotrends, the current net migration rate for Nigeria (in 2023) is -0.273 per 1000 population, a 2.5% decline from 2022. What are your thoughts on the ‘Japa’ syndrome?
Nomso: Japa syndrome is necessary. The world is becoming globalised and sometimes, different environment stimulates different opportunities and talent.
We differ in so many ways. The plant that grows in Africa may not grow in Asia, and vice versa. So it is for people.
TOP MEDIA: Considering you’ve been staying abroad for a few years, what advice would you give prospective Nigerians hoping to ‘Japa’?
Nomso: ‘Japa’ legally and through the right channel. It’s hard starting again in another place. Different food, culture, laws, and sometimes language. If you add immigration issues to it, it would be very hard.
Number two: Download ConnectExpat, your home away from home, ConnectExpat makes you aware that you are not alone.
You see videos of Nigerians abroad talking about the loneliness, complaining about the social life. ConnectExpat solves all those problems.