personal stories

Challenges of studying in a foreign Land #1

For those who may or may not know, I spent 6 and half years in Sudan, trying to study medicine. I say trying because, boy, it was indeed a struggle (Thank God for his glory, we made it). A friend requested that I write about my challenges of schooling in Sudan, so Sola Ogunbiyi, this is for you. Don’t worry, I will try and make this as lighthearted and unserious as possible.

There were actually quite a number of challenges living in Sudan as a foreigner. But today, I’ll like to focus on one issue which I believe deserves an entire post, Language. Arabic is a beautiful language, if you understand what is being said. Considering I read the Quran which is in Arabic and I’ve been attending weekend Islamic school since I was two years old where Arabic is included in the syllabus, I never thought living in Sudan would be as hard as it was, in short “I never experrerit“.

I had my first shocker when I came to sudan and realized that the Arabic dialect spoken there was as different as English and pidgin English. Back in Nigeria, in Arabic class, I was taught water in Arabic is “maa” and what is your name? is “Ma ismuka?”. So, I came to Sudan armed with my Arabic school knowledge only to learnt that water is actually “moya” and what is your name in Sudanese dialect is “ismi minu?” I felt betrayed.

I think I should point out that I attended an English university, so the lectures were supposed to be in English. Supposed to be, because some lecturers tongues just naturally drifted into Arabic while teaching and those were the lectures, where I drifted off to dreamland. Don’t judge me.

Yess 😩… I have shady friends

There was also the problem of conversing with patients and taking history from them. Having to need a translator to take a history from a patient meant that what should naturally take 5 minutes ended up taking ten minutes. And sometimes, the patient’s Arabic was so concentrated that my darling partner aka translator Amal, wouldn’t be able to understand or translate it to me. Which in turn led to our doctor giving us either an understanding nod or hell, whichever triggers his fancy, whenever we gave him an incomplete history.

Thats my partner, Amal, with the red arrow

Ohhh did I also mention, the issue of seeing a cute looking or in the words of my friend “a Masha Allah” brother, wanting to get to know him better and then realizing that he couldn’t speak English. Your crush literally gets crushed before it has a chance of beginning.

In my first year, Arabic was a compulsory course but we had the option of choosing either Arabic 1 or 2. Arabic 1 was for those who already had background knowledge of Arabic (it was difficult to pass), and Arabic 2 was for beginners who could not even write Arabic letters- it was pretty much like nursery 1. Well, guess who needed that A+ plus and embarrassed her Arabic school teachers by claiming not to be able to read the Arabic letters. Once again, don’t judge, I just really needed the pass.

Oh, and then the irritating question of “you’ve been in Sudan for so long, how come you can’t speak Arabic”. First of all, it’s none of your business, second of all, hundred of the students who have been studying in the “English” university still cant speak English and they didn’t get as much heat as we did. And thirdly, once we say,we can speak Arabic, the Dr’s or whoever will decide to start up an unnecessary conversation, so for me I find it easier to say, “I don’t understand” and just keep it pushing.

I also can’t forget the times when someone starts up a conversation and I say “Ma fahma”, I don’t understand, and then the person decides to still talk to me and expects me to answer back because if I can say “I don’t understand” in Arabic, then clearly I understand some words. It’s those days I feel like- “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

Let’s just say, all those times I spent on ZeeTV learning Hindi, might have been better spent on mbc learning Arabic. I am not saying I regret it, but, well, I learnt Hindi and there was no Indian bae, if I had learnt Arabic now, maybe just maybe, one of those crushes might not have been crushed before they got started.

And this is only just one aspect of the challenges I faced in Sudan… do let me know in the comments section if you’d like to read more. That being said, I hope you have a great week ahead, filled with laughter, love and of course coffee.

4 thoughts on “Challenges of studying in a foreign Land #1”

  1. I’d love to hear more! 😄 I’m a final year medical student from the other side of the Atlantic in Jamaica, and while I study in my own country, my campus is a regional university so I’ve had to act as translator in Jamaican patois before for my other Caribbean counterparts. You’d think we’re all from the English speaking West Indies so it would be all smooth sailing right? 😂 Not all the time, usually with our rural patients. Anyway, that language barrier sounds so stressful, as if medicine isn’t hard enough. Glad you made it through in the end. And shoutout to the friend who suggested you write this.


  2. Ahaha I can relate to this considering my Arabic is not good, or umm sort of non existent. 😦
    XD Today I had one of those lectures where” so the lectures were supposed to be in English. Supposed to be, because some lecturers tongues just naturally drifted into Arabic while teaching and those were the lectures, where I drifted off to dreamland.”

    “you’ve been in Sudan for so long, how come you can’t speak Arabic” well for me it is not Sudan, but it SHOCKS people so badly.

    I thought I knew only one sentence in Arabic before which was Maafi maloon, I learned later than even this one sentence is incorrect. XD (Alhamdulillah, my Arabic has been improving for the past few years)


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