From Ife to the UK with Dr. Femi Talabi

Michael Akande

600-level Medicine & Surgery

University of Ibadan

Please introduce yourself.
I am Olufemi, currently working as a clinical fellow in geriatrics and starting psychiatry training in August. I run, swim, read books and play basketball sometimes.


Pleased to meet you. What’s it like living in the UK?
I think it is pretty great here. The system works—there is constant light and internet accessibility, the quality of life is fantastic and you actually enjoy your medical practice for the most part. Of course, it is not all rosy. There is still a lot of systemic prejudice and living here can be lonely too.

How was life in Nigeria before you left?
I would say it was great. I did my house job at my alma mater and then worked at two international research projects. The experience was amazing.

What school in Nigeria did you have your medical education?
I finished from great Ife (OAU, Ile-Ife) the best medical school in the universe.

Haha! Some would beg to differ. What was your medical training in Nigeria like? And when did you finish?
I think the training was pretty okay. It was the typical Nigerian medical school experience, warts and all. I met some amazing people and tried to do other things outside medicine. I finished in 2016.

When did you decide to leave Nigeria?
My decision to leave was almost like an epiphany. I initially wanted to take the USMLE, maybe start residency in Nigeria first, but I knew I had to leave ASAP during house job, after seeing the system fail a few patients.

What did you do between when you finished and when you finally got to Japa?
It was basically house job, NYSC then CTRL + JP after a few months.

How did you go about the process of leaving Nigeria?
I took the exams—IELTS, PLAB 1, PLAB 2—applied to the GMC for registration and then started applying to Senior House Officer vacancies in the UK.

And did you encounter any stumbling blocks during the process?
Nothing much as per stumbling blocks. I had adequate funding and it was just about preparing hard for the exams. I also had a couple of friends that were writing the exams at the same time so we formed a support group and I would say this really helped.

Can you give us a breakdown of the cost of getting to your country?
It cost roughly about 10,000 pounds, from the IELTS exam to landing in Heathrow to resuming my first job.

How did you raise the money to cover the cost?
My parents did the heavy lifting. I am very grateful for their help—it made life very easy.


Do you feel any inferiority complex compared to the doctors who trained in the UK and did you encounter any problems with acclimatisation?
The first few months were tough—it was almost like doing house job again. The system is quite different… The disease distribution, culture etc are novel and it is a very steep learning curve. I think it gets better with time though and there are also lots of guidelines for most things. I do not think I am inferior to UK-trained graduates and the Nigerian medical school hustle makes you very adaptable, lol.

What do you miss the most about Nigeria?
I think I miss the weather and the people. I miss having some proper Nigerian food and I miss my family too.

Have you encountered any racism? What are the challenges of being a black immigrant from Nigeria?
Yeah, I have had quite a few experiences but then I believe in staying positive, keeping your head and keeping your head up—we escalate incidences of racism through the appropriate channels. I think the culture shock, the differences in practice, some systemic bias etc. would be what a black immigrant might expect to experience. I think it is probably worth having a look at the GMC’s Fair to refer to research findings.

What do you love the most and what do you dislike about the medical practice there?
I love the fact that you can get things done quickly and the system is quite fair. I am yet to find a firm dislike or deal-breaker.


If you had the option of moving to another country other than Nigeria, where would you go and why?
This is quite difficult. Maybe Canada or Australia, mainly because I can practise there without having to write too many exams and this would align with my girl’s plans.

How easy was it to find a Nigerian community there? Does it get lonely? Do you have family there?
I think it was easy to find a Nigerian community. There are quite a number of Nigerian doctors in the UK and we have vibrant groups on social media that make connecting easier. My girl and sister live here too so I have family around me.

How is the food? And how easy is it to access Nigerian meals?
I think the food is okay. Right now, let’s just say I am trying to train my palate to accommodate other foods apart from Nigerian foods. It’s very easy to find Nigerian foods though, especially in the big cities. You could mistake some places for Lagos!


With your experience, if you could do it again, would you still move to the UK?
Yeah, in a heartbeat. Moving here is one of the best decisions I have made so far.

Have you returned to Nigeria since you travelled?
No, I have not visited Nigeria since I moved. I would probably make a visit or two every year.

We’ve noticed you like to read. What are you reading currently and what are the top 5 books you’ve read?
Thanks for that. I am currently reading Robert Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road—it is really fascinating. It is very difficult to pick my top 5 books, they keep changing every year! I’ll say it is a list of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and four other books, lol.

On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate your experience there?
I will give it a solid 7! The other 3 is for God and the English weather.

Click here to watch our interview with Dr Rebecca Okolo (HealthThenMore) on studying in the UK, the US, and Canada.

Hehe. Would you ever consider coming back to Nigeria?
Yeah, hopefully in the future. I hope I can get my start-up off the ground before then and the motherland is a bit more stable. I’d like to contribute my quota to developing the country (cliché, I know). I am a firm believer in Africans fixing Africa.


Akande Michael Bolatito

Akande Michael is a a final year medical student of the University of Ibadan. He started as a blogger for Pendical and is currently pushing for greater strides for the group. He also volunteers at medical Non-Governmental Organizations in order to promote healthy living among people in his community. His hobbies are reading novels (mainly fantasy, science fiction, and crime thrillers), singing, writ- ing, and playing football. He does all these while still going through the rigours of medical school. He likes helping people and hopes to meet the needs of very many people through his course of choice. He is the third child out of four, because of which growing up was a big struggle.

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  1. Thank you for sharing!…it was an interesting read.
    I would like to ask though… you were able to prepare and take the IELTS, PLAB 1&2 within your NYSC period??… it’s possible to complete the entire process in a year?

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