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Nigerian grad follows family tradition at NSCC in Stellarton

AJ Ibe-Diala relaxes at the Pictou campus of the Nova Scotia Community College a few days before his graduation.
AJ Ibe-Diala relaxes at the Pictou campus of the Nova Scotia Community College a few days before his graduation.

When AJ Ibe-Diala graduates from the Pictou campus of the Nova Scotia Community College on Thursday, his family will be watching from home, about 8,000 km away.

Ibe-Diala is from Nigeria, and is graduating from the Welding Inspection and Quality Control program.

Unable to attend the graduation ceremony, his parents and his siblings will watch the event live-streamed on the Internet from the Pictou County Wellness Centre, where it’s being held due to construction at the campus.

He said his father and uncle had planned to come to the graduation, but weren’t able to obtain their passports on time. “It would have been nice to have family around, but they get to watch it, and they get to see me.”

Ibe-Diala came a long way to obtain his diploma, which may be unusual for its own sake, but what makes it even more rare is that he’s the third member of his family to graduate from the community college in Stellarton, all in the same program.

His cousins, Julian and Kingsley Emeronye, both attended NSCC previously, and recommended Welding Inspection and Quality Control to him. “That’s how I ended up coming,” he said.

Ibe-Diala holds a degree in physics from a university in Nigeria, but said in his home country, people often do further schooling. “People in that country don’t stop at a degree – they always want to do more,” he said, adding that having a diploma from Canada is an advantage.

Both of his first cousins had studied pipeline engineering in the United Kingdom before coming to Nova Scotia, and Ibe-Diala said they researched programs that would complement those degrees, finding the NSCC course. The Pictou campus is the only one that offers Welding Inspection and Quality Control, a two-year program.

“There’s no such program in Nigeria,” he said.

In fact, NSCC department manager Tony Rose said the program is fairly unique. “There’s not a lot like our course across the country,” he said.

When Ibe-Diala first walked into the Nova Scotia Community College in 2015, he felt a bit like a celebrity. His cousins were quite well-known around the campus, and because of this, many people talked to him. “They are so popular around here,” he said. “Even before I came, they knew me, that made me even more comfortable.”

He noticed right away that was different from his home country.

“When I first came to Canada… people were smiling at me. It’s something I’m not used to,” he said, noting that in Nigeria people only smile at you if they know you. “But everyone was doing that, I was confused.”

Ibe-Diala said he phoned his cousin because he didn’t understand what was going on. “He said that was the culture. People smile at you, they want to talk to you.”

He said he loves the welcoming spirit of Nova Scotia, although the colder weather took some getting used to, as he was accustomed to 30-degree weather in the African country.

Both of his cousins still live in Canada – working in Alberta – and he was able to live with them for five months while completing a work term between his two years at NSCC.

Now, his younger brother is thinking of coming to Canada to study, although he’s wants to take courses in the medical field.

While Ibe-Diala said he misses his family, “Canada is my second home now,” and he’s hoping to obtain a job in his field in either Halifax or Edmonton.

“I’m looking for a job as quality control inspector,” he said, noting that he has to write a practical exam in order to be qualified to work as a welding inspector, which he hopes to do soon.

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