For those of you that have been following this blog, you must be familiar with the name Nduka Uzoamaka, my younger sister, the Economist and originator of the brilliant 3 part article on the state of our economy and the way forward (Read Before the marriage, The rocky road after the marriage and The marriage counselling). She graduated First Class Honours from her Department and this is an article written by her, originally published on Bellanaija. What you’ll see below is a young girl whose tenacity saw her become a success despite the harsh learning environment she found herself in. Read and be inspired….
My name is Nduka Uzoamaka Chigoziri and I graduated from the University of Port Harcourt, Department of Economics on June 12th, 2015 with a First Class honours degree. I actually wanted to study accountancy but winning the CBN scholarship which mandated that I study Economics caused me to choose Economics and today I have no regrets. At 17 years, I secured admission into the University of Port Harcourt and I was both excited and scared. Between going to a boarding school and living with my professor parents, my life was no doubt a sheltered one. So, the thought of being away from home and on my own thrilled me. I had a list of all the fun things I wanted to do; join the handball team, join a dance group because I love to dance and I am good at it, learn to play the guitar etc. I thought I could combine all of these with my study and still make good grades. How surprising it was then for me to find out that a Nigerian University is not extra curriculum friendly. So I had to sacrifice my passions for my studies. 90% of the time, I moved in a triangle i.e Hostel to Class, Class to Library and Library back to the Hostel. My social life was almost non-existent but at least I had one, though skeletal.
On arrival to the University all eager for the experience, my first challenge was the learning environment. I had gone to a Secondary school where we were about 25 in a class, you know everyone by name and surname, each student has a seat in a ventilated classroom and there is a close relationship between teachers and students. Then I find myself in a place where we were about 200 in a stuffy class, you have to hustle to get a seat else you run the risk of standing for the duration of the class, you are discouraged from being close to your lecturers by your senior colleagues for fear of harassment and you are told to get the thought of getting a First Class out of your head as it is impossible. It was a lot to take in at once but I adjusted quickly.
The next challenge was the lecturers. Not only must you understand the course, you have to understand the lecturer in charge of the course. Does he/she like lengthy answers to his/her questions or would he rather you go straight to the point? Does he/she like original answers or would he/she rather hear exactly what he/she had taught you? It was quite tricky and in my 1st year, I had only 3 A’s out of 13 courses. It was a dismal performance and my dad urged me to do better. Like the saying goes, when in Rome, you act like the Romans. I had to change my tactics. So I began to make friends with bright students who were in higher levels and they gave me invaluable advice. They told me the lecturers I should avoid and the ones I could see as mentors. Most importantly, they let me know the patterns of most lecturers I will encounter and that went a long way to smoothen my journey.
Of all the challenges, the biggest was the results. My first taste of this was in the 2nd semester of my year one. I had written Introductory Mathematics for Economists 1 in the 1st semester and made an A. The next semester, I sat for the part 2 of this course with the same lecturer and I was graded with a D. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I was shocked! I quickly checked the scores breakdown and realized that the questions recorded were not the ones I had answered in the examination so I brought it to the notice of my HOD. Filled out the necessary applications to see my script and it was discovered that there was an error. So my rightful grade of B was given to me. This same incident repeated itself in my 3rd year and I repeated the same process. But not all were as lucky as I was in contesting their results and having the problem resolved. Most times, the fear of victimization and the sheer tediousness of the process discouraged a lot of people from it.
Throughout my years in school, I monitored my CGPA like a hawk. I was always calculating and up till the 1stsemester of my final year, I wasn’t sure I would realize my First class goal. The CGPA was always annoyingly close; 4.44, 4.45, 4.48 etc. It was my final semester that made all the difference as I had 6 A’s out of 7 courses including my project. I still remember exactly what I was doing when I got the news that I made a First Class. I was in the kitchen making eba and my mum sent me a text that the University Senate had just approved our results and I graduated top of my class and the only First Class Honours degree from my Faculty. I screamed and ran into the parlour to tell my brother the good news as I did my victory dance. Words cannot express how I felt. I later found out that I had set a record being the first female to be awarded a First class degree by the department of Economics in the University of Port Harcourt since its inception. Also, finding out that not only was I the best in my Department but also the best in my faculty and the best graduating female student from the entire University was quite overwhelming. To me, all these were bonuses as my main goal was to get the First Class which I did.
My advice to all students who aspire for success is never get discouraged or disillusioned. Even when it seems like your efforts are not counting, do not stop pushing. Surround yourself with people who share the same dreams with you and not naysayers. Be kind to people because it will attract help to you when you need it most. Endeavour to not just pray but trust in the Will of God because the ways of God are not the ways of Man. Above all, listen to that still small voice within you. The stories I could tell you about the various instances when that voice literally saved me are endless. I wish you all the best.