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I almost gave up when I lost my dad – Soyinka, Bells University best graduate

23-year-old Soyinka Oluwawadamilola wanted to study Medicine abroad but couldn’t get go, thus, she settled for Biochemistry at the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State. At the end of her four-year programme, she emerged as the overall best graduate of the institution in the 2014/2015 academic session, with 4.88 CGPA. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she talks about the feat

You said in 2015 after your convocation that you still love to study medicine. Do you still have the plan?

Yes, I do, but preferably if I get the opportunity to do it outside the country. I’m not very desperate about it, but it’s something I still like to do. When I was seeking admission in 2011, I was planning to travel out to study, but I had issues with visa so I couldn’t go. I already got admission from the school, but I wasn’t given visa, so I stayed back. I’ve always wanted medicine. However, if there is no such opportunity to travel out for that purpose, I would work for a while and go for my Master’s in Biochemistry. I finished the National Youth Service Corps programme towards the end of last year, and I’m hoping to get a job soon, so I could raise funds to do my Master’s and then PhD not necessarily to lecture with the degree; I just want to get to the peak in my field.

You won four awards and cash gift during your convocation. Could you tell us more about that?

I won the Vice Chancellor’s prize for the overall best graduating student; the Pro-Chancellor’s prize for the best female graduating student with outstanding leadership qualities; best graduating student in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences prize and best graduating student in the Department of Chemical Sciences.

A lot of efforts must have gone into that. Could you tell us how easy it was to have first class?

Nothing good comes easy. One would either have to give up something for it or make sacrifices for it. It was not easy, considering how much time I dedicated to reading and the other sacrifices I made. I worked towards it because I wanted it. One other thing that also motivated me was that in my school, the best in each college enjoys scholarship, which covers tuition for that session. I felt I could win it, and that made me not only to work towards having a first class but also being the best in the college. I resumed late in my first year so I had second class upper. But over time, my result got better and I started having first class in my second year. Thus, for leading my college, I enjoyed the scholarship in my third and fourth years.

Were there challenges you faced in school?

Yes, there were challenges. There were times when reading was hard and I almost felt I couldn’t cope anymore, especially in my final year first semester. When we were on holiday after my third year, preparing for fourth year, I lost my dad. It was really a tough time and I almost gave up on being the best graduating student because at that time I already knew I stood a chance to lead my set. It was hard to do anything; his death affected my studies. There were times we would be in class and I would be lost in thought. There were also times I would have loved to read that I could not. So, it really affected me. That really affected my result that semester and it affected my CGPA, but thank God for seeing me through it all. The continuous support of my mum, siblings, friends and even some of my lecturers helped me as well, and I wish my dad was alive to witness my convocation. He would have felt very proud.

Did you have such performance in your previous schools?

In the words of Arnold H. Glasow, “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” There is nothing impossible to achieve if you can set your mind to it and do the right thing at the right time. Yes, to a reasonable extent, I had good grades in primary school unlike what I had in secondary school, though I was still above average. I made all my papers in one sitting. Thank God for my secondary school, Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary. The school really taught me good character and showed us that we can always be outstanding regardless of whatever terrain we find ourselves. So, getting to the university and knowing about the degrees, I decided then that I was going to be the very best, no matter what it would take. My parents really appreciate success and there were times they rewarded me for my performance, though they didn’t make it a habit. Being the best was the least I could have done to appreciate my parents’ support, especially my mum who has been of tremendous help, and has sacrificed a lot for me to have quality education.

What was your schedule like?

My movement was triangular, which was basically from the hostel to the lecture halls and to the cafeteria, then back to the hostel. That gave me the avenue to relate more with my heavenly father and set a defined goal for my life. I was also lucky to have friends, especially roommates, who stood by me through difficult times. I didn’t really have a reading pattern and I never kept to a particular schedule, but I preferred reading either at night or early in the morning. Once in a while, I read at noon if I felt like or to serve as a make up time for not reading at night. On the average, I was reading for about six hours daily and I tried to keep it constant so that I didn’t overwork my brain trying to put in top much at a time. For me, it’s not about the number of hours, it’s making sure you are learning something, and that is why people should know their ability. Also, I had an irregular sleeping pattern, sometimes I could sleep for about four or six hours, but I didn’t really deprive myself of sleep.

Despite all your hard work and sacrifices, how would you have felt if you didn’t make first class?

I would have felt very bad because I knew I made a lot of sacrifice to get it. When I resumed school in my first year, I resumed late, and I had every reason not to have done well that time, but I gave it my best and came out with a second class upper that year. Then, I decided that since I could make second class upper within that short period of time, then I could finish with a first class. That helped me to keep working hard, and thank God for making my effort count and for crowning my effort.

It has been said that it is good for people to know what works for them to have excellent result. What worked for you?

Yes, it is true that people should know what works for them, because what works for someone may not work for another. At first, during my first year, I tried having time table but I wasn’t able to stick to a reading schedule, more so that the frequency of my reading varied. It was largely dependent on the volume of books I had to read. So, what I did was to read whatever I felt like reading. As the workload increased, I had to make new plans. So I decided that at the beginning of the semester, when the workload would still be light, I would read ahead and study really hard so that during examination period I would do reviews instead of reading. This helped me a lot in reducing tension and stress during exam. It also helped me to have adequate sleep during those periods. Another thing is knowing the time of the day that works best for an individual. For me, I couldn’t read well when the sun was out so I read mostly at night or in the early hours of the day. Students can achieve whatever they set their minds to achieve. It’s never too late to start aiming for what they want, knowing that “With God all things are possible.” They need to put God first in all they do and He will put them first in whatever they do. Colin Powell once said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure’’.  There was nothing particularly extraordinary that I did aside putting God first, reading and praying. All I can say is just the grace of God and the help I got from family and friends. Looking back, I remember that there were some days I was practically lazy and didn’t do much. So there was nothing I did differently.

What are the job prospects for people who study this course?

Biochemistry has to do with examining the body’s immune response to germs and allergens, or the effectiveness of drug substances in the body. So, I don’t think there is anywhere a biochemist cannot work, if you can scale through biochemistry, then you should be able to work anywhere. But for record purpose, I will name a few. A biochemist can work in research institutes, forensic laboratories, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, agricultural companies, food manufacturing companies, health organisations, etc. It all depends on areas individuals want to further their studies in or enhance their career as a biochemist.

Are you troubled with the rate of unemployment in the country?

Yes, it is really alarming and it could make some people see school as a waste of time, given the struggle in getting a job after school. But I’m hoping along with others that by God’s grace, things will change for the better in this country.

What fond memories of your growing up do you still have?

I had a lot of fun growing up and I still remember a lot of things. I was a reserved person as a child, although there were times I made troubles. And it was hard to escape the rod, having a disciplinarian like my mum. I remember back then in primary school, I was fond of racing with my friends because I said I wanted to be an athlete. I played football occasionally and on some other days, I would dress up and act like a model.

Given your stature, would you still want to be a model?

I wouldn’t mind. I’m not very keen on it, but if the opportunity comes, I will take it. My mum is not very disposed to it; because of the way some people go about it by exposing their bodies. There are different kinds of models, so if I have to do it, it has to be different.

Did you have time for social activities?

People I was close to always teased me that all I knew how to do was just to read, from school book to other books. Some people felt I was too serious with my academics and they even teased me about it. But it never felt that way for me, though there was not much for me in the social side. But I made sure I always had my own way of relaxing.

Were you in a relationship throughout or it was a no-go-area?

The most important thing is to know your personality because everyone is involved in one form of relationship or the other. It is all about managing them. So I think you can be in a relationship and still be the best you can be, although I was not in any.

Did you miss anything being in a private university?

Sometimes, I missed the freedom a little, but mainly, I had no problem with it because I had been used to being in a boarding school. Besides, everything has its advantage and disadvantage. Also, there were times I wish I could prepare my own meals. Sometimes, I had issues with eating just any food, so I wished I could prepare my food the way I like it and doing things my way. However, overall, the system there has its own advantages and I believe the school influenced me positively.

Where would you like to work?

There are a lot of places I would like to work if given the opportunity, I have an interest in the health and well being of people, and I want to be a blessing to humanity, touch people’s lives positively and improve public health or render services that will save lives.


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