Elizabeth Ajaguna was the best graduating student of the Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, at the recent convocation of the institution. In this interview with PETER DADA, the 21-year-old, who graduated with 4.68 Cumulative Grade Point Average out of a possible 5.00, spoke about how she graduated with a first-class degree and other issues that shaped her experience in school
Could you tell us briefly about your educational journey?
I’m from Ikare-Akoko in Akoko North-East Local Government Area of Ondo State but I grew up in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, so I attended Rosysteps International School for my primary education. However, I attended Preston International School, Akure, Ondo State for my secondary education.
Since you grew up in Port Harcourt, why did you leave for the South-West for your secondary education?
I did so because my parents wanted me to come back to Yorubaland so that I would be able to learn the culture and more importantly, the language. That was also the reason why I attended a university in the South-West. I’m glad that I’ve learnt a lot about the rich Yoruba culture and language and I’m still learning, gradually though. My uncle and aunt that I stay with have been of great help in that regard. Right now, I know I can’t get confused when it comes to speaking my language (laughs).
Hotel Management and Tourism is not a course people readily do, perhaps because people feel anyone could function in the two areas, perhaps with little training. Have you always wanted the course or that was what you were offered and you were constrained to accept it?
Initially, I wanted to study Nursing but when I realised the school didn’t have nursing programme, I had to consider related courses. I thought of studying Food and Nutrition but I was told there was a course related to food and nutrition that I could consider. Someone spoke to me about Hotel Management, not only because it’s related to food and nutrition, but because it’s also a good course. He advised that I should consider it. My family members also encouraged me to consider it, and when I did some research, it looked like a course I would love, and today, I do not regret making that choice.
For the benefit of students considering it as a choice, what is the course about?
The course is all about hospitality and tourism; not just hotel management. Other areas of interest of the course are event management, hotel management, catering and nutrition, all of which are areas that have so many prospects. It also covers the knowledge required for people who want to become air hostesses, tour guides, event planners, run a tour agency, and do so much more. It is a very good course.
Some people tend to think it’s a simple course and that it would be easy to make first class in the course. How easy was it?
It was not an easy task. It required the same principle required to make first class in every other course. For me, I would tie the secret to studying hard, praying incessantly and having the support of my course mates, lecturers and head of department, all of whom contributed in one way or the other to my success. I tried as much as possible to read to acquire information and knowledge and I visited the library quite often to do research on many things. I also browsed the internet regularly to gather information and I believe all these helped me a lot.
Being a relatively new institution, what attracted you to Elizade University?
There were options before me at that time, like the Federal University of Technology, Akure; Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko and many others and of course Elizade University, but there was a time the officials of the Elizade University came to my secondary school; they introduced themselves and gave us reasons why we should consider their school and that they were waiting for students to come to the university. At some point, I visited the school myself to see things for myself and instantly I fell in love with the environment. That was when I made up my mind to attend the school. That was in addition to the advice of my parents that I should attend a private university.
We learnt that every student of the Elizade University is required to offer one entrepreneurial programme. Which of the entrepreneurial programmes did you opt for?
Event planning was one of the entrepreneurial programmes I partook in when I was in school. Event planning is a business where I believe there are many opportunities and where you could showcase your talent and express your taste to your clients, and where other people come as a team to make your work look great and pleasant. It’s something I find interesting.
Given the suggestions that entrepreneurship is the way to go, instead of looking for job, what is your plan?
Actually, I have so many things in mind but my immediate plan is to get a Master’s degree. I want to go for nutritional dialectics for my postgraduate degree and I intend to have my private business and help the society in the area of nutrition, to teach people how they can improve on their nutrition and live a better life, because right now there are so many diseases that come as a result of bad nutrition. So, by doing that course, I believe I would be able to educate people on how to be mindful of their health. Right now, I’m partaking in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps programme in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, after which I would start implementing my plans.
You were offered automatic employment by the university, did you see that coming?
It feels great and I’m happy about it. I didn’t see it coming, really and I thank the management of the university for that kind gesture.
How social were you while on campus?
I was socially active in school. I was a treasurer in the Students’ Consultative Forum, which was the body that planned for the students, organised social events and other things, but I did not allow those things to distract me or disturb my studies. There is time for everything and I thank God for the wisdom He gave me to manage my time effectively. After every lecture, when I got back to the hostel, I picked up my books and read, even at night, but I wasn’t really the type that read at night. Once it was 10pm, I went to bed. I didn’t sacrifice my sleep. Also, before I went out in the morning, I made sure I went through all that I was taught the previous day so as to refresh my memory. I believe students should know what works for them; it helps a lot.
What inspired you to contest the position?
I was elected by the school management and ex-students’ council.
What do you think qualified you for the position?
I think it was because of my academic performance and behaviour.
At what point did you start having excellent grades (a first-class level)?
It all started in the second semester of my first year.
How would you have felt if you had not got a first-class honours degree?
I would have been disappointed because I worked hard to achieve it.
Were there times you almost gave up on the dream to graduate with a first-class degree?
No, there was never a time I contemplated settling for anything less.
Some people tend to think that it’s easier to make first class in your course as they tend to see it as a simple course. Was it that easy?
There is no course that is easy, and there is no course that is difficult. It depends on the interest of the individual studying the course and as someone who is focused, all I had to do was to put in my best. Anybody who looks down on the course will be doing so out of ignorance. However, on many occasions, we, I mean my course mates and I, tried to break it down for our colleagues who thought it was not a serious course.
There has been some inactivity in the tourism sector in the country, what do you think should be done differently?
The country is not making the expected revenues from the tourism sector at the moment, but I will try as much as possible to promote the sector in my little own way to generate money for the government and create employment opportunities for many Nigerians. I believe there are things we can do differently. In different parts of the world, tourism is a lucrative sector if the right things are done.
Do you believe in having role models?
I do, and I have a few to mention. Jesus Christ is my number one role model, because having studied the Bible carefully; I think anyone would aspire to be like Hm. After Jesus, my father comes next. I love the role my father plays in the family and I look forward to becoming someone better than he is, both spiritually and mentally. He’s a disciplined man but very compassionate, with a very enviable zeal for excellence.
What were your most exciting and most embarrassing moments in school?
My most exciting moments were the times I hung out with my friends; it was always fun. I had friends who made me happy while I was in the university. However, my most embarrassing moment would be when I played football for my team and people were laughing at me because of my size back then. Of course, I had to let it pass.
What are your hobbies?
I love singing, dancing, cooking, decorating and reading.
Was it by choice that you didn’t go into any relationship or did you see it as a distraction?
Yes, it was a choice, not really because it could be a distraction; I just decided not to go into such yet for some other personal reasons. But I have no regret at all (that I wasn’t in a relationship), and I think it was good that I took that decision.
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