In an interview with Punch Correspondent, UNILAG first class graduate has explained why she cried when she graduated with first-class.
Are you striving to be the best in whatever you do? Then the interview with Sarah Oshunniyi a UNILAG first class graduate will probably motivate and inspire you.
A little intro: Sarah Oshunniyi is a First class graduate from the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos (UNILAG). Her dream was to graduate with first class and yes she did. She graduated with 4.53CGPA. She is a 20-year-old pretty girl.
Below is her interview with TUNDE AJAJA; Please Read and Share.
To have graduated from university at 20 means you gained admission at a relatively young age, what fond memories of your early years do you still have?
My childhood was a lot of fun; my family travelled a lot so I got to go on adventures and visit new places with my family. One of my fondest memories was actually a trip to Disney World at a time when I was finally big enough to go on the rides in Magic kingdom. I had so much fun.
Would you say you are in your dream profession?
Growing up, I wanted to be both a doctor – like my aunt and uncle – and a lawyer, like my dad. I chose law and there is a story behind it, which I would share with you. I talked a lot as a child and was always ready to defend others (laughs). I thought (and still think) lawyers are superheroes, always jumping in and saving the day when someone is in trouble. I wanted to help people, I wanted to understand the laws of the land and use them to ensure people get justice. And I saw myself as a judge one day. However, I failed my diploma examination into the Department of Law.
Why did you opt for a diploma?
I passed the West African Senior School Certificate Examination once and passed the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination but I was too young to enter the university, so I put in for the diploma programme.
You once said you had the worst result you could imagine, how?
The required result to enter for law was AAA or AAB. Yours truly got BBD (laughs). I believe I was too complacent in my approach to academic work at that time. I was overconfident but unwilling to put in the needed work. The way it worked was that the system would automatically place you in another department. So, I was offered philosophy.
Were you okay with it or did you try to retake the examination?
My dad wanted me to retake the examination, but for some weird reasons, I refused. I started questioning myself, wondering if law was what I really wanted to do and if I was ready to give the number of years I would need to become a lawyer. So, I decided to try this new course and see where it would take me, after all, I knew I could always go back to study law with philosophy as my first degree.
There is an age-long perception among students that philosophers believe there is no God and that seems to dissuade some of them from choosing the course, what’s your thought on this?
There are a lot of misconceptions about philosophy, especially in Nigerian society, primarily because philosophy equips you with critical and logical skills. It makes you question things and shakes the foundation of what you think you know, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Your beliefs and opinions could change after it or become much stronger.
What part of the course did you find most interesting?
There were a lot of courses that were interesting, but I particularly loved the philosophy of Karl Marx.
As a philosopher, what amazes you most about life?
Life is constantly changing, nothing stays the same. What we think we know today could change tomorrow. Our scientific positions, political stance, or the best ways of doing things could all become ancient, irrelevant, and insignificant. The status quo is constantly being challenged.
When you were a child, were there times your parents coerced you into reading?
My parents have always driven us to do our best and be our best in anything we find ourselves doing. It is from that background that I keep pushing myself forward. I have always loved to see the pride on their faces when I do well.
You once said you almost gave up on graduating with a first-class degree, what happened?
I was frustrated. I had decided to do my best in philosophy because I didn’t want to fail again. So, after putting in more work than I ever did, I expected to see the reward, but I didn’t. Instead, it was shoved in my face that my best wasn’t good enough. I felt the system was against me, yet I just could not fail again.
After the frustration, what was the turning point?
Before my final year, I was given the opportunity to work as an intern at Emerging Africa Capital Group, under the direct supervision of Mrs Toyin F. Sanni, a leading industry player. It was that internship that showed me that hard and smart work would eventually give results. It may not seem like you’re progressing but you are. This gave me hope; I also had overwhelming support from my family members, who continued to call me a first-class graduate even when I was getting strong second-class upper grade results.
Specifically, from what you learnt during your internship, what did you start doing differently?
Smart work is hard work plus a little creativity. I had to stop copying other people’s methods; I found my own approach to succeeding in school. I had to do things my own way.
Could you capture your reaction the day you checked your result and realised you would eventually graduate with a first-class degree?
I was in my room when I got the call from a friend that most of the results were out and I had A’s in all of them. I didn’t believe the person. I mean; I couldn’t have possibly got so many A’s from a department that would hardly give A’s in final year. This was my final semester! It’s simply not possible. Those were my thoughts. Then, I checked it myself and there it was; seven A’s, including in my project, and one B.
I didn’t even know when I went on my knees and started crying. I must note that it was really hard for me. The reward for the hard and smart work I put in was delayed but it eventually came. I couldn’t go out all the time, I couldn’t skip classes unless I was really tired and I had reading goals I set for myself every day. I also had to distance myself from some of my close friends, whose values didn’t align with mine. But overall, I owe it all to God, because He gave me the drive for success; He gave me the people that helped me along the way, and He gave me the spirit of excellence and a family full of support.
On average, what was your study schedule like?
I made sure I slept well at night. I never did overnight reading as we called it because I maximised the daytime. In my early years, I spent quality time in the library and anytime I didn’t have lectures, I would be there from 8am to 4pm. It became my sanctuary, but in my final year, I spent more time in my room reading and working on my project.
How would you have felt if you had not graduated with a first-class degree?
I ask myself this often; I think I would have felt very bad, considering that I was 0.4 points away from having a first-class degree before I eventually made it. Meanwhile, my parents, friends, extended family members and my Emerging Africa Capital Group family were a great inspiration.
Were you involved in other school activities or was it all about your academic work?
I wasn’t so much into other activities but I really admired people who got involved in school politics and other things. I would say I was fairly social; I believe there should be a balance in everything we do.
What was your typical day like at the time?
Wake up and get ready for class, then go to the library in-between classes and read up what was taught in class earlier. After class, I’d go straight to my room, eat and read everything I jotted down in class. Then watch a movie and sleep. At my leisure, I loved reading, seeing movies and visiting new restaurants.
What would you consider as the most extreme thing you did for education?
Changing my circle of friends would be the most extreme. It wasn’t easy, because these were people I had known for years. But I had to do it for my progress and sanity.
What were your most memorable moments in school?
My saddest moments in school were the times I checked my results in my early years, because my hopes would be really high and then they would be dashed. My happiest moments were my final weeks in school.
Some people believe that being in a relationship as an undergraduate is a distraction, what was your experience?
I believe people should achieve a balance in everything; school life, work life and personal life. But I was also strongly dedicated to education. I was in school for one purpose, which was to succeed. That was my top priority and I couldn’t afford any distraction.
What are your aspirations?
As opposed to the abstract nature of the course I studied; I am very interested in the world of finance. More specifically, I’m interested in investment banking. That’s the industry where I will like to work.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not?
I would have loved the opportunity to travel more. Due to the structure of the school calendar, travelling during summer wasn’t possible and I wasn’t going to skip classes nor miss tests just because I wanted to see the world. There’s time for everything.
What advice do you have for students, both the incoming ones and those already in school, on how to have excellent results?
Don’t let the system discourage you. Don’t just work hard, work smart. Find your most suitable approach to studying, never be afraid to ask for help and help others too. From my own experience, I found that no one likes to see that their best efforts weren’t good enough, but what you do after that is very important.
Do you give up or do you put in the needed extra effort? I decided to look for more techniques and smarter ways to get ahead of the system. I changed my writing styles during assignments and examinations; I read widely, more than what I needed for my examinations just to have broad knowledge; I was never afraid to ask for help and if I didn’t understand something in class, I’d ask a friend to explain. I could say I got more critical and creative in my approach. Students can learn a thing or two from these.
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