Constance Young-Harry made Distinction in Network in Computing during her Master’s programme at Coventry University, England, a feat she couldn’t attain during her undergraduate programme. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she talks about her success and how she was able to lead her department
Did you set out for distinction in your Master’s because you couldn’t make first class in your first degree?
I have always known I have what it takes to have good results. When I couldn’t make first class in my first degree, I made a vow to have it in my Master’s programme and I achieved it by getting a distinction. And I would say it was both easy and difficult. It was easy because of the determination I had, which gave me the courage to remain focused in the face of distractions, and it was difficult because of the sacrifices I had to make to study. But I was resolute; I wanted and expected nothing less than a distinction. In fact, I wanted to be the best amongst the distinction class and not just being one of them. Heaven knows I would have felt unfulfilled if I had anything less.
What did you do differently, unlike when you were an undergraduate, to make it a reality?
I made sure I was never overconfident because I was once a victim of it. I attacked my courses voraciously like my life depended on it. I prepared every day for my exam rather than waiting till the last minute. I tried to understand every concept taught before attending the next lesson. Most importantly, I trusted in God for a great result.
What was your reading schedule like?
I had sleepless nights, especially for a particular course – programming. Even when I tried to get a little sleep, all I was seeing was the course anytime I closed my eyes. During the first semester till the mid second semester, the library was practically my home. I only went home to eat; I’m not used to eating junks and of course it was cost effective. It got to a time I felt my rent was wasting since I rarely spent time in my house because there were also times I looked for hidden places to read.
Given your decision to be the best among others, was there a time you received special commendation?
Yes, quite a number of times. First was having a distinction in a course where I had been termed a failure. Second was being the best student in my department. Thirdly, the global leadership programme used my portrait for their new brochure. The university offered to publish my research work as both a journal and a conference paper.
Were there challenges you faced as a foreign student?
The challenges I faced included the fact that there were skills I was supposed to have acquired during my undergraduate days back home in Nigeria but I didn’t, due to the educational system then. I also wasn’t comfortable with the weather at first but I later acclimatised.
At what point did you travel to the UK for your education?
I left for Master’s six years after obtaining B.Sc. in Computer Science. I chose to go for my Master’s programme there because I wanted to have a very practical hands-on education, a world class education that would not be disrupted by strike actions, experience different cultures and have some international exposure.
How easy was it getting admission there?
Getting admission in the UK is as transparent as can be imagined. All they needed was for the applicant to provide the necessary documents and meet up with the necessary requirements, and then you get the admission.
Were there other Nigerians in your class?
Yes, there were some others and my relationship with other students was amiable.
How many of you had distinction in your class?
I’m sure of three of us, the rest I can’t really ascertain.
Comparing the educational system in the UK and Nigeria, what major differences did you observe?
The Nigerian educational system is interested in making a mountain out of an anthill while the system in the UK gives you a guide but lets you do the driving from the valley up to the top of the mountain and at your own pace. Also, at every necessary point, feedbacks are given for improvement.
Since you came back, what comes to your mind about the unemployment challenge in Nigeria?
The state of employment is depressing and frustrating. It’s actually a thing of shame when compared to the way students from other countries like the Middle East feel. They even make mockery of Nigerian students for studying so hard to get good grades. The difference is that jobs await them when they go back to their country, and such employment is, of course, based on experience rather than grades.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
The satisfaction on their faces and the confidence and strong belief they had in me kept the glow alive. I have never been coerced academically. My ability to know where I’m going to and where I should be per time has always given me confidence and direction in life. When I lack these, I tell myself it’s time to revisit and set new goals. So, I can boldly say I’m self driven. I’m a product of hard work and it has been my watchword as far back as I can remember and in all spheres of life. I’m a crusader for hard work and diligence.
Were you involved in other school activities?
Yes, I was. I was an international student ambassador. I also spared time to take some leadership lectures and a foreign language class.
How did you use your leisure?
I used most of my leisure studying and at nights, I attended salsa classes. I even attended a Global Leadership Programme and a beginner’s French class both of which earned me two certificates.
What were your happiest and most embarrassing moments in school?
The happiest memorable moment was when I had to defend my programming course work. I had spent a lot of time and energy and at a point, it was as if I was facing the red sea. I fasted, prayed and studied. For me, it was a do or die affair at that level. Even though I had a poor foundation as a prerequisite for that particular course, I still wanted a distinction. Finally, I had a breakthrough. After the defence, I could feel it that I would have a distinction. With the way I was happy that day, I couldn’t sleep that night. I watched as many films as possible as compensation for my leisure time that I missed. The end result paid off for all the sacrifices. On the other hand, the most embarrassing moment for me was during the start of this same course that brought me so much joy. My lecturers deemed me unfit as I happened to be the only lost student that didn’t have a clue on the subject at first. I cried after the class due to how embarrassed I felt. I couldn’t come to terms that my performance on the first day was so poor that the lecturer, in front of everyone, told me I couldn’t cope with the course and I was being rejected. He told me to pick another course. Fortunately though, it was too late to change, so the lecturer had to cope and of course, he assumed I was the dummy in the class. The feeling was terribly humiliating. But thank God my result boosted my image.
What are your aspirations?
I aspire to become a great network consultant especially to my country Nigeria. I would love to work in a firm that requires my expertise and has a platform for great minds like me to learn, grow and make impact.
What would you identify as key factors that could make excellent result at postgraduate level achievable easily?
Students should determine in their hearts the kind of result they want, settle for nothing less and doggedly pursue their goal like every of their breath depends on it. It’s also good that they associate with those who know more than they do, especially students that have undergone such courses and made good grades. Such students would expose them to a lot because they must have had firsthand experience in terms of successes and failures. Most importantly, they should acknowledge the fact that their success story is meant to give all the glory to God. With such consciousness, they would depend on God, who definitely will not let them down.
What informed your choice of Networking in Computing?
I already knew what I wanted to study and if I was not given the course, I would have studied Computer Network Security or Forensics. Interestingly, I’d always wanted to become a gynaecologist, but later I decided to become a geologist and finally I settled for computer. Networking, which deals with the effective and efficient interaction and communication within the computer family and of course the necessary security measures associated with it, was very interesting while the programming language part was a bit of hell for me. But in all, I thank God. There is nothing I do now that wasn’t envisioned and planned for as a child growing up. I would say there are one or two modifications which made my focus and vision dynamic and easy to achieve but it never changed.
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