The best student in the Department of International Relations, Lead City University, in the 2015/2016 academic session, Ayobami Afuye, had 4.64 CGPA. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, the 24-year-old speaks on the events that characterised her days as an undergraduate, life outside school and what she wants to make of her career
How easy was it to have a first class?
I wouldn’t say it was easy neither would I say it was hard. I believe we have to work for everything we want in this life. My aim was to graduate with a very good result and I believed that to achieve that I would have to work hard. Luckily, my efforts were crowned with grace, hence my success. I didn’t plan to graduate with first class, so it wouldn’t have made any difference if I didn’t have it.
You were the best in your department; did that come to you as a surprise?
Naturally, wherever I am and whatever I venture into, I always put my best into it. It wasn’t planned; it was basically a result of hard work. When I resumed in my first year, I was told by many people that it was impossible to make a first class in my department. People said the lecturers in the department were too strict and that the higher you go, the lower your CGPA becomes. I love challenges, so I took it as one and I never got discouraged. Rather, I felt the need to put in more effort.
International Relations is increasingly becoming a very popular course, what attracted you to it?
With my ambition to make a meaningful and positive impact in the world, I felt International Relations was the best course to give me the necessary background knowledge I needed to effectively carry this out.
What does the course entail?
Simply put, the course primarily entails how states engage in relations with one another guided by national interest. The dynamics of International Relations as a course is that it can be applied anywhere. It entails studying state behaviour and relations with other states; it should be noted here that these ‘states’ are characterised by human beings and these are the people that carry the image of the ‘state’ and determine what actions the state carries out also. In studying International Relations, one gets to study at least a bit of almost everything necessary, which creates more opportunities and enables one to venture into whatever the heart desires to do. Hence, in my opinion, International Relations is not restricted to a particular job, rather it is a course that makes the individual dynamic, flexible and indispensable. It is one of the best courses to study in the higher institution. It is never boring, it’s always mind-tasking and very critical in its implementation. I’m in love with it. There was no particular point in time where I felt the need to change my course or encountered difficulties understanding what I was being taught. I believe the first step in choosing what to study in the higher institution is to know and choose what you love in order to be successful and that was exactly what I did.
Was that what you had always wanted as a child?
Growing up in a family of three children, and being the youngest, listening and always taking instructions, I had always yearned for a day when I would be in charge. This really influenced my dream as a child. Therefore, as a child, my dream was to one day rule the world.
What was your performance like in your previous schools?
I always ensure I put my best into whatever I do, which has been like an in-built trait right from my childhood. I was the class captain in both my primary and secondary schools and I was the Labour Prefect and the Health Prefect respectively. I also received various awards too. And back then, you need to have good academic record to occupy certain positions, so I had good performance, reasonably. When I got to the higher institution, I simply continued what already existed.
Does it mean passing your O’level exam was easy?
It wasn’t very much easy; it took a lot of studying and preparation and my motivation was the encouragement given to me by my family members. And thank God I didn’t have any delay in securing admission into the higher institution; it was only tough getting the course I desired. But eventually I got admission in 2012.
Were you social?
I know the popular assumption is that you can’t be social and have academic success, but that is definitely not true. I would say I was social to an extent. I enjoy doing things in moderation, so I could say I was moderately social. Graduating with a first class doesn’t entail not having any social life and reading all the time. Apart from reading, I have other hobbies such as hanging out with friends, dancing, listening to music and of course watching football. I’m a proud Chelsea fan (my blood is blue). While on holidays, I did a bit of everything. Doing just one thing all the time bores me easily so at such times, I try to mix things up.
Some people tend to think that you really need to deprive yourself of sleep so as to excel in school. Was that what you did as well?
I love my sleeping time and I don’t joke with it. I believe if you prepare well from the outset, you wouldn’t have to deprive yourself of sleep and other pleasures of life to get a first class. So, I read well at the right time and I slept well anytime I had to. Interestingly, I had no particular pattern of reading, so I read anytime I felt like. Once you have your eyes on the goal and you work at it, you wouldn’t have to deprive yourself of sleep, because some people tend to resort to such strategy when they didn’t prepare ahead of time. I didn’t have a reading schedule but I constantly kept myself up to date with everything I needed to know.
Do you think that is the reason why people fail?
The definition of failure is relative to what one interprets it to be. Most students who fail don’t even know they are failing: There are students who get into the higher institution to pass out with a third class, but also, that is not the end for them. However, I believe most of the students who fail end up like that because they don’t discover themselves before choosing their course of study, and when they do, they don’t know their strength so they could build on it, neither do they know their weakness so they could overcome it. This could be a major reason why students fail. In essence, I believe success in academics would be more attainable when students study the courses they have genuine interest in, and when they get to school, they should know what works for them, like when they assimilate faster. With that, they won’t have to follow others around aimlessly. I know some people saw me as being too serious, but that never bothered me, because I was simply maximising my strength.
Was your emergence as the best in your department your first recognition?
No, I didn’t win any scholarship but I won various awards, such as, Best student (100-300 level); best graduating student in International Relations; best graduating student in Nigerian foreign policy, best graduating student in Diplomacy, Most Punctual Ambassador by Nigeria Model United Nations Society. I hope to get more as I proceed in life.
Were your parents surprised that you made first class or they saw it coming?
I think my academic progress since my nursery school days didn’t make it much of a surprise to my parents that I made a first class. I think the surprise would have been if I graduated with anything less. Luckily, I’m blessed with wonderful parents who never pressurised me about getting first class, neither would they have demonised me if I didn’t. However, they were very happy and proud of that feat. The smiles on their faces and their joy were more than enough gift that I would have ever received for my academic excellence. It’s always heart-warming when we make our parents proud; it’s one of the few ways we can appreciate their efforts.
Did you have interest in other materials apart from your school books?
Learning isn’t about studying alone. You learn from social interactions and activities. The higher institution is meant to shape you to become fit for the real world not only through the classroom but through organisations in school and relationship with fellow students and lecturers. I was the academic director of my department; I was the Secretary-General of NigMUNS (The Ambassador’s group); I was a member of the social committee for my department and we organised departmental dinners and award nights. So, it wasn’t solely all about my books alone, but I joined organisations in school which would help me to become a better person. I also had time to spare for my friends; we hung out a lot. Schooling, especially at the tertiary level, in my view, goes beyond attending lectures and passing exams.
Since you left school, what has the experience out there been like?
Luckily for me, the higher institution I attended has a very flexible mode of learning, where it is more of an interactive class. In relation to the course of study, we could begin a class with an argumentative discourse where we (students and lecturer) talk about the recent happenings in the country and in the international community. This improved the lecturer-student relationship and enabled us to have good and healthy relationship with our lecturers. In light of this, there was nothing I was taught in school that was at variance with happenings in the outside world.
Given that private universities are seen as somehow restrictive, especially as it regards freedom of their students, did you have an issue with that initially?
The school I attended is one institution that creates opportunities and exposes and challenges you at the same time. They never ‘caged’ us, rather they allowed us to express ourselves, with moderation though. So, I can say that there was never a time I wished being anywhere else because I got one of the best education one could get in this clime and I was availed my social freedom at the same time. So we can say that I got the best of both worlds.
What are your aspirations?
As much as I enjoy being in control, I also enjoy helping people a lot. I have so many future plans which I’m already working on, but in terms of my ambition, I definitely see myself as a future Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of this wonderful country Nigeria. You know, it’s high time we women stepped up the game and hopefully, Nigeria would have been flexible enough to recognise the strength and equal capability of women which could match those of men. My aspiration in life, basically, is to make positive impacts wherever or whatever position I find myself in. I’m troubled about how the rate of unemployment affects the Nigerian economy and development in general, and I believe something could be done about it.
Source: The Punch News