11th December 2019
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Woman know thyself

When I started my Masters Degree programme, I behaved like a regular student. I attended lectures, read the recommended papers, did everything that regular students did. Then I saw my first semester results. In one of the courses, I got a B-. B- in Nigerian grading system is a D. In my mind, I was like, me, first class graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. I thought about all my academic brilliance from secondary and primary school. I had excelled in all my academic pursuits even to professional courses. What could have happened? Am I not as smart as I thought? Maybe Nigerian education system is really inferior, so I thought. I was really disappointed. I had so many thoughts running through my mind.

I decided to pray about this like I usually do concerning all areas of my life. Prayer now does not mean asking God to change my grades. Prayer to me, means communicating with my creator since he knows me best. Then I heard it clearly – 2 Corinthians 10: 12. To paraphrase, it means , they that compare themselves with themselves are not wise, some versions says they are fools. Yes, I had been comparing myself to others and even commending myself just like that Bible verse says. Because I graduated with a first class and had excelled in past academic pursuits, I had thought myself exceptionally brilliant and then behaved like a regular student. I don’t know who deceived me or why I thought I could behave like that and also excel. Maybe it’s my first class and all my years in work environments where my supervisors always said, “you are too good”. I was also close friends with someone who could comprehend concepts after reading for just two hours. That’s not so with me. Anyway, I had learnt my lesson.

You see, I am not a regular student. During my undergraduate days, I start reading from the very first of school which gives me time to understand lectures properly. And I didn’t mind doing that neither did I listen to detractors who always said I was doing too much. My eyes were set on a goal and to be honest, that was the only way I knew how to study. While other excellent students may take a few hours to understand concepts, I need days and sometimes even weeks. I spent months in the library and read several texts just to understand. Some days I read overnight, what is referred to as AWOKO in Nigeria. That was how I was able to excel. Some other student might not need to spend that much time reading to get the same result, and that is fine. That’s who they are and I am not them. The great news is that when I eventually understand the concepts, they stay with me for life. That’s how my brain functions. During my first semester, I had not internalised this part of me.

When second semester came, I decided to go back to the real me and not my delusion of grandeur. I picked a spot in the school library where I went to after lecturers. When I got home at night, I also picked a spot in the common room. There were quite a few regulars there and we knew ourselves. Yes! This was the real me. When the results were released, I could recognise myself. There was a particular course (macroeconomics) which I had never come across before that I made an A, the comments from my lecturer showed surprise. What happened to me? Well, I was comparing myself to others and also commending myself, not also forgetting the culture shock I had experienced when I just arrived Europe. I talked about it here. By then I had also made a few friends and familiarised myself with the western education system.

Why am I writing this? To encourage you to understand how you function. The ancient Greeks say, Man know thyself. In this age of social media, it’s so easy to compare yourself with others and then forget yourself in the process. You might ignore that you didn’t start from the same place with the person you are comparing yourself with and several factors affect how you function. Don’t pick someone else’s strategy hoping it will work for you. If studying for two hours alone will give you that great achievement, good for you. However, if you know that two hours will not give you the same result, don’t beat yourself up or compare yourself to that person. Take the number of hours you would need to achieve what you want. We are not all wired the same way. There are many roads to success and we don’t have to take the same path. Know yours and stick with it.

From the same author: Random Musings| Of Culture Shock And Mental Health

Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com

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