20171021

I planned to have First Class & I did it – Pretty Nigerian Lady

Immaculata Onuigbo, 22, emerged as the best graduate of American University of Nigeria, Yola, as she made 3.98/4.00 CGPA from the Department of Petroleum Chemistry in the 2016/2017 academic session. In this chat with Punch's Tunde Ajaja, she talks about her experience.

Do you recall your most memorable moment in school? 
I would say my most memorable moment in school was my graduation day. As the valedictorian, I was to make a speech. Given my shy personality, I was very nervous and worried that I might go up there and blank out. But on getting up there, I looked at everyone seated; my parents, teachers, friends, mentors, coaches, teammates and well-wishers, and I realised these were the familiar faces that had shaped me into the woman I had become. Suddenly, I was calm and I savoured every moment of my speech delivery, knowing that through that, I had the opportunity to thank them most sincerely.

How easy was it to have 3.98/4.00 CGPA? 
I would say it was neither easy nor difficult. I was lucky to have chosen a course I am passionate about and to have discovered a study pattern that worked for me. Studying Chemistry became part of me because I found it interesting. I had always wanted to do Petroleum Chemistry if I ever got into AUN because I enjoyed science courses while in secondary school. So, I never saw studying as stressful, rather I saw it as a journey to learn something new.

Your CGPA at graduation implies that you had A in most of your courses. 
Yes, I had 4.00/4.00 GPA in all but two semesters when I had 3.92/4.00.

Seeing your result as you progressed, did you know you would be the overall best in the school? 
When I first got into AUN, I never planned or imagined that I could emerge as the best graduating student, even though I had planned to work tirelessly for a first class so that I could make my parents very proud of me. Thus, I made a plan and worked on it every day. So, specifically, it wasn’t to lead my set. However, I would attribute my success to the enabling environment provided by my school, my encouraging instructors, a strong desire to succeed, my faith in God and a good support system from home, well-wishers and friends.

Do you remember how your parents received the news? 
Yes, I do. My mum was the first person I called after I was confirmed as the valedictorian. All I can remember was lots of shouts of joy, a little crying and showers of prayers on me, and she was praying for even better things ahead. That was very emotional and eventful for me.

How would you have felt if you didn’t make first class? 
I would have been a bit disappointed, given the amount of effort I put into studying and the expectations from people looking out for me. But the truth is that at the end of the day, it is not the classification of the degree that matters but what one has been able to learn and can apply in the world.

Some people would assume that you were always reading to have that kind of result, what was your reading schedule like? 
I knew what worked for me and I used it accordingly. For me, I usually don’t study for long hours; I could take a nap or have movie breaks – say 30 minutes to one hour; or engage in sports, which was a major part of me. I had a planner where I wrote down every task as they were given. On my computer, I used the calendar on my MS-Outlook to map out how I would get those tasks done on time. I also disciplined myself to adhere to the times allotted for each task and that planning gave me time to revisit materials at least twice before tests. Of course, at some point, some tasks got rolled over and some were done earlier, but it helped me not to be overwhelmed over school work. Time management is key for students who want to excel.

In spite of these activities, what did you do differently about your academics? 
Averagely, I think I put in similar study hours as most students. I guess what I did differently mostly was organising tutorials for my classmates. Before every test/exam, I usually offered to explain course materials to my colleagues and this helped me understand better as I made sure I understood the material well enough to be able to simplify it for others. I also entrusted my schooling into God’s hands and consulted my instructors whenever I needed further clarifications.

What has always been your dream job? 
When I was much younger, I always thought I would delve into finance and someday be a bank manager, but along the way, science found me (laughs). The amazing thing about the course I studied is the diverse career options it offers students who do it. Even as most people are skewed towards a career in the petroleum industry, the mixture of courses taken in the programme gives a lot of alternatives. For example, I find alternative energy research interesting and would likely follow that path. Under Petroleum Chemistry, students gain knowledge about downstream and upstream operations and alternative energy research. The specific areas include petrochemicals and polymer processing, oil refining and distribution, laboratory techniques for petroleum products analysis, cracking techniques and oil spill control measures. For students doing an engineering concentration, in-depth oil exploration, oil production, reservoir facilities management, petroleum flow process designs and transportation are taught. So, it’s a very interesting course.

We learnt you won some scholarships, could you tell us more? 
Yes, I won two scholarships. First was for my secondary school education which was awarded to me by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, Abuja. The foundation was initiated by friends and family of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua to sustain his legacy. I was among the second batch of beneficiaries in 2006. The second was a full university scholarship to study at the American University of Nigeria. I can only hope to continue to make them proud of me. I also won a couple of awards during our graduation awards dinner.

Were there times your parents rewarded you for hard work? 
As my parents do not earn so much, I never expected too much from them. Even at that, they always tried to reward me in their own little ways. My mum’s tireless prayers for me were enough reward I must say.

What are your aspirations? 
I love to learn something new every day, so I’m working towards furthering my studies and then working as a researcher and as a lecturer. I hope to work at a renowned energy research institute to gain experience and then lecture at a university. The job opportunities for someone with Petroleum Chemistry degree are many.

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