At the recent convocation ceremony of the Obafemi Awolowo University, 23-year-old Raheema Arogundade bagged a first class in English Language – a feat no one has been able to achieve in 21 years. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, she expresses delight over her accomplishment, how she achieved it and some of her experiences in school.
Daily Trust: You just broke a 21-year-old record by graduating with a first class in your department. What did you do differently?
Raheema Arogundade: I think the only thing I did differently was probably not letting the record scare me off. The stories we heard about the department and getting a first class were quite daunting and that scared a lot of students off. Based on this, some people just decided to aim for the possible because first class was made to look impossible. However, when all is said and done, I just believe it was time and God wanted it to happen. My faith in God equaled my reading efforts.
DT: Would you say making first class was a wish come true or hard work paid off?
Arogundade: It was actually a combination of both. When I got admission to study English Language at OAU, I heard that in over a decade no one had gotten a first class. I was surprised and at first I thought the story was just made up to discourage new students. When I eventually realized it was the truth, I imagined and dreamt about being the one to break the record. So, it was kind of a wish but nothing ever comes by just wishing. I had to work tirelessly to achieve it because the department certainly didn’t make it easy and God also made it possible.
DT: How did you achieve your wish?
Arogundade: That’s one question that has no direct answer. All I know is that I put in a lot of efforts. I spent hours reading in the library, attending discussions and tutorials. Even during holidays, I would go to the Campus Library to read. More importantly, the values of consistency, hard work and prayers were expedient in achieving this.
DT: What were the challenges you faced in the pursuit of your goal?
Arogundade: Whenever I mentioned to some people how I was going to break the record God willing, they laughed it off. Some even said I was a dreamer and asked if I thought I was any special than every other student the department had seen. I was careful to tune them out and not let anyone create doubts in my mind. Also, OAU’s English department is probably the toughest in the country. So I had to put a lot of things aside, like having fun, to be able to achieve my goal.
DT: Were there times you wanted to give up on your dream?
Arogundade: Not really, but there were days I felt discouraged. Days where you channel all your energy and focus on an exam but when you see the result, it’s not exactly what you expected. However, I knew what I was getting myself into when I set the goal. So I was prepared that come what may, I will never give up on my goal. My family and friends were also a great support system. They were always there to advise and motivate me.
DT: Apart from the joy of making first class, what were your other memorable moments?
Arogundade: Well, I had quite a few memorable moments in school. I was not an extrovert or the outgoing type but I had a thirst to contribute to the society. I was part of a campus clean up initiative. Our goal was to better our environment and we tried our possible best in achieving this. I always found my Saturday mornings fun and fulfilling. We would go about picking up dirt and disposing off items such as plastic and the likes in the right way. Also, I was part of the drug free club and we enlightened people about the ill effects of drug abuse. Participating in these initiatives made me quite happy; I can never forget them.
DT: Law is always the first option for Art students, so what influenced your choice to study English instead?
Arogundade: Well, I initially wanted Law too but when the admission list came out, I was admitted to study English. I was sad at first and determined to rewrite Jamb and the Post UTME but when I started studying English I fell in love with it. I had also set my sights on breaking the record, so when the time came for another Jamb exam, I made up my mind to focus on English solely.
DT: How did you feel when your dream came true and how would you have felt if it hadn’t?
Arogundade: I felt happy and a little bit scared to be honest. I was scared because I realized there is never going to be room for mediocrity anymore. The only way to go will be higher and higher. That’s a bit scary but unlike what people say, fear can be a good emotion. No great person ever achieved something great without a little fear. Also, if I hadn’t gotten it, I would have felt really bad because I would have been so close to getting it. It may have caused a serious damage to my morale but thank God that didn’t happen.
DT: What is next for you?
Arogundade: I plan to further my education while exploring other opportunities in media and digital communication.
DT: What is your advice to students looking up to you?
Arogundade: You can achieve anything you want to and never let anyone tell you otherwise! There will always be naysayers but you have to be able to drown out the noise and focus on your goals. Also, saying you want something isn’t enough, you have to work it out. Like I always tell my friends; ‘don’t just talk the talk, work the work’. Always put God first too, pray like you’re not reading and read like you’re not praying.