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I can still vividly remember the very first day I set foot in the University of Benin. It was not only my first visit to the school where I would spend the next 5 years of my life, it was my first time on a University campus. Fifteen years old, eight months out of secondary school, I felt no excitement or confidence; I was just a very nervous teenager whispering into my cousin’s ears every now and again, “Everyone is looking at me; they can tell I’m new.”

I’m laughing now of course, as I did many times during my later undergraduate days when I remembered my naiveté. Anyone who has spent a week on campus knows that nobody really “sends” you. With all the stress of registration, getting accommodation and all the other attendant pressures of a new session, probably no one even noticed me, much less everyone. Not that I was that hot, anyway.

Thankfully, I grew up, grew into it all and had a wonderful first year, and I am both grateful and proud to have survived the “no man’s land” that is the Nigerian campus and turned out great despite the fact that I was still a teenager in my final year. But, looking back, there are things I wish I’d done differently during my first year. I’d like to share them with you, because whether you are a “JAMBITE”, have been in school for a while, or are yet to gain admission, I believe they will make you a better student than I was.

Hit the Ground Running I spent the better part of my first semester accumulating magazines, making friends and going to fellowship, waiting for my exam timetable to appear on the notice board before I started studying in earnest. There’s nothing wrong with extracurricular activities; just remember that’s what they are – they are not the reason you are in school.

Don’t wait for exams to start looming. Study, study, study. Nothing works like hard work. Read ahead. Know a bit, if not a lot, about each topic before the lecturer handles it. Go on the internet, do research. Give him more than he gave you, don’t swallow and regurgitate his lecture notes or handouts. Go the extra mile, extend yourself. Start from day one and keep going at full speed. There’s a momentum that being aggressive and proactive gives you, and if you run with it, you’ll be surprised at how exhilarating and fulfilling success can be.

Make Sense of Your Course of Study As Soon As Possible There is nothing more depressing and frustrating than working hard for no prize. In fact, it is almost impossible to put in your best when you have nothing to look forward to. Yet, a lot of teenagers find themselves doing courses they don’t like or don’t even understand. Sometimes parents or guardians want you to follow a particular path, and in other cases, inability to meet certain criteria has made it necessary for you to study a course which was not your initial choice.

If you must be better than average, you need to get all the help you can to map out your life’s course and find out where what you’re studying fits in. Maybe you really want to be a fashion designer, but have found yourself in a Business Administration class; find out how what you learn here can make you a better fashion designing business owner. Are you stuck studying medicine when what you really want is to make a living talking? Don’t despair. You can build a career teaching others medicine, working as a spokesperson or educator for an NGO catering to health needs, or you could host your own TV show on health issues and touch lives with your words and expertise. Even if you can’t find a meeting point between your dream and your course of study, there is definitely some use you can put this course to, maybe as a side career to support you while you pursue your dream. There’s always a bright side, no matter how seemingly unrelated your dream and the course you’re studying may be. Find it and keep your eyes on it. The big picture will help you get through those times when your book work feels like sheer drudgery.

To be continued…

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This article was first published on 1st July 2016


Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

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