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Lady Who Bagged Best Student in OAU, Emerges Best Masters Student in UK

A few years after breaking a 21-year-old record at the Department of English at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Raheemah Arogundade has now emerged as Best Graduating Master’s student at Aston University, United Kingdom.

In this interview by ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, the education enthusiast talks about her love for English Language, her ambition, among others.

Why did you decide to pursue a masters degree in English Language at Aston University? What fuelled your interest in this field of study?

My master’s degree was in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Prior to that period, I had completed a B.A in English Language. I would say that’s the logical choice considering my academic background and my career interests. Also, I selected Aston University because I received the vice chancellor’s scholarship which greatly contributed towards the affordability of the course.

What was the process of applying for the degree? Would you say it was quite easy?

The process was really easy. I submitted an online application which includes my personal statement, CV, transcript and certificate. I also had to prove my English language proficiency through the WAEC certificate and a letter of English language proficiency from my past institution. Thereafter, I awaited the offer. I didn’t have to pay any application fee. The postgraduate application system in the UK is actually straightforward.

READ ALSO: Rude Secondary School Student breaks his Teacher’s head in Anambra State 

How has your educational journey been? Have you always been a brilliant student?

So far, I’ve had a smooth academic trajectory and the consistency has been there since my senior secondary school days. By consistency, I mean I have been the best graduating arts student in high school and the best graduating student during my first degree.

What do you find most interesting about studying English Language?

The study of languages has different aspects which are of interest to me. Perhaps, I enjoy studying language because I’m a bilingual myself, and typically I am curious about how humans acquire or process languages.

You emerged the best graduating student in your department. How were you able to achieve this feat and how does it make you feel?

Honestly, it was not anticipated. I joined the cohort in January, as against most of my colleagues who started in September. And when I joined, I was unusually quiet, shy and anxious. Those who resumed early always had something to say in class and dominated class discussions; perhaps, because they have already gotten used to the academic system. We were new and that was obvious in our engagement in class. I would say I came out of my shell in the second term when I realised we all had something to say or offer to others, and it proceeded from there.

Would you say you saw it coming or prepared for it?

I knew graduating with a distinction was a possibility because I worked hard for it. However, I never anticipated being the best performing student. So, no, I didn’t prepare for it.

You also broke a 21-year-old record at the Department of English at OAU few years back. Would you say this contributed to you achieving this feat at Aston University too?

Well, I would usually describe myself as “excellence-driven”. I not only work hard, but I also work smart and consistently. I’m not afraid to ask for help if need be. I’d rather I am turned down than not try at all. And I also ensure to give my best as I said before. In that light, I would say my success in OAU could be attributed to certain habits I developed over time. Those habits helped me at Aston no doubt. By habits, I mean positive habits, I promise.

What were your study patterns? How do you read?

I read everyday. That’s one of my study habits. While at Aston, I worked with a to-do list everyday. So for me, even if I was not in the right frame of mind to do a serious reading, I could do a light reading, like reading one of the journals I had downloaded for one of my assessments. And I start my assignments well before the deadline. I usually email my lecturers as many times as possible as long as I have not gotten an understanding of what’s expected. I would usually also ask my friends if I had any difficulties understanding a particular task or topic.

Was it strictly academics for you or you also had time to socialise?

I started my course during COVID-19; physical gathering was still largely prohibited. So I met most of my course mates online before we started face-to-face classes. In terms of socialisation, I interacted well with colleagues and other people I met in work-related contexts. So, it wasn’t strictly academics for me. During that period, I completed the Chartered Management Institute’s Level Seven award in Personal and Professional Development for Strategic Leaders (offered by Aston University) and also the Cambridge CELTA qualification, which qualifies me to teach English to Adult learners in the UK. Alongside, I volunteered as a teacher with two educational institutions in a bid to gain professional experience in the UK.

How easy was it for you to mix with other people and to cope in a new environment when you moved to the UK?

It’s safe to say I had a family here before I moved. My best friend and her family were in the UK already and they made the process seamless and less stressful.

As an African Hijabi studying at a UK University, did you experience racism?

I feel like Aston tops the list of universities where inclusion and diversity is evident and encouraged. My anxiety when I resumed was in part, due to concerns whether or not I would be able to deal with the difference in accent, but this wasn’t an issue for me at all. Maybe I underestimated myself a little, but my tutors on the course were really helpful. So far, I haven’t directly experienced racism and I didn’t experience it at all at Aston.

Would you choose to remain in the UK over returning to Nigeria?

Considering the current situation in Nigeria, I would say yes. I would definitely prefer to stay in the UK, especially considering job prospects and professional development.

What can you say about the education system here and the one abroad?

They are very disparate educational systems. I remember addressing my lecturers with their titles and being told to call them by their first names because “we’re colleagues”. That was really strange and I tried to adopt that without feeling like I’ve disrespected them. Also, the classes were held in such manner that required students’ contribution. This was quite unlike the teacher-led instruction style prevalent in Nigeria. Also, the lecturers were readily available – you only had to send an email to them on any queries you have. If they don’t know what to do, they’ll direct you to someone who can help. The system obviously wants you to get the best. Another interesting thing is results were updated on an electronic transcript after each term. This gives you the opportunity to use the transcript even though it’s incomplete. Back home, the grading system in some schools are not transparent. In fact, grades would neither be known nor seen until the course completion, which could be very worrisome. Also, course tasks, schedules, materials, resources and assignments were accessible on the portal well in advance. Subscriptions for journal access were updated regularly. So everything you need is at your disposal. I really could go on and on.

Now that you are done with your masters degree, what is the next thing for you?

Well, I’m taking the time to reflect, plan and position myself exactly where I want to be. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I’m in the process. So, no pressure. I’m just taking each day as it comes.

What is your ambition?

I have the ambition of working in a higher education setting someday

READ ALSO: Man Who Struggled for 3 Years Before Gaining Graduates As Best Student in University


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