Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our new weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.
This week, we have Feyisayo Akinola, a final year student of University of Lagos (UNILAG), studying psychology. UNILAG is known for shitload of things, but we decided to hear her experience: Where do you draw strength when everything goes awry? How do you stay on your lane and keep your eye on the goal? How do you strike that balance you need and preserve your sanity? Feyi has a story to tell.
How did you get into UNILAG?
That’s a funny story, I got into UNILAG in 2015. That year, UNILAG set their cut-off mark to 250. UNILAG was my first choice, but I was transferred to Afe Babalola University because I got 242 in JAMB. I applied to study Economics but it was changed to Urban and Regional Planning when I was transferred to Afe Babalola. After a series of back and forth, I was transferred back to UNILAG to study Psychology.
Wait a minute, how did that happen?
Heh, I don’t know.
Grace of God?
I don’t know if I can call it that because I wanted to study Economics. But after the whole transfer thing, it resulted in psychology.
So how did you reconcile that?
I’d been offered admission to different universities before that year and it had always been psychology, but I kept rejecting it — literally and figuratively. I wrote in Covenant; they offered me psychology, I went to Uyo, then UNICAL, and I got psychology there too. I couldn’t waste an extra year when UNILAG happened, so I took it.
I get that. How were your first days? Did you have any particular expectations about university?
I didn’t want to go to school in Lagos. I’ve lived in Lagos all my life. I thought I needed to explore, so I could have a mix of different experiences.
In the beginning, I had to go to school from home (Festac). I couldn’t get a hostel. It’s always super hard to get a hostel in UNILAG and my dad wouldn’t allow me to stay alone off-campus in my first year. I was leaving home at 5 AM to meet up with early morning classes. I had evening lectures too, as late as 6 PM, and I wouldn’t get home until 9 PM.
Then, there was also the first-semester result part. I had issues with my grades. I mean, everybody talks about how you have to build your GPA when you’re in 100 level. I tried to do that. When I saw how fucked-up my results looked at the end of my first year, it almost felt like my life was over.
I had to meet a lecturer and I was like, “Ma, I can’t fail your course.” And she was like, “Are you that smart to think that you can’t fail the course?” After a series of back and forth, she called to ask for my matric number and admitted that they didn’t add my test scores and all. Bla bla bla.
A friend of mine became my backbone. He reassured me that it would be over soon. At another point in 200 level, I was really ready to give up school. See, I hate stress, and the stress school was giving me was really overwhelming. I was like if I can stay in my house, there will be no lecture to worry about; I’d have my apprentices working and sewing with me. I just wanted to leave school.
Was there a process to how you eventually got a hold of yourself?
Not really. The only thing was that I had my friend; he was always giving this push. It was almost like he was in school with me. He would go, “I’m going to read with you, so you won’t feel alone.” That helped a lot.
You’ve got to thank God for friends. In your four years here, what struggles have stood out for you?
Let me chip this in; I was into politics, and that meant that I had to shuffle the stress of political positions with school and find a balance. Every time I missed a class, it felt like I’d missed the whole session. Everything in the two years I was the welfare secretary for my department ate so much into my time. But it also helped me with exposure. I met a lot of people. It made me discover a strength I didn’t know I had in me. I can lead people.
I dig that. What other thing has made school really worth it for you?
Whoop. Tell me more about that.
Well, I contemplated doing a little bit of make-up artistry, but it felt like I wouldn’t make as much as I would like. I knew I could market and sell things, so I thought to start selling wears to UNILAG student. It was a hit. I mean, it was another thing I had to balance with academics and politics, but it turned out well.
Sweet. But tell me, what drives this entrepreneurial spirit?
I love to be independent. I hate asking for money. I feel like if I have something working for me, I won’t have to ask anyone for money. My money is my money. I own my business, I spend my money and account for whatever I spend.
Secure the bag. Speaking about money, how do you avoid being broke?
Well, I’m not perfect; I can’t totally avoid it. You need to be extremely disciplined with money. If I tell you I’m broke, I’m broke, I might actually have like 500k in another account for business. But I’m broke because I can’t touch it.
Sweet. Tell me about an interesting experience you’ve had in school
Heh. I was going to the library from my faculty one time, and I followed by this guy. He’d approached me at the faculty but I’d ignored him. I got into a cab and left. This guy got into another cab and literally followed me. When I got down and he caught up with me, he yelled, “You bloody virgin, why don’t you want to talk to me?” Everybody turned to look, and I was like “Whoooa.” I was really embarrassed, at that moment, I wondered if the earth could open up and swallow me.
That kain thing.
He went on and was like “I don’t wanna fuck you, I just want to be your friend. You should stop acting like a nuisance.” Everything was a blur; I didn’t even know when I raised a hand and slapped him.
Whoa. You didn’t.
I did. I regretted it almost immediately because I caught more people’s attention with that. Besides, it could have gone downhill from there. I could have just ignored him and continued on my way. That was 100 level, anyway. But it was an embarrassing event.
Since we are on the subject of boys now, recently, a BBC documentary exposed some lecturers in UNILAG, and their thing for female students. I have to ask, did you have any similar experience?
No, I don’t think I’ve experienced that because I tend to avoid male lecturers and their offices. But you have lecturers hitting on you. Like they seize your phone and ask you to come to their offices to pick it up. But not me. I’m not coming to your office. I will leave it for you when you’re ready, you’ll bring it out and drop it at the department.
Even when I have issues with a course taken by a male lecturer, I don’t go to their offices. I’ve been very careful.
In the years you’ve spent in school, how do you think you’ve grown?
I’ve learned to blend in. I tend to associate myself with people I feel are connected to the things I want to do in the future.
Is there anything you would change?
No… but if I had to, I would change the fact that I didn’t get into school on time because the people I would have loved to collaborate with on stuff left before me.
So you will be leaving soon, does that make you feel any kind of way?
I feel fulfilled. This is where self-awareness comes in, and I’m aware of where I am and of what I want to do.
What are you looking forward to the most?
I’m not sure because I don’t know what to expect. I work with the universe. I believe the universe will give you something positive if you have something positive in mind. But I’m really looking forward to what it has to offer me.