Spring… It has been a wonderful first semester at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Almost unbelievable that I survived these past months without any major breakdown. Miracles do happen. There are many papers attesting to the mental adjustment many international students have to make when they leave their home countries and they contain no lies. As I was researching on one of my course projects, I came across some of these papers and I could relate with many of their findings. But, I did not breakdown. Much. At least, I only cried unprovoked maybe two times. And, felt like only sleeping and doing nothing maybe for two different weeks. And, thought I had done absolutely less than my best maybe numerous, uncountable times.
But, here I am.
Thanks to the Covid pandemic and the ensuing restrictions/reductions in visa interviews and my financial higgy-hagga, I eventually resumed for classes more than ten days late. Also, I had to sort out late registration, enrollment and medical examinations which took some extra days. So, by the time I was finally integrated into school, I had assignments, quizzes and class lessons to catch up with. This is a special shout-out to my Spring 2021 professors; the understanding and allowance granted to get into the flow and find my balance were just heartwarming. I was told to take my time and things not clear were explained without condescending tones.
The Canvas platform is one thing I am quite grateful for. Being able to see my scores and how each new score affected the overall percentage of each course was both exhilarating and inspiring. Of course, it was also a sort of pressure point. However, I quickly realized that these courses were not just about the scores. The primary aim was to ensure that concepts were understood and skills for real-life application were being learnt. This was not about cramming notes and being able to reproduce them word-for-word during exams. In fact, of my four semester courses, only two of them had final exams (and one of them was actually just to simulate what my eventual Comprehensive exams would be like). This was possible because, throughout the semester, we were being tested on our understanding and application of things taught.
Canvas also taught me the importance of deadlines. Wow! 11.59pm is exactly that. Any microsecond after that and you are unable to submit whatever it is that needs to be submitted. But, the good thing is, if you actually plan and pace yourself right, there is nothing (read: village forces) that should get in your way. Electricity is stable, even when it rains. (And here in Mississippi, it rains a lot, with storms and threats of storms). Internet connection is guaranteed. If you do not have a laptop, the school loans you one. The library has all the resources you need and there is the e-library too, just in case you are like me and you do not like being ‘confined’ to an actual library.
We are often told that if you could survive the Nigerian educational system with all its challenges, studying abroad should be easy. There is truth in that but, that is not complete.
If you are used to waiting till the very end before embarking on what needs to be done, the systems abroad might be difficult for you. These guys hit the ground flying, not even running. You are expected to soar right from day one. If you also survived on hiding behind group work and not being able to think and work independently, that is trouble for you. Here, you need to prove that you can think of ideas, how to make those ideas real and then actually do so. At the same time, you need to know what it means to work in teams. But, for the most part, your individual capacity and capability are being assessed.
Only one of my courses was in-person this past semester and the timing for the class was not convenient for social shenanigans. This was the first time I had to learn in virtual rooms three times in a week and for one to three hours each time. It was hard. The strength to stay focused and actually not doze off (especially with the different weather) was not always there. The professors tried their very best to ensure that the classes were engaging and when possible, that they were not too long. But, there was just something about that virtual interface that invited sleep and distractions. Few times, I had to switch off my video, walk around a bit, get a snack or just give myself a pep talk on why I cannot afford to waste my tuition.
Validation, commendation and applause. Plenty!!! These are things that were dished out without holding back. You did something great? It was acknowledged and you were acknowledged for doing that. Things you could do to improve were also added. There was no one out there looking for ways to prove that you are the student and you therefore have no right to actually do great. Summarily, no one was out looking to fail you. With every new commendation, I was gingered to do more.
Social life? Not as non-existent as I envisaged. Thanks to the African-Caribbean Society, Nigerians in USM and my friends from church. Because most of my classes were virtual, I did not have much reason to step out of my dorm. I was content staying indoors, chatting with Bae, Peaches, family and watching movies. Or sleeping. Getting food was the main reason I ever stepped out, really. And when I did, it was with my ears plugged, listening to music and actually dancing sometimes as I walked. That kind of posture was definitely not inviting for friendship and it made it easy that most people were not interested in making friends either. However, there were some people who, in the midst of some common minor event or the other, went beyond the cursory nod and talked with me, exchanged phone numbers and even followed up on social media. I would not blame this lack of socialization entirely on Covid. As it was discussed in one of my classes, my school has a high population diversity, right? But, population integration is not yet well established.
Hair and the natural gang life. Phew! That has not been tough. Weather here actually helps keep your hair moist and that prevents breakage to a large extent. Another thing the diverse population has encouraged is acceptance of different hairstyles. While nobody really ‘cares’ that your hair is different, they also are not shocked by natural hair and the different forms it comes in. So, you don’t have to use wigs all the time (but, those wigs are very helpful when it is cold).
There is a lot to talk about.
But, the summary of it all is, I made it through this first semester and I am absolutely proud of myself. Official results are not out yet. But, I am getting myself some sparkling juice to celebrate my resilience and proper representation of the Oladeji family. We no dey carry last. Huge thanks to my parents and happy birthday in advance to my Daddy. D, J and Debby, I love you guys with every fiber in my being. Uncle Dejo and Aunty Precious, Mrs. Adegbenjo, Dr. Olutade, Mrs. Solademi, Mrs. Ariyo, Dr. Olutade, the Eniades, thank you for carrying my matter on your heads. Dr. Olumide , Aunty ‘Lamide and sweet Asher, my love for you knows no bounds. Really can’t wait to meet up with you guys. My Boss at TPM, Mrs. Onadeko, thank you for hiring this lady and paying her well.
The KnighT. You have outdone yourself. The daily encouragement has been pure bliss. We owe the readers that piece we talked about. I love you.
University of Southern Mississippi… We Meuveeee!
PS: if there is anything you would like me to specifically write about, please let me know.