The baton of mentorship has been passed to Umar Ismaeel, a 400-Level student of the Department of English and a one-time contestant for the UI'SRC Speaker. In his turn to inspire his fellow students, he talks about the whats, whys, and hows of his engagements in academics, politics, sport, press, literary and debate, MSSN, volunteering roles, and a host of others.
Asiaalaamu'alaykum sir. Let's meet you.
My name is Umar Ismaeel, a 400-level student of the Department of English, University of Ibadan. In addition to that, I am a student leader on campus who has served in various positions and is still serving in some. I am a writer and a content creator. I am a big fan of a simple life. One of my biggest dreams is to be a successful person that does his very best to assist people. On the other end, I hate injustice. I think I should stop here for now. Your further questions will reveal more about me.
From all the experiences you have garnered, what advice would give to someone willing to take same steps as you?
Basically, my advice will be for the person to brace up for the challenges that lie ahead. Trying to do so many things with one's academics is never an easy path to ply. You have to be good at multitasking, you have to be resilient, strong, brave, and committed. There will be challenges, trust me, but the qualities I mentioned above will see you through. The challenges shouldn't be the focus. The focus should be on the gain and what the process birth in you. You will never regret taking those steps because during and at the end of it all, a new you will be born.
Engaging..... What's the most difficult challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult challenge I faced was convincing people that I am a better candidate when I contested for the Speakership position at the UI'SRC. It was very tough for me as a 200 level student, who did not meet the union on campus to make people see that I can come in and do a great job. I did not later win the election due to so many factors. That will be a story for another day. The period was so challenging. I had to shuttle between classes, my class responsibilities as I was the class rep then, and different alliance meetings. I missed a lot of my classes, I expended my time, money, energy, and my mental health on the cause. It was just so overwhelming.
I will say the things that helped me during the process were many. First, it was Allah. Then the belief that I can do it and the support that I got from those who believed in me. They channeled all their resources to make the dream come through. I will use this opportunity to thank Rt Hon. Asiwaju Ibrahim Abayomi for all he did. He stood tall and strong. I am indebted to him and the other comrades.
In essence, I will say, Allah, belief, passion, my skill set, and the teamwork that I relied on because I couldn't do it all alone were the ones that saw me through.
There is always a particular difficult course that seems difficult, how did you tackle it?
There is actually more than one course. There are many courses we were told are hard courses. We were warned against many lecturers as well, especially during our 100 level days. But at the end of the day, they weren't so for those of us who chose not to believe that.
So that brings me to how I tackled it. I am a believer in the power of mindset. I believe what we believe about things matters a lot in how we see them and deal with them. One, I believed those courses can be passed irrespective of their nature. So I have already won the battle in my head and passed it before the exams. This prepared my mind for the next set of things to do. With this, I will read to ace it and not read to get what they can give me.
Two, I took my time to read very well for them. Some of them I read beyond what the lecturers taught us in class.
Three, I took my time to read my lecturers too. To pass in the University, you have to know what your lecturers want from you when they give you your question. Many brilliant students don't pass well because they didn't write to the peculiarities of their lecturers. It is a thing to read, it is another to write as expected. And that's the only thing that can guarantee you a pass mark.
Four, I will say the prayer, both before, during, and after my encounter with the courses and the lecturer. Allah has been so Merciful to me all these while because there have been times I have gotten grades higher than my expectations.
If you could go back in time which areas would you want to improve?
I would want to be a very serious student right from 100 level where I can build a very strong academic profile for myself. I wasn't a bad student in 100 level. I entered the first-class grade right from my 100 level in the second semester. But things would have been easier now had it been I had done more in 100 level. If I could go back in time, I would also love to be more confident and self-aware. This I really lacked in my 100 level days and had it been I got them fixed, maybe I would have been in a better position now but despite that, I am still happy for my growth development and for how far I have gone, Alhamdulillah.
I would also love to be more gentle to people and friendly. I would love to make more connections and friends of value.
What motivates you to keep going despite all odds?
That should simply be my quest to become a better person and my goals in life. If you have a clear goal of where you are going, the vision is enough motivation. If your dreams are big enough, they will wake you up from your dream.
In addition to that, I have people around me that serve as motivations for me. I have people I look up to. My parents are one of them. May Allah bless my mother in her grave and preserve my father upon khayr. The thought of not letting myself and those around me down is also a source of motivation. My fear of failure also motivates me. Same as the success story of other people. I turn them into motivation rather than seeing them as intimidations.
A good number of students focus on academics only, what are your reasons for combining academics and extracurricular activities?
This is a university. A place of universal knowledge. To be a complete student, you need to learn things outside the four walls of your classroom. Things that you can't get to know in the classes of our honourable professors. That's where the engagement in the extracurricular activities comes in.
Extracurricular activities are a great ground for breeding great minds and the most sought-after person. It is a training ground that affords you the chance to garner many life skills, soft skills, employability skills that you will need outside the walls of the University. The outside world is so competitive, you need to have an edge over others. One of the places to get the edge is your engagement in extracurricular activities. It affords you the opportunity to develop in areas that matters. Your academics makes you a good student but your extracurricular activities make you a great and employable student with the needed skillset and required experience. There are a lot of quality people I know today that I met through my engagement in extracurricular activities like politics, sport, press, literary and debate, MSSN, volunteering roles, and a host of others. There are a lot of experiences I have had that I have on my CV and have fetched job opportunities.
It has also exposed me to many areas I wouldn't have been exposed to. I have learnt a great deal, got in contact with great opportunities, and garnered the most important skills.
How has UI impacted your life positively?
In many ways. It has made me a better person. I have learnt many things here that the world outside demands. I have got many opportunities to showcase my leadership skills as a class rep, committee chairman at UISRC, Deputy Speaker at Bello, Welfare and Social Secretary at MSSN Akinyele, Jihad week chairman, presently faculty coordinator, and a host of other positions. UI has given me exposure. I have served as a campus ambassador for two brands during my studentship and I learnt a great deal from it.
UI gave me great friends, good connections, and a new family. My stay here has been positively impactful.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes. It's hard to live this life without the guidance of experienced ones. There are a lot of things we have not done before that we need people to guide us. And there are some we are doing the wrong way, we still need directions somewhere. So I have a lot of mentors.
My first mentors are my parents. I have a mentor for a different aspect of my life because a single mentor cannot do it all. Some of them are direct mentors while some of them are my mentor without their consent. I can't start mentioning names now due to the length of that.
I will like to add that getting direct mentoring these days may be hard but that shouldn't stop one from getting a mentor. Thanks to the Internet, things are now easy.
What do you about seeking and adhering to advice?
My advice is for them to continue to seek advice. We make better decisions and take good steps when we seek advice and opinion of the elderly and experienced ones. I have benefitted from this a lot. To be really successful in life, you have to consult great minds on many things.
Allah Himself, ask His prophet (SAW) to consult the opinions of his companions. And once he has done that, he should have tawwakul. That is enough an example for us. There is always a feeling in us that makes us think we are smart enough to make good life decisions. Yes, we truly are, but we make better decisions when we consult and seek advice. We make the best of decisions when we put everything in Allah's hand and ask for his guidance after our consultations.
Group reading and discussions, or reading on your own?
I believe in both of them and they have e worked perfectly well for me. I choose the one to adopt based on my mood and status at the time, though I prefer the group discussion. I understand better when I teach other people. I get more examples to give in the process of explaining, which makes exam prep really easy because I will remember how I explained it to my colleagues while answering the questions.
Sometimes, I just want my space to me. I just want it to be me teaching myself. This happens mostly when I don't have a clear understanding of the topic or I have not read it before or well enough.
In all, I will advise my readers to understand what works for them and adopt it. Don't be a blind follower. Some people are good with the latter, some with the former while people like me are cool with both.
What advice would you give someone who wants to study your course?
Same as any university student, I guess. You must be ready to read voraciously. You must also be ready to teach yourself many things.
Being a student in my department requires you to be really smart, have a great command of English, be ready to cram tree diagrams (that's in syntax), be inquisitive, be a mini researcher and you must be able to say a single thing in at least 5 different ways.
In addition, you have to understand that language courses are scientific and straightforward. It's either you know the answer or not. While the literature courses require your creative mind to excel. So as a student in my department, you need to know the different ways of approaching the questions from the two subdivisions as well as how to attempt questions from different lecturers as they have different styles.
Above all, be ready for different trials, which means you need to have a strong resolve because you will be tried.
Is it advisable to wait till the exam period before reading?
Simple, do it if that's work for you. On this, I think you have to be sincere with yourself. You have to be sure it is truly what works for you and not that it is coming from a position of laziness.
Reading immediately or some days after each class is really beneficial and the best option. It prepares you for impromptu tests and it also makes your exam prep so easy. You will just have to do revisions when it is exam time because you have read them before.
But like I said, if reading while the exam is close is what works for you, then go for it and be careful.
How would you encourage reading ahead?
It's a good thing. It allows you to understand better what the lecturer says in class. But I have a reservation for that. If you are not careful, you get really confused because some of the things they teach us in the University need proper explanation. It also pushes some people to often show themselves in class, which in turn may make them want to always counter the lecturer's claim. Though having a different opinion from your lecturer isn't a bad thing, but it has to be genuine and presented respectfully.
Instead of reading ahead of the class, I would rather advise you to read more after the class. With this, you have an existing understanding and foundation to build on.
And to answer the part of the test and exam, I think my answer to the previous question is enough to do justice to that.
What method did you stick to to spank your exams?
I think there is no single method. I just attempt the exams the way they come. Some of the methods I use were already expressed in our conversation.
Some things are just sacrosanct. One is to read very well after you have attended most of your classes and listened to your lecturer's explanations. Two is to study your past questions very well and identify the pattern the lecturer uses in setting questions. Three is to understand what answer the lecturer wants from you. Four is to write as expected. Five is that you must have done well in your tests.
Above all, you have to be really prayerful so that the lecturers will see your points and give you the best of scores.
Do you believe in vigorously reading?
Yes, I do though I am a lazy reader. One of my goals this year is to increase how I read. Readers are actually leaders. I know that's a cliché already but it is true. Reading wide expands your horizon and it wides your perspectives. Reading increases your exposure. It takes you around the world without leaving your place. Reading is also therapeutic.
If I am trying to talk about the importance of reading, this will turn into a full-blown article. That should be a talk for another day.
Hard work or talent, which has contributed to the most to your achievement?
Hard work, I will say. Even the talented peeps need to be hardworking. Talent alone cannot give the results. You need hard work to hone your God-given skills. Though having talent will reduce the work you do to get results. Hard work is you repeatedly putting efforts towards achieving your set goals. And that has been instrumental to my achievements. Though I could have done more which would have also translated to me achieving more.
And lastly, In what areas would you like UI to improve your department and faculty as a whole?
Many areas I will say but I am just going to name a few.
One, I would want our classrooms to be modern University classrooms.
Two, I want us to adopt a modern system. We don't have to show up every time before things can be done. Our lecturers and resources should be made more accessible and available.
Three, I want the workloads of the lecturers to be reduced. A lecturer shouldn't have many classes and students to teach. They shouldn't also have many supervisees under them so that they will be efficient and their work be effective.
Four, our result and grading system should be more transparent, easily and fast processed, be as error-free as possible, and also be questionable without unwarranted consequences.
Five, I want the bureaucracy to be drastically reduced. I think those are the little ones I will be mentioning for now.
JazaakaLlaahu khayran.It was a nice time interviewing you. BaarakaLlaahu Feekum
Ameen wa iyyakum. My pleasure . Ameen wa feekum
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