With 5.0 CGPA, a young Nigerian lady named, Ewerechukwu Asaka emerged Covenant University 2020/2021 best graduating student. In this interview by OYEMOLADE ENIOLA, the Computer Science graduate talks about her journey while in school and her future ambition.
How does it feel, beating thousands of students, to emerge the overall best graduating student, with a perfect CGPA at that?
It felt surreal because even though it wasn’t a surprise and I had hoped and prayed for it, I was still overwhelmed and elated when it happened.
Why computer science? Was that what you wanted to study?
Initially, I wanted to be an Economist because of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and a writer because of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; they significantly influenced me as a young girl, but I found myself in science class. When the time came for me to decide, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t want to study medicine, and I didn’t want to be an engineer. So I did my research, and I found Computer Science; I liked it because it was a course with a wide range of applications, and I went for it.
When exactly did you know you were going to finish with a very high grade or even become the best graduating student?
When I entered my final year with a perfect CGPA, it looked like I could do it. Then at that point, I knew I wasn’t alone because my course mates nicknamed me BGS, and everyone, including my lecturers and family, were so supportive. Still, I wasn’t sure if I was the only one with a perfect CGPA in the graduating class, but regardless it looked achievable.
Would you say your circle of friends or your parents played a role in you attaining high grades?
I am blessed with and surrounded by amazing people, my course mates were so supportive, and it felt like family. My parents are simply the best, I never felt alone, and I knew that they were with me every step of the way. I could call them to complain when a course seemed so hard, and I knew they would always listen to me. Also, my uncles, aunties, cousins, grandparents and family friends were super supportive and encouraging. So it took a nation to do it. Then I won’t leave out my friends and mentors who shared their experiences, guided and supported me and reminded me of my goals and priorities.
What were some of the challenges you faced while in school and how did you overcome them?
One would be dealing with anxiety during and after the semester. With getting a perfect CGPA, there is this pressure to make it again, and so I was very anxious and worried if I could do it the following semester. What helped me through this was my faith as a Christian and goal setting during the semester, and realising that I have done my best after the examinations and no amount of thinking would change the result. Another challenge was prioritising my workload because I had other leadership positions and ensuring that I stayed focused and still had time for personal and career development, and generally building my network and maintaining friendships. What worked for me was prioritisation and reaching out when I felt overwhelmed.
What was your reading pattern like?
I wouldn’t say that I had a pattern because it differed each semester. For example, there was a particular semester that I went to the library a lot, and the next semester I read from my friend’s room. But what was consistent was always outlining what I wanted to finish reading before I started reading and giving myself a time estimate of how long that would take, so that I don’t spend so much time on one part and I don’t have enough time for the other parts. Also, I tried my best to take notes while reading, highlight critical things, and break those points down in a way I understood. Lastly, listening to my lecturers also helped because it made reading easier, and I’ll always take note of things that they hammered on in class when I was reading.
At 21, this is a remarkable achievement. What is your secret?
My major secret would be realising that I couldn’t do it alone, so it meant reaching out to people ahead of me for past questions and tips on how to pass each semester and also meeting my friends and course mates to explain things that I didn’t understand and also being there to explain what I understood too. Also, dynamic goal setting helped; at the start of each semester, I set my goals, and it wasn’t just putting As; I was specific about what I wanted to score in my test and examination. Then, after I see my test scores, I’ll go back to update my goals to reflect the current situation. Last but not least, God was faithful and merciful, and in places where I was stuck, I always asked the Holy Spirit for help.
With computer science, what do you plan on delving into?
Product Management (PM); It is a field that I want to go into because it is a perfect blend of the different areas that I am interested in (design, data analysis and business). In addition, it allows me to explore and build products that’ll help people solve their problems and improve their lives. In the future, I want to focus on accessibility in the digital space, and I want to build products that are accessible to every kind of user because most products don’t consider certain types of users in their exploration and implementation phases.
What aspect of computer science fascinated you the most while in school and why?
One part that fascinated me was human-computer interaction (HCI) because people don’t realise how psychology plays a huge role in building software products, so it was exciting learning about that. It also tied into my interest in product management. In HCI, you learn how to conduct user interviews and how to build a prototype and MVP, you also learn about the rules of design and the best way to visualise and present information, and it is a very practical course.
Some people say bagging a first class in a private institution is equal to bagging a second class grade in a public institution. What do you think of this?
I don’t like answering that question when asked because a first-class anywhere is a first-class, but then again, I recognise what my counterparts in public institutions go through in getting a degree. So I sincerely want our education system to improve and shift from having this type of discourse to important conversations.
What advice would you give students who want to achieve great academic feat like you?
The first thing I will say is to understand yourself and your capacity; I was realistic in setting my goals because I understood myself, and in areas where I knew I wasn’t strong enough, I sought help. Also, I will say start early; my dad taught me how to calculate my CGPA before I entered the university, so I was aware of how it worked before I wrote my tests and examinations and please, don’t give up on yourself before it is over. Lastly, reach out to people that can help you and reach out early.
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