The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step…
I had grown up with the dream of becoming a pilot, but then my sister scared me to hell with the thought that pilots die in plane crashes. I held on to my dream but at a certain point, I decided that if my plane crashed, it would be one of my worst experiences so I dumped the idea. Over the years, I kept changing ambitions until I became faced with something I had never felt before, the zeal to study abroad. I got into high school and then in my final year, I made friends who shared my dreams. My friends and I took the ACT test in 2019 and began making preparations to study in the US.
Our results came out and we had passed well and then came the time to apply to different schools. A particular friend of mine, Joshua Wilhelm, made a 33 in the exams but still couldn’t secure a full scholarship in any school in the U.S, not even as much as an admission in an Ivy League. But still, we pressed on.
Our efforts were soon rewarded when I personally got admission to study Psychology at Mississippi State University but not on scholarship. My three other friends began getting admission decisions, some with scholarships and some without.
Since I was so persistent in studying in the U.S, I told my parents and preparations was underway. I secured a room and even a roommate in Rice Hall at Mississippi State University. My roomie was friendly and I was confident that we’ll make a great pair but then, my hopes were dashed when my parents broke the sad news to me that they won’t be able to afford my education in the States!
By now, my friends had made their choices, one of them had picked Howard University while the other picked University of Houston; Joshua had still not gotten any good offer.
Moments when I thought there was hope…
While my friends began their online classes in the States last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was still reapplying to schools and hoping to get a better decision. But out of the 13 universities and colleges, I had secured admission into, none was willing to grant me a full or even half scholarship, I gave up and began my tertiary education here in Nigeria. I decided to study my dream course, Medicine and Surgery.
But as fate would have it, my mind never let me rest so I ventured into another country, Russia, a country I so loved because of the way the government subsidized the education. I did a little preliminary study and found a school that I loved, Synergy University, Moscow. I applied to study my Preparatory Course there and voila!
I got admitted.
I was so overjoyed and happy that I quickly told my parents the news but little did I know that somewhere around, disappointment lurked. My parents expressly told me they were not going to finance my education in Russia or any foreign country, especially as I had begun my education here in Nigeria. I was heartbroken and downcast, especially as I had to pay an admission fee of just $150, an amount my parents were more than capable of paying.
In a matter of time, I lost the admission because I couldn’t pay the admission fees but I wasn’t bothered, I pressed on.
I did another research and picked a lovely university in one of the places I loved most in Russia, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Lake Baikal?
Yes, I got admission again to study my Preparatory Course at Irkutsk National Research Technical University, Irkutsk, Russia and I was more than happy; in fact, I was reborn. I had a whole lot of conversations with my admission specialist and my fees were just 75,000RUB ($1,110). Since my parents had already made their choice known to me, I decided I was going to do this on my own.
My tuition fees were affordable enough for my parents to pay but they had refused to, so, I made a strong determination that I was going to see myself through this school, with or without their help.
I got wind of a grant, the Capital Fellowship grant that offered about $450 to entrepreneurs so I applied and hoped for the best. Soon, I got an email saying I had qualified as a semi-finalist and was eligible for the last round of the competition. We had masterclasses every Friday and I did my best to attend them because I knew this was my only chance of proving to my parents and the whole world that I could succeed when no one believed in me. I prayed to God and in a matter of months, the competition was over and the winners were announced.
I was so happy that Tuesday morning as I logged into our Facebook page to search for my name among the winners and guess what?
I hadn’t won the competition!
I cried and prayed to God that the pain was too much for me to bear and that I needed Him to solve my problems. In God’s own way, the CEO of the programme announced that there’ll be a 2nd batch of winners who were going to be announced soon, I was consoled.
Why does pain never go away?
I believe that when one door closes, another opens. It didn't take long after I had lost the Capital Fellowship grant that I applied and was selected for the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship programme. It was a programme that granted $5000 to entrepreneurs and since I knew that it might be my only chance, I gave it my all.
The problem with this programme was that it seriously interfered with my school timetable. I had to ditch my Physics classes every Thursday so I could join our live sessions on YouTube as this was a criterion to fulfill to win the grant. I took solace in the fact that I’ll win this grant and that what I lost won’t be compared with what I’ll gain so in my best ways, I gave this programme my best, my very best.
By now, I hope you recall my other friend, Joshua? He had now gotten admission and a full-ride scholarship to study at Minerva University, California via EducationUSA and he was getting ready for school! My other friends had rounded up their 1st year at their different schools finishing with GPAs of 4.0 and 3.6 at their schools and I was more than happy for them. Soon, one of them told me he had gotten his visa and was ready to travel to the States. I was more than happy for my friend but at the same time, I was sorrowful at the thought that my friends were working out our plan while I was still hoping for mine to work.
Just four weeks ago, my friend arrived in the United States, and trust me when I say and mean it that I was happy; a win for one of us meant a win for all. I wasn’t deterred as I had hope that my efforts were going to pay off. Soon, my other friend at the University of Houston told me that he too had gotten his visa and was ready to leave.
To cut the story short, I literally kept in contact with my friend as he boarded the plane and traveled for over 16 hours from Nigeria to Qatar where he shared some beautiful photos with me before he boarded his next flight to the U.S. This was a moment in my life where I had never been this selfless before, I was overjoyed and we screamed together in our voice notes to each other and I’m pretty sure the authorities at the airport must have thought my friend was crazy. But it didn't matter, we had made it, right?
Life is a battlefield: the strong survive and the weak die…
By now, I had advanced to the 3rd stage of my Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship programme, I submitted my business plan and hoped for the best. I believe everything went south when the CEO of the Capital Fellowship, I hope you recall this one about $450? Yeah, the guy broke the sad news that there will not be a 2nd batch of winners of his grant because he couldn’t find the sponsors to partner with him to finance the winners!!!
Honestly, my world turned upside down because I was hoping I would use these funds to pay my fees. And the fact was this, I had to pay before September 28th, 2021, or I would lose my admission, again.
I was frantic and totally out of control of my emotions. I literally thought of this every day as I woke up in the morning with the cold realisation that I was running out of time. My fees at Irkutsk National Research Technical University are just 75000RUB ($1,100). I had planned to pay just for my 1st semester which will be about $500 but as it was, there was nothing I could do about the situation. I decided to hope in God and pray daily for His favours because there was practically nothing else I could do.
One of those mornings, I don't know why but I played a song from my phone, Don Moen’s He Never Sleeps and this song inspired me greatly because it said that when we pray and it seems God isn’t answering our prayers, we should believe and have faith that God is working in ways we cannot see; I believed. With this new hope, I prayed fervently and checked my email at least 10 times every day for the shortlisting email.
After dreadful weeks of waiting for the shortlisting from the Tony Elumelu entrepreneurship programme (if you got shortlisted, you’ll stand the chance to pitch your business and be selected for the $5000 grant), it came just three days ago.
I had faith, I believed in God so believe me when I say that I wasn’t afraid in the least to open my email and when I saw the message, I quickly opened it.
The first thing that caught my attention was the subject that read, “Not Shortlisted!!!”
Now if I were to ask, what would you have done? Honestly, I quickly shut my door and buried my face in my pillow, and then I began talking to God but I didn’t even notice when the tears flooded my eyes; they came down hot and fast, trickling down my eyes like a steady stream of water.
So in truth, I’ve lost everything I had clung to: my faith, hope, trust, name it, I can’t deal with the realization that I lost. Now my exams are coming up and I can barely read because every time I try to read, it just keeps flashing in my memory: FAILURE. And in four days from today, my friend, Joshua will also be on his way to the States and this makes me really question myself, where did I go wrong???
I wouldn’t say I’m the best individual on earth but in this case, I tried my best. Now I’m left with the dreadful realization that as every day passes, I’m very likely to lose my admission at Irkutsk National Research Technical University and it makes me wonder, is it hopeless to pursue something on your own when no one else believes in you? Is there no reward for hard work, determination, and perseverance? Why should the weak always die when they are basically helpless? These questions rummage my mind every day as I struggle to maintain my sanity.