Hard road to success
IT IS THE last semester of the academic year and the time when many final year university students make that last push to ensure their academic success.
Some may even be aiming for first class honours.
Three recent graduates of the University of the West Indies (UWI) know exactly what they are experiencing.
Femi Mascoll, Christopher St Bernard and Jalisha Browne attend the Emmanuel Baptist Church and last year they all received that enviable distinction.
Not only do the 21-year-olds know all too well the challenges involved in striving for excellence, but they also know the feeling of satisfaction when goals are achieved.
They discussed their university journey with the SUNDAY SUN and suggested how other young people could achieve similar feats and make the most of such an experience.
For Femi, who studied media and communications, the first year or so at UWI Mona in Jamaica was admittedly about enjoying life in a new country. She met new people, saw the country and attended several university events.
“It was only in my second and third year that I decided, ‘Let me try to do more’. Not that I was doing badly in first year but first year was fun. It wasn’t really about work,” she said.
Even though she decided to buckle down, she noted that the third year workload was “almost unmanageable” and other events made life difficult.
“I had a lot of other little things that happened to me, like I got robbed twice within three months . . . .
“There were some points that I really felt I would just have to take the second class [honours], because I felt that although I was working so hard, there were too many other things getting in the way of me getting the first class.
“In the end I still gave myself a pat on the back because I felt good that despite all these things that happened, I still managed to pull through,” Femi said.
Throughout her university career, the young teacher relied on her faith and her family, especially her mother, to pull her through.
“In my third year I remember just saying, ‘God, don’t let me fail anything. Let me keep my focus,’ because in university it’s very easy to go mad,” she related.
Still, there were nights when she found it difficult to pray and had to call her mother to pray for her.
“When I found out I got first class my mother was happier than I was. That’s because when I was miserable, she was miserable. When I got robbed and all these things, it was her I had to be calling . . . .
“When I was trying to study and I couldn’t get something done, she had to be up late too,” the former Combermere student noted.
It was no surprise that her social life had to take a back seat during her studies.
“I hardly ever went out because at two and three o’clock in the morning I would be up trying to finish something,” she added.
Femi also noted that it was necessary to sacrifice some friendships since not everyone shared her vision.
If she had to do it all over again, there were some things she would do differently.
“I remember one time I had an assignment to do and at the last minute I realized I was doing the whole thing wrong. It was a presentation and I remember that night I didn’t sleep. I was up for about 36 hours straight, to the point that when I went to give the presentation, I was just shaking because I was pumped up on coffee.
“I told myself never again. You have to be really careful. Now that I think back on it, the stress that you put on your body is ridiculous, so if I could go back or if I do go back to university to do a Master’s or whatever, I would know how to do certain things differently,” she said.
She advised other young people to be certain about why they want to go to university.
“It is easy to get caught up in the fun side . . . and forget about the degree. I think it is a waste of time to do a degree because your parents said to do it. You have to find something that you love,” she said.
Christopher’s experience was a little different. He studied accounting and finance at Cave Hill and while he intended to do well from the outset, he didn’t specifically target first class honours. And after his first semester, he took up a part-time job.
“I had to learn how to balance my school work with my work life and at first it was a bit challenging. I think that semester I probably did my worst but then I think it prepared me to organize my time a bit better, “ he said, noting that it took a lot of self-discipline.
Now an auditor, he said his final year was when he knew he had to “give it a hard push”. In the end he got the precise grade point average needed for first class honours.
Early nights came to an end even when classes finished at 9 p.m. Christopher went to the library after.
“Even when I went home after leaving the library I still had to do work, especially coming around to when you had a lot of group projects to hand in . . . and some people weren’t pulling their weight,” he recalled.
“I was elated. I didn’t really think I was going to get it but when I did I was really excited about it,” he told the SUNDAY SUN.
Christopher advised other young people to put God first if they wanted to achieve success.
“There come times when you can’t do things in your own strength and it can be challenging trying to pull all the weight by yourself.”
He added: “You have to know what you want in life. You have to know what your passion is because it doesn’t make sense doing something because your friends might be doing it or because you think it is something that is cool. It has to be something that you’re honestly going to put your mind to it.”
Jalisha Browne studied psychology at Cave Hill and is now pursuing a Master’s in applied psychology.
Unlike Femi and Christopher, she knew she wanted to attain first class honours but knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially when a lecturer noted that not many students achieved that feat in psychology.
“I definitely knew that it would be a challenge but I was prepared to face it and conquer with God’s help. From primary school I liked to be on top in my studies so UWI was to be no different,” she said.
Still, Jalisha found it challenging to complete and submit assignments on time, especially during those semesters when she took six courses instead of the usual five.
And like Christopher, she found it hard to stay calm when group members refused to pull their weight.
She too stressed the need for students to “put God in everything” they do and to be goal-oriented and determined.
“Leave out the negative influences. Some ‘friends’ take pride in leading you astray. Keep friends who want to accomplish something positive in life and have a plan on how to reach their goals,” Jalisha said.
Like Femi, she was grateful for her mother’s support.
“She was always there listening to me groan about assignments and offered a word of encouragement, even if it was only ‘pray and trust in God’,” she said.
• Positive Youth is a series highlighting the efforts of some of the youth in our nation who are engaging in positive pursuits. If you know of any such people, please contact Natasha Beckles at 430-5459 or [email protected]; or Bryan Walker at 430-5492 or [email protected]